Friday, May 10, 2013

Red Meat Is Good For Brain Development?

I’ll never forget it, the exact heart-racing, sigh-inducing, moment that I fell in love. I had butterflies. My senses were heightened. My eyes became misty… 

I’m not talking about when I met Mr. Maz – his first words to me were “I like your pants” and, to be honest, I thought he was a total creep. So my first words to him were “Um, my dad’s waiting for me outside.” No, Nick is not the topic of this anecdote, I’m talking about the first time I ate Nem Chua. It was a summer’s eve and we were at a friend’s house for dinner. Her Vietnamese heritage always means a phenomenal feed and the night I was introduced to these little slices of heaven was no different.

Nem Chua is this amazing Vietnamese meat dish, which is basically minced pork (or any meat for that matter) mixed with shredded pork skin, topped with sliced garlic and chili. You don’t cook it, but rather it is preserved and sort of ferments after you knead through a preservative powder (which i’m sure is full of MSG and other horrible things, but it’s delicious so I don’t care). Anyway, I was enamored with this savoury snack and would hang out for any occasion when my friend would deem it appropriate to whip it up.

Unfortunately for me, I am not very good at the whole “moderation” thing. A little quirk I have is that if I like the taste of something I only want to eat THAT. I don’t love sandwiches because I just want the filling, not the bread, so I have been known to purchase roast beef from the deli and eat it out of the bag.  I may have, on occasion, eaten sour cream out of the container with a spoon (and a sprinkling of salt). Once I ingested an entire jar of tomato paste WITH A STRAW. So it stands to reason that I would eventually try and make Nem Chua myself. So I could eat not one or two slices, but basically a whole packet of pork mince in one sitting. 

A few failed trips to Vietnamese grocery stores later and with a subsequent, generous endowment from my friend of a packet of pork skin and a sachet of chemically MSG goodness, I was ready to go. I lit some candles. I put on some mood music. And I kneaded the shit out of that pork. As I was emptying the packet of Nem Chua powder into the pork however, the little anti-desiccant sachet fell in along with the contents. I hurriedly grabbed it and threw it into the bin “disaster averted” I thought, “I wonder if any suckers actually think that sachet is part of the seasoning?” I chuckled to myself. Because I am so wise and, obviously, a multi-cultural kitchen whiz. And before you could say “mono sodium glutamate” I had completed the dish. I placed it in the fridge, hoping the next twenty four hours would fly by.

Twenty four hours later, I was standing at my refrigerator scratching my head. The pork didn’t look like it should. I was a dull grey, not a vibrant pink. It was leaking some sort of bloody, jellied fluid. I put it back and waited another two weeks, after all, it was packed full of preservatives - what harm could it do?! Fourteen days later the Nem Chua still looked a little strange, but strangeness had never before been a barrier to me eating something, so I tucked in and ate half of it in one fell swoop. 

I’m sure you can see where this story is going but you know I have to tell you the ending anyway. It was after I had eaten nearly 300 grams of pork that I asked my friend what it was I had done incorrectly so that my pork was not pink and bouncy, but dull and lifeless. And of course, it turned out that the sachet which I had pegged as an anti-desiccant was, in fact, the preservative powder - the active ingredient which allowed mere mortals to eat raw meat without getting ill. The rest was just seasoning. So I had gone against my better judgement and eaten half a packet of raw, out of date pork. Of course. Because shit like that only happens to Maz.

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