as i’m sure you’ve noticed, i blogged about food a lot this trip. while our hosts were wonderfully accommodating about offering to take us to western restaurants (they must be use to hanging out with our less adventurous colleagues), we didn’t feel the need to take them up on the offer. thankfully, the crew i’m with are just as gung-ho as i am on the subject of what’s for dinner, and my consistent answer of, “whatever we can’t get at home is best,” was met with nothing but agreement.
the prepared meals, though, weren’t the only times we met new and strange things: the plethora of fruit here is amazing. the breakfast buffet every morning has an impressive spread of sliced dragonfruit alongside more mundane melons and apples, and a variety of whole fruit too. women at the ming tombs tried to push bags of bright orange squat persimmons into our hands as we left. a street vendor on a bicycle had a cart full of kumquats, oranges, and strange reddish dried pruney objects.
my new favorite thing is an odd tiny spherical object of mottled olive green, about 3-4 cm in diameter. i’d seen them on the breakfast assortment the first day, but rejected them thinking they were hard little not-quite-ripe plums of some sort. while out at the mansion restaurant the first night, some of them arrived on the after-dinner fruit tray. our host said he was unsure of the english name but thought it was some type of date. i tried one and absolutely loved it – very crisp and crunchy, with a thin edible skin like an apple, and a flavor at some intersection of pear, apple, and banana. they’ve consistently been on the breakfast buffet every morning, and after getting the taste for them, i chomped down a handful of these wee treats every morning.
turns out that those reddish pruney items the street vendor had were these same fruits, only dried & preserved, hence the confusion with dates. after showing her the above picture, another of our hosts said that this fruit is only grown in the local area around Beijing. tentatively, i’ve id’ed them as chinese jujubes, and yet another thing i’ll miss about here.
my plane heads out in about 5 hours – see you on the other side of the world.