“In America” we don’t like fresh meat. We like “clean,” “sanitary” meat, and what we really mean by “sanitary” is meat that is as disassociated as possible from the animal to which it previously belonged. We don’t want to think about the fact that the meat on our plate came from what was first a dirty, stinking, but potentially cute living animal, and then a dead bleeding carcass full of entrails, before finally getting chopped up beyond recognition and plastic-wrapped to styrofoam. Maybe we feel guilty. Or maybe we only like blood and guts in movies. Given the choice between meat wrapped in plastic, or meat hacked off a largely intact carcass hanging on a hook, or picking out an animal in the store and having it slaughtered right then and there, Americans take the plastic every time.
In Chinese cultures, they don’t seem to have the same hang-ups we do; they aren’t bothered by the fact that meat comes from animals. In fact, the less time that has elapsed since that meat was actually alive, the better. In Taiwan everyone we know prefers the meat in the wet market over the plastic-wrapped supermarket meat because the market meat is fresher. In fact, the pre-cut packaged supermarket meat is cheaper.
I’m reminded of this whenever we go to restaurants, because usually somewhere inside the entrance there will be tanks of live seafood, from which you can select your dinner. This video is horrible (15 sec). I would have taken a picture, but buckets of eels don’t writhe as nicely in photos.
It seems strange the first time or two, but now we don’t think anything of it. Except this night the eels were really rebellious, so I took this video on the way out the door.