Like a pig's tongue, the human lingua, from root to apex, is a fleshy, muscular organ. I have personally performed a glossectomy of necessary and delicious ends. Cooked in soy sauce and chilled until dense and gelatinous, his tongue tastes like curses and corned beef. [He has hairy hands and a big yellow watch, eats a burger dipped in mayo on the train, and it all turns my stomach.] Lunch is long. A Chinese woman with a bitter face and rubber rain boots takes my order. I am not speaking Mandarin. I ask her, "What is good? What should I eat? What soup? What is that—" pointing at untranslated characters—and she gestures at the owner, who sits at a table and eats tofu and rice porridge. He stands up, adjusts his coat, looks at the menu, and returns to his own meal. Finally, the waitress says, "Beef," I say, "Yes," and she puts the order in. I wait and read the menu and listen to a Chinese game show play behind me. The owner and waitress converse in Chinese. I eavesdrop. But I am harmless, because I cannot understand their musical morphemes—brassy, farting, symphonic squawkings like shortwave fuzz coming in long distance. Perhaps they discuss the owner's wife. The soup arrives. "98. ????? " It's oxtail floating in a gallon of broth. I gnaw fat and cartilage off the bone, dipping fingers—so gauche, blistered from a dry January—in the soup to pick up the spine. Every few vertebrae, I drink deeply, licking beef grease off my lips. [Osteography: I am training for a marathon. I can feel the bulbous curvature of my spine through my Billy Joel T-shirt, lump-lump-bump of bone sticking out of skin. I grow thin—I shall wear the bottoms of my bangs trimmed.] Saturday night, I return to Best Fuzhou with friends. East of Bowery, a few firecrackers still pop. New Year's celebrations are ending. While I order (the same waitress! smiles and laughs, proud of me and her food), three men drink coronas. We start with rabbit in red wine lees. The succulent meat (succulent rabbit! how strange) sops up vermilion, jugular, sauce. Then, a bowl of "Water Melon w. Fish Stomach Soup;" an error in translation; it is white gourd and flotation bladder; vegetal, subtle, of seawreck. Duck kidney, chewy and non-Euclidean, comes with cauliflower. And we get our own Sterno burner for wu geng chang wang, a sizzling casserole of pork intestines, chili, celery, and wiggly livery brown congealed blood. Fifth Watch Intestine's Brilliance, so-called in honor of its ideal serving time, an hour of night perfect for eating pig entrails. [I am not growing my hair out, I am just not cutting it off. It is something happening on my head. Hopefully, I will collect enough strands to form a great knobbly ushnisha.] The task of the food writer is the task of the translator. Jason Bell is a Columbia College junior majoring in English. In Defense of Delicious runs alternate Fridays.
Justine Hope / Senior Producer