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January 15, 2008

It's The Daily Mail again: This time 'I have big problems with [Chinese] culture.'

Writing about web page

I have big problems with animal cruelty. Torturing animals for any reason is morally reprehensible. I do not (generally) consider the use of animals for medicinal (testing) purposes, food, pets and agriculture a form of torture/cruelty. Bear baiting, cock fighting, the conditions in battery farms, cows hooked up to milking machines: all disgusting.

When it comes to the eating of animals, I don't eat seafood, pig flesh or anything that is carnivorous/omnivorous. I find it hypocritical that people who love nothing more than chomping on their bacon, sausages and blutwurst will cringe at the idea of eating dog meat. Rare steaks dripping with blood and finding tiger penis soup gross? Very odd. 

How about the keeping of animals in captivity? I don't generally have a problem so long as they are looked after. Domestic pets are fine (and yes, animals are abused, as are children), although I have a problem with the caging of birds. Zoos are a necessary evil in that they are often of limited space (see the Gorillas in London zoo, or bent-fin Killer Whales in any aquarium) but they preserve rare species or species on the brink of extinction.

What has all this got to do with The Daily Mail and "Chinese Culture"? 

Well I came across this recent article on a random Google search and I gave it a read. Some choice tidbits:

"It's almost a form of child abuse," says Carol McKenna of the OneVoice animal welfare group. "The cruelty of Chinese zoos is disgusting, but think of the impact on the children watching it. What kind of future is there for China if its children think this kind of cruelty is normal?

"Zoos like this make me want to boycott everything Chinese," says Emma Milne, star of the BBC's Vets In Practice.

"I'd like to rip out everything in my house that's made in China. I have big problems with their culture."

"Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by their behaviour towards animals, as the value of human life is so low in China."

I think Emma Milne is bordering on racist there. "I have big problems with their culture... the value of human life is so low in China". Disgusting. Perhaps we should boycott her? 

The Chinese do have some serious problems with animal cruelty. Zoos and supermarkets alike. I've seen videos of monkeys beaten by street performers, images of tigers having had their teeth shaved to the point of exposure of the roots and I've personally witnessed crabs, lobsters and fish kept in distressing conditions in run-of-the-mill Beijing supermarkets.       

Does this provide a stunning indictment of "Chinese culture"? I don't think so. You will find such cruelty in any developing country, especially one so difficult to regulate (through geographical and population size). Moreover, even in "developed nations", animal cruelty is common. I previously mentioned battery farms: if you've seen the pictures and videos they are vomit-worthy. Cows screaming with milk-swollen udders waiting for the machines to kick in;  chickens dragged through electric baths, cows still alive because the bolt hasn't killed them first time around; animal culls; cosmetic testing (and let's not pretend that's not cruel); the list goes on and on.

Let's get back to Emma Milne. Here's a BBC article in which she's quote with regards to her views on dog-breeding:

Emma Milne, from BBC One's Vets In Practice, described the dogs as "mutated freaks". She claims inbreeding to produce show dogs has led to damaging genetic weaknesses.

"Modern bulldogs can't run, they can't breathe, they can't give birth," she tells the Real Story programme.

"They have enormous problems with too much soft tissue in their mouth and it adds up to a dog that is struggling for air all its life."

The breed, once pitted against bulls in fighting rings, is now a regular at competitions where champion bulldogs are worth up to £50,000.

Males and females with the flattest faces, biggest shoulders and smallest hips are mated to produce the purest possible offspring.

I agree. This sort of dog-breeding is disgusting. The animals are, as she says, essentially "mutated freaks" and it is cruel to breed them in this fashion to win dog shows so that rich housewives (and househusbands) can show their wealth and cruelty to the world. I don't see the same sort of criticism of "British culture" though. Perhaps it's not so obviously cruel? Watching a tiger kill a chicken is nasty and inhumane. But keeping a little dog as a fashion accessory..? 

How about the "child abuse" with some children witnessing animals feeding on chickens? It may be terrible and it may verge on abuse. I saw Jurassic Park when I was about nine or ten and I remember seeing a T-Rex (which I found quite realistic at the time) eating a chained-up goat. Veliciraptors  tearing apart  a live cow (off-screen). Not a great example? Seeing a realistic polar bear swipe off the jaw of another polar bear (in the rubbish Golden Compass)? Perhaps seeing what appears to be a lion killing and eating a deer (in I am legend)? Or the strangling of one's own dog (again I am legend). What about the brutal stabbing of a tiger depicted in Gladiator (not to mention the number of grisly deaths)? Will this have less of an impact on a child than seeing a tiger killing and eating?

