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Fantasy Magazine just put up my story today. I'd be chuffed if anyone could spare a moment to read it. Cheerful, "Yay!"s are also appreciated.

For those of you who do read my story, I'm a little sad the live poultry section of Ben Thanh market has disappeared. It was a colourful section of a traditional Asian wet market, and I rather believe a real wet market lacks something without a live poultry section, some essential childhood memory that is losing its identity with each passing generation. I feel somehow that this progression is contributing to our detachment from the sources and origins of our food. It was the closest a kid raised in the city could get to understanding the backyard eco-system, because raising or watching an organic garden of plants can only do so much.

I remember seeing posts by bloggers a few years ago stating the Vietnamese government closed down this portion of the market, allowing only the sale of pre-slaughtered animals, to prevent the potential spread of bird flu. The Vietnamese raise some pretty darn tasty chickens. The chickens actually tasted like they were fed with corn and grass, and had enough bite in them to strongly say they'd been running around a fair bit in life. My mother would call them "garden" chickens. The meat was pink with health, and the fat a rich, corn-fed yellow. When my father lived in Ho Chi Minh City, my mother would get him to slaughter any poultry she needed for dinner. You'd think a lady whose prime hobby in life seems to be pruning bushes and bugs with a cleaver would be able to handle slaughtering the food she cooks, also with a cleaver, but my mom is squicked by the whole concept (and no, not with the same cleaver). And not of fresh chicken mind you, just the killing part.

As it was, the poultry section of the market didn't just sell tasty chickens, but tasty ducks and turkeys too. We had the skinniest, tastiest turkey we'd ever had the Christmas I went over. My parents both thought they'd picked a fairly large, heavy bird, but under the feathers, the four of us very easily finished the lot. The leftovers made an awesome soto the next day.

I don't miss the raw chicks still incubating in their eggs, sold alongside the usual duck and chicken eggs, with the top bits of shell carefully picked away to reveal the bright pink sac underneath. While I'd like to believe once stacked on trays and laid out on the sidewalk next to the battery of cages behind them, the chicks would not receive enough heat that they would eventually perish of a chill in their sleep, I've never been absolutely sure. I suspect I am wholly wrong on this subject, and that the chicks in question were merely asleep.

I don't miss the frogs either - the Ben Thanh fish market was directly opposite the poultry section, where, in true Asian style, the freshest seafood is usually alive before sale. I don't remember any fish tanks out there, but I do remember my mother remarking on how the Vietnamese liked their prawns still jumping before selling them. She used to be able to get a large bag of prawns and a free bag of gutted anchovies to go with from her fish monger. Apart from prawns, it seemed the locals also liked their frogs jumping prior to sale. In Vietnam, the method of advertising you sold frogs for food appeared to involve skinning them alive, removing the eyes, allowing the frogs to jump short, hobbled distances on a tray completely blind.

Shortly thereafter, I opted not to visit the fish section of Ben Thanh market ever again.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 8th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
Selling food animals alive, so they're fresh as possible and so people have a real connection with the life they're eating = good.

Preskinning of live food, while it's still alive = AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Sep. 8th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
I think it does matter you know your food was once alive before you ate it. Though sometimes, I have been told I take the guilt of not finishing what died for my plate a little far...

Preskinning of live food though, that's - well, let's just say I'm likely never going to develop an appetite for frog.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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