I have an allergy to seafood, I’m not sure which ones are the main troublemakers, I’ve never had the desire to carry out the experiment. Aside from the, er, rapid expulsion of any offending particles, I also get flu like symptoms – aching joints, headache and slight dizziness.

Unfortunately, when I was invited to someone’s house for dinner as part of the run up to Chinese New Year, they weren’t aware of my aversion to dishes that were composed from things that were scooped up out of the ocean. I suspect they used the same pots, pans and utensils to cook everything because the next day I was feeling less than spiffy.

I found I was out of medicine so got on the bike and wobbled over to the street around the back of the house, weaved through the crowds and came to an unsteady halt outside the pharmacy. Maybe the pharmacist was used to people asked for stomach medicine in lowered tones, perhaps customers are ushered into a room at the back of the shop where they can be discretely shown an range of anti diaorrheal medication.

I’ve noticed there is no middle ground in Wuhan. People either assume you speak the lingo fluently and talk in hurried tones or assume you are completely incompetent and only communicate in sign language. Nevertheless, from the wide eyed expression and violent shaking of her hands you’d think I’d asked for a bottle of massage oil, powdered rhino horn and invited her and her daughter back to my pad to share my latest dvd purchase from the shop down the road. Mind you, staring down at her with a slightly stoned expression probably didn’t help to put her at ease.

I drifted back into the street, past the DVD store to my bike and headed off to another pharmacy, further away, but better stocked and manned by staff who are less easily shocked. It was a straightforward purchase carried out both efficiently and professionally and I was back out the door almost immediately.

This pharmacy is inside a shopping mall. Upstairs is an Asda like supermarket, stocked up with low quality goods at bargain prices. Downstairs used to be a variety of small shops including a bakery, a phone shop, a bookshop and a lingerie shop as well as other places where you could get your dry cleaning done, and a passport photo while you were waiting.

Recently it all got remodeled and everything got replaced by an open plan area selling wine. Elegantly shaped bottles of high octane rice wine are locked away in glass cabinets and illuminated by discrete lighting. If you want to inspect more closely you have to talk to one of the assistants. A snort is out of the question, but that is relatively unimportant; what matters is appearance, and how much it costs.

As I was walking towards the exit, my mind more at ease thanks to my purchase, I suddenly noticed how many people were crowded around the counters and, if you listened carefully, you could make out a background clinking of bottles against the general din.

I stopped and looking around more closely I realized that everyone had shopping carts loaded with wine in preparation for the New Year. This is different from hopping across the channel and loading up the car boot with crates of Stella for the excesses of Christmas, these are generally intended either as gifts, or to be consumed during the culinary indulgences leading up to the New Year. It doesn’t matter if the wine is as palatable as diluted battery acid, what is of primary importance is presentation; if it’s a standard bottle of red or white wine, it has to come in a box, and that box should ideally be placed inside a nice bag. I