The trip to Taipei with Susan was a nice blend of research, vacation and adventure. The adventure began with the flight, when we tried to leave for San Francisco on July 10th; our flight was delayed due to the crash on July 6th– only one runway operational. We were originally supposed to layover at the Tokyo Narita airport, but ended up spending a night there because there was a typhoon. The typhoon was actually a blessing because it cleared the air of the oppressive heat. Imagine our surprise as we were threatened by another typhoon just as we were scheduled to leave! It seemed before the trip started, we were receiving omens, and even as we were departing, the violent storms of the season ruled the roost over the airport. But, they were no omens at all, just the endless joy of trying to get somewhere that is far away.
We did not stay in the city center, but at The Grand Hotel, in an area analogous to the suburbs here. It is very tropical and humid in Taiwan and the cuisine there reflects that. The leisurely part of our visit and the beautiful hospitality of our hosts made this trip memorable and exciting in learning more about applying macrobiotics internationally. Susan and I enjoyed frequent strolls through the neighborhood and the Night Market and took most of our meals around the area. I can say that although all of the markings of contemporary western diets are prevalent in Taipei—such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, as well as trends favoring meat heavy meals– we experienced some amazing traditional and contemporary cuisine. Furthermore, I observed that eating in a macrobiotic way comes more naturally in Taipei due to the availability of food and the cultural component of a Taiwanese diet.
A humid diet enjoys humid food because the foods insulate you from the environment. For instance, many of the sauteed items had a juicy and watery broth consistency to them. An enormous and outstanding vegetarian buffet offered at our hotel gave us ideas of the range of food, which included many rice and noodle dishes. One day, we breakfasted on rice porridge and oatmeal was often present. I found the oatmeal as quite satisfying and complementary to the climate.
Soups were also included with every meal, not necessarily soy based. We enjoyed noodle and vegetable soups alike. Most dishes prepared in the places we visited used pork fat or vegetable oil; our hosts were vigilant with helping us avoid dishes with pork fat. We tried to find Taiwan’s analogues to common American vegetables and found an array of leafy vegetables. Common staples included scallions, bok choy and watercress; I also remember sweet potato leaves and many types of cabbage. Other vegetables included sweet potato, taro potato, jinenjo(or mountain potato) potato and burdock. When we left, we were given a snack of steamed buns, stuffed with cabbage that were absolutely delicious and could keep for up to two days. We took these with us when we were traveling as well. Of course, there was a lot of fish and shellfish, but there was also warm unsweetened soymilk served with breakfast, not to mention tofu and seitan.
The Night Market was where we had to avoid eating. Young people spend much time at the Night Market and the smell of the oils in the food served there was too much. It was nice being a part of the throngs of people that came to the markets, and we spent much time perusing the strange objects we came upon.
Overall, Taipei was a peaceful place for us, save for the zooming scooters that seemed to abide by their own logic! We got to slow down, spend time with our client and each other, and delight in a place and climate where the macrobiotic diet is as natural to practice as is putting on shoes in the morning.