I have never yearned or had the compelling urge to visit third world countries, eat monkey brains, bat wings, snake innards, worm soup, or other bizarre shit of that ilk. Any place that I would have to forage for unmentionables as a source of food was off my list. My bucket list is obviously short. Which brings me to China and the Corona Virus. Has anyone noticed that these viruses and diseases always seem to take root in developing countries? I have never heard of a virus from Finland, Sweden, Norway, or Iceland. Their taste of exotic food stops at fermented fish; disgusting yes, but causing viruses no.
I am a closet Netflix watcher and an avid “cooking show” junkie. Whatever they are cooking I watch. I got hooked on a new series called Restaurants on the Edge. Started watching it when the first episode featured a restaurant in Malta. Much of the same reality premise just rehashed: three personalities from the US descend upon a restaurant that needs help. An interior designer, a chef, and a social guru, visit the restaurant than decide on how to give it a facelift, new menu, and the push needed to stay in business. On one of these episodes, they travelled to Hong Kong, China.
The Chef whose mantra is local produce and local flavors, was taken to a street market which also doubled as “street” food. He oohed and aahed as he watched little Chinese old ladies cook snakes, cow innards, and other unmentionables in spices and sauces. He supped, licked, and drooled over flavors that tasted like “chicken”. And we wonder how diseases get transferred from China to an apartment in NYC! A short note of interest: when the Chef returned to the restaurant to upgrade the menu, it was sans snakes, innards, or other creepy crawlies that tasted like “chicken” a few hours prior. Go figure.
Eating street food in Calcutta or “nowhere” China is a far cry from selling and eating food in Los Angeles or New York. What goes in those huge woks is as mysterious as what comes out of a bad magician’s hat. Africa is no better. Aids and Ebola come to mind. The Corona virus which is normally animal specific spread to humans through a “wet” market place in Wuhan, China. The market happened to be in close proximity to a research lab home to approximately 600 bats. At least this is what the Chinese government allowed us to know. But some Chinese scientists in Beijing are now suspecting that someone from the Wuhan science lab, inadvertently caught the virus through a bat encounter, and then spread it through the neighboring “wet” market. The virus is categorized as zoolonic , but when transferred to humans it changes composition and mutates attacking our respiratory system. Which is why it is more dangerous in older folk. By the way, for those of you who are not sure what “wet” markets are; live stock and other animals are slaughtered and sold at open air markets generally under very unsanitary conditions.
In 2019, China lost over 100 million pigs to African Swine Fever. Notice; it was not called German Swine Fever, or Swedish Swine Fever, or even California Swine Fever. Diseases and epidemics continue to spread because developing countries remain unhygienic, with little or no government sanitary oversight, and traditional eating habits which include animal species carrying intrinsic viruses and often plagues. Which brings me to the point of why I love National Geographic.
National Geographic does the travelling, eating, and contaminating on my behalf without detriment to my well being. I can sit comfortably in the comfort of my couch sipping a glass of wine while watching presumptuous yahoos eat monkey brains in the Congo. At the same time I can wonder and marvel at how a seemingly intelligent individual can bring himself to eat snake tripe, scorpion soup, and beetle fricassee just because he can. The National Geographic “journalist-explorer” will look at the camera while eagerly chewing on fried cockroaches. I’m sure they too taste like chicken. Yes, spare me the pain but still give me the adventure.
Enters exotic world travel that sends morons to nether regions of the world to have an “awesome” experience. We then compound the situation by the sick crap they bring back. And as we relax with a Starbucks somewhere on Main Street USA, we are unaware of the garbage that will soon hit the proverbial health fan. The double and triple digit tonnage of a floating Petri dish with 5,000 or more souls on board, eating food that has been exposed to the elements for days, and who disembark in ports that are less sanitary than a New York City public toilet; further adds to the incoming plethora of unknown viruses and diseases.
The penchant to travel to countries not best known for hygiene has become an obsession among this generation. In my youth, only medical doctors, nurses, archeologists, and missionaries ever ventured out into an “awesome” experience. On their return they were immediately put in quarantine. But I digress. Some might call me a bigot but once again I must remind you that serious diseases have never originated in western countries. Even the European plagues were brought to Europe by ships carrying vermin from “exotic” places. Again I digress.
Cruise ships are not the only travelling Petri dishes. Airlines are the ultimate toilets in the skies. Crammed like sardines and breathing each other’s arm pits, the air that circulates comes from the breath of the 300 cramped transatlantic zombies strapped to their seats. Add the fact that airline travelers have morphed from the sophisticated 60’s Pan Am passenger to the unwashed masses that board a plane in their pajamas; they are the proverbial incubators for anything and everything they catch in some remote “must see” market in Timbuktu.
China, India, South America, and Africa create havoc in our world and we ignore it, because “racist” “bigot” and “insensitive” gets thrown in our faces like confetti on the 4th of July. They are the worst polluters in the world, and they are the primary source of microbiological viruses and epidemics that spread like wildfire. There was a short pleasant world reprieve; in the past few weeks NASA satellites noticed a sharp drop in pollutants over China. The Coronavirus closed down lithium, coal, and other toxic factories for a few weeks. I wonder if the 15-year old angry teenage twit in Sweden noticed. Hey Greta, it’s not us who pollute!
The EU and US are at a crossroads on developing countries. They need to get a grip and start taking serious action against nations that take our money but refuse to clean up their acts. I would not wish any economy to go South, but western governments throw money at these nations like a croupier in Vegas, yet they still spread AIDS, SARS, Swine flu, Ebola, and now Corona. Western religious organizations have spent billions on assistance, as have Doctors without Borders, UNESCO, and the WHO; to no avail. The global community must insist on a change in dangerous traditional eating habits, hygiene, and safety. Stop the aid until they clean up their act. Stop the cruises, flights, and commerce until governments become serious enough to educate and change. If you want our hard earned dollars then make an effort to protect us when we visit you. Join the 21st century already.
In the meantime, I will wash my hands 20+ seconds, then position myself with a glass of wine as I turn on Netflix and National Geographic. I heard that tonight the show features a special cooking show from the exotic jungles and rainforests of the Congo. Someone mentioned Gordon Ramsey’s famous Beef Wellington with a twist: African striped weasel en croute….YUM! I’m sure it will taste like chicken!