I thought I’d write a post about the social aspects of eating in Tainan.
Last week, after our first day of meetings, we had a formal dinner hosted by Mayor Li of Tainan on Monday evening. The five of us were seated at his table along with the Deputy Mayor, the General Secretary of the Tainan government and IBM Taiwan’s General Manager. The meal was a 12 course meal and this was our first such dinner in the city. There were 4 other tables at the dinner where other IBMers and government officials were eating. At their tables, each course was served family style. This allowed them to take small portions. However, at our table, we each received individual plates for each of the courses. By the 7th course, I was completely full. This presented a dilemma, as it was my understanding that it was considered rude to not finish what was served to you. The mayor left after the 4th course to attend another dinner, but the remainder of our hosts were still at the table. Finishing every dish. I then noticed that the IBM General Manager was not finishing her plates, and felt safe that I could partially eat each dish. What concerned me more at this point was that I had 3 weeks ahead of me and I could not imagine how I would consume a 12 course meal each night. Fortunately, that was the only time we had to eat each of the courses as well as have so much food.
On Thursday evening, the Director-General of the Bureau of Transportation hosted a barbecue, which was more of an outdoor buffet. The 5 of us were seated at different tables with members of the Transportation department. Being a barbecue, it was time to drink beer. The beer glasses were about 4 ounces. The atmosphere is that you raise your glass, say “Gambe!!” and chug down the 4 ounces of beer, and slam your glass down on the table. At my table was the Deputy Director of the bureau and I was informed that he was the best beer drinker among the group. So he looked me in the eye, and the challenge was on. I was up for the challenge. Then they replaced my 4 ounce glass with a 24 ounce mug. Fortunately, I did not have to finish the mug of beer each time they shouted “Gambe!!”. But it was clear to my new friends at the table that I was up to the challenge of drinking that much beer.
My colleagues have also found out that I am a mango lover. I grew up in Florida with a mango tree in my back yard. I eat Mango sorbet at home almost every night. I get mango smoothies. I can never have enough mango. The mangos in Taiwan are fantastic. We have had mango over shaved ice. I drank a 32 ounce carafe of pureed mango juice. I purchased a tub of cut-up fresh mango at the Taiwan night market. I’ve had our local host purchase more for me to consume in my room. I cannot get enough mango. When we have meetings with government officials, they often supply us with snacks, which sometimes are fruit bowls containing mango. I am in mango heaven.
Tonight, we had dinner with the Bureau of Economic Development. The table had the largest lazy Susan I have ever seen. Fortunately, the dinner was served family style and I could maintain some portion control. What was fun was that they brought the dinner in using someone carrying in the food like a street vendor. The conversation was fun, and the food was excellent. These experiences have all added to the pleasure of being in Tainan.