One of Taiwan’s little pleasures is the availability of pork intestines. [This isn’t the gross part]. They’re used in a number of different dishes, most quite delectable. It is so popular here that faux intestines are ubiquitous in vegetarian restaurants. Not tofu burgers, turkey, or sausage, but guts, that’s what vegetarians miss. My favorites on a cold day are a steaming bowl of 蚵仔麵線 vermicelli, oyster and pig’s intestine soup, or 五更腸旺 Sichuan style spicy pig’s blood patty and intestines. Deep fried chitlins, a common street food, are to-die-for. Of course, you could deep fry a salad and it would be great.
All that’s required to enjoy a steaming plate of poop-tubes is not to think about what passed through them before they passed into your mouth—essentially the same mind control exercise needed to eat wieners. That was all going fine for me, until a recent trip to Canada. While in Saskatoon I ran into an old acquaintance who works at a large meat processor there.
When he found out I live in Taiwan, he had a tale to tell—I wish he’d kept it to himself. It seems that they had a good business selling intestines to Taiwan. They were making a tidy little profit off what was essentially a by-product. They would take the guts, clean them, and send them off. It became so lucrative that the company decided to invest in specialty gut-cleaning machines, to better care for their increasingly important client. After the new state-of-the-art machines were installed there was a steady decline in sales. The company dispatched a representative to Taiwan to find out what was going on.
Turns out the new cleaning equipment was doing too good a job. There wasn’t enough fecal matter left in the intestines. Taiwanese customers found the intestines bland, lacking that toothsome shit flavor. [This is the gross part]. The company immediately went back to the old cleaning equipment. Taiwanese consumers got the proper manure-to-flesh ratio in their intestines and returned to the brand, and the company’s profits returned. Everyone is happy now—except me.
Now when I eat intestines, I taste the dung. It is hard to really enjoy your steaming plate of offal when all you taste is feces. I can even distinguish variations in fecal content. On a trip to Beijing I noticed that the intestines had a much stronger shit taste than in Taiwan. I’m afraid my friend, who merely wanted to share a cute anecdote, has lowered my quality of life in a small, but perceptible way.