How I Learned to Eat Like a Hobbit: Study Abroad Taiwan Day 3
Master’s student and Student Services Coordinator, Kate Broderick is studying in Taiwan for a three-week intensive study of Chinese language and culture, based at Tunghai University in Taichung. The program was made possible by a scholarship from the School of Arts and Communication at Florida Tech. She will be chronicling her experience over the next three weeks on our blog.
In the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, Pippin lists the typical hobbit eating routine: breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper. Well, not to purposely outdo the hairy-footed hobbit, but Taiwan soundly has him beat in terms of daily food ventures. I will attempt to create a culinary map of everywhere we ate today, so you will appreciate when I make the rash assessment that snacking is the national Taiwanese pastime. This is the most food I have ever eaten in one day, and it needs to be documented.
This morning, I began breakfast by grabbing a quick breakfast at FamilyMart, a small convenience store on campus that many students flock to in the early morning hours for a small bite. To be honest, I have no idea what I actually ate as there is not an equivalent in English (I am learning for the first time how frustrated linguists and translators must continually be when there is no vocabulary equivalent!). It was a rice-flour pastry of some sort, that was very, very light and airy, complemented with a piece of “melon bread”—bread cooked with an outer shell of cookie dough in addition to a papaya.
Our intensive Chinese class was given a short break for drinks and light snacks. I enjoyed an apple milk (white milk is apparently a thing of the past! The milk selection at the store included flavors like: strawberry milk, apple milk, banana milk, papaya milk, green tea milk, matcha milk, etc.).
Today we ate at the student restaurant, Garden, where for around $1 you can have a full lunch. I ate four types of tofu, and each was more “hao chi” (delicious) than the next. I also had a variety of vegetables, which we do not have in the US, but I have no idea what they were beyond the fact they were green and remarkably crunchy. Lunch is served with “red tea,” which tastes similar to our sweetened ice tea.
Walking back from lunch, we stopped for juice, which is apparently the custom of Taiwanese students. You select a plastic cup with fresh fruit pieces from the fridge in the front of the store, and then mix the juice with the precise amount of milk, sugar, or ice that you want. Ivy, our student guide, chose watermelon milk, which was a delicious and refreshing choice. I was trying to be adventurous and chose the fruit that I had no idea what it was exactly, and wound up with an unusual smoothie of something that included the fruits called bitter gourd, java apple, and pitaya.
Stopping on the way into Taichung City, we stopped for a famous Taiwanese delicacy: mi fen, a very skinny rice noodle in a brown sauce, served with fried balls of something vegetarian (“su shi”) but tasted like chicken.
We spent the afternoon at Taiwan’s first broadcast station. Unfortunately, the building is now empty of broadcasting elements, but the architecture was very beautiful (“hen piao liang”). The building now serves as a free movie theater on the weekends for artsy movies, and a trendy place for local students to study. We ate passion fruit and a red type of flower ice cream.
Bubble tea. I’ve mentioned bubble tea previously. It literally means “pearl milk tea.” It is refreshing, delicious, and filling!
Ivy took us to the most amazing store I’ve ever been to. It was like stepping out of the real world and into a dream. She said we had to eat a delicacy called pineapple pie. The walls were lined with bookshelves three stories tall, filled with exotic teas and chocolates. The overall appearance of the store was like walking through Dumbledore’s office. We sampled three kinds of pineapple pies—each about the size of a pocket watch, made with various types of dough and fillings of pineapple.
The shaved ice mountain sounds exactly as it sounds: like a mountain of ice! Solid blocks of ice are shaved down to a snow-like powder, covered with mango pieces, and doused in sweetened condensed milk. The line to the small store was very long, but it was well worth the wait! The shaved ice mountain takes the cake—the perfect cool finale for a warm night.
I have forgotten to mention the time Ivy wanted to stop for Stinky Tofu for dinner, but I flat out refused—not because I was against the idea of eating something infamous for being smelly, but because I had no more room in my stomach!
I think the Taiwanese culture has to be one of the healthiest on the planet. For one, I walked at least five miles today, and I feel like that is fairly typical in this culture. But most importantly, even though we ate many, many times, the food is generally snack-size (the exception being the shaved ice mountain!), very low in sugar and made of fresh fruits and vegetables. Even as a vegetarian, I find it incredibly difficult to get in the 5 servings of fruits and veggies you’re supposed to have daily. Since I’ve arrived in Taiwan, I’ve had the required servings by lunch!