Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Eel Fresco

Chongqing is full of unsupposing places to eat, and there seems to be no end to them as I investigate the myriad of lanes throughout the city. These eateries rarely consist of more than one room and often extend onto the open street. As all the food is cooked fresh, a meal in such a place is accompanied by the sounds of the kitchen.

In these alleyways the sounds often appear more intimate anyway as their volume is increased by the reflection offered by the closely knit architecture as well as being played against a quieter backdrop, and so the careful listener will notice much which is not audible in the bigger restaurants in the city.

Sounds such as the soft wet slap of meat being turned over on a wooden chopping board or the gentle swipe of the carving knife through the joint provide a contrast to the scraping out of the wooden rice barrel to make room for the next batch. The generally faster chopping of different vegetables being cut in different ways also add variation to the accompanying soundtrack.

Not all these sounds are necessarily welcome when eating, however: my last two meals have been accompanied by the methodical chop and scrape of the butcher’s knife as it is cut through the throats of live eels as they are prepared for the next meal.