There's much to fix in China. There's also much to fix over here. There's no use climbing on your high-horse because people here don't like to witness what goes on in an abbatoir while they're busy using their lipstick (that may well have been tested by rubbing it over a monkey/ape's eye) and carrying fashion-accessory pets. 

January 23, 2007

Surprisingly Delicious

Goose Leg

This was the first course in a fancy restaurant in Changsha, Hunan (China). Goose Leg with Mushroom in a tomato sauce.  I was a bit apprehensive at first, but I'm always willing to try new things (so long as it doesn't contain pork/carnivorous animals). It was delicious. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and I even munched down the webbing. The mushroom was soft, smokey and mouth-watering. A great dish. And I'd definately try that kind of goose leg again.

Yum. Yum. Yum.  

February 13, 2006

The primary reason Arabs are misunderstood… (part 1)

is that hardly anyone outside the Arab world knows our food! Sure, everyone's had a kebab and quite a few of you will know what homous or filafil are…

Argh – I have to go on a little aside/rant here. Everyone thinks they've had a kebab and quite a few think they know what homous and filiafil are but they are mostly wrong! What those random Turkish Takeaways sell (ie the meat Mac Donald's wasn't prepared to use, stuffed to the brim with thick chillie sauce) are not proper kebabs! If you want to try real Arabic kebabs pop over to Edgeware Road in London. Go into any of the great restaurants there (al-Dar and Maroush spring to mind!) and you will get to taste real (scruptious) kebabs. Yum-yum. And Homous isn't Greek.

OK now that that's over, let's get onto what real Arabic cuisine is all about:

Zait wa Za'atar

Zait is oil in Arabic. Here it's Zait Zaitoon (Olive Oil). You put this zait in a bowl and fill another bowl with Za'atar. Za'atar is a mix of various herbs in different measures (so you have different types of Za'atar) but the primary ingredient is Thyme (but you'll also have Summac, toasted Sesame etc.). This is a basic of any Arabic breakfast and it's good for you. You dip bread into the olive oil and then dip it into the za'atar which will then stick to the bread. Absolutely delicious!

Halloumi Cheese

Now I'm not going to get into whether this is originally Arabic or Greek (but the Arabs cook it better :P) but this is also typically found in breakfasts or as an accompaniment to various meals. It's either fried in a little bit of oil, grilled or served raw. My personal preference is to heat up a pan, pour about half a teaspoon of olive oil into the pan and let it sit in the centre. To test when the pan is ready, cut a little bit of the cheese and drop it in. If it's sizzling, the pan will be ready. Cut fairly thin slices of cheese and place them on the outer edges of the pan. Using a wooden spatula, quickly push each slice into the centre and pull it back so it stays on the fringe. Wait about 40–50 seconds , checking one of the slices to see how brown/dark it is and, when ready, turn over and do the same with the other side.

Within two minutes you'll have perfectly cooked Halloumi cheese. It'll be crispy on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside. I'll post some pics when I next cook it :D.


The first REAL dish I'm going to mention (i.e. a complete meal as opposed to side dishes). This is my favourite Arabic dish and I can't properly describe to you how wonderful it is. It's composed of:

Stone Yoghurt (condensed and dried goat's milk)
Rice (with one of the yellowing spices)
Snobre (pine kernals)
Lamb (mmmm)
Shiraq (a kind of large, flat Arabic bread)
Semneh Beladi (a bit like Pakistani Ghi)

You powderise the yoghurt rocks and then blend with water. Meanwhile, you put your lamb meat in a large pot (pressure cooker!) and slowly fry it in just a touch of oil. you don't want the meat to burn or to cook too much, you just want to take out the redness of the meat. When it's ready you pour on the Stone Yoghurt (which is now liquid) and start slow-boiling it.

You prepare the rice as usual. To serve the meal you take a large tray and break up the bread to use as a kind of base. You pour a bit of the stone yoghurt over the bread so it absorbs the yoghurt and then you place the rice on top of the bread. You have to fry the snobre quickly in a bit of oil, being careful not to burn them but only to brown them (they cook very quickly) and sprinkle ontop of the rice. You then take some of the meat from the pot and place ontop of the rice and serve the yoghurt + meat in bowls for you/your guests to add as they wish to the rice.

Mmmmm-mmmmm. Delicious.


More dishes to be descirbed + possible photos in part 2!


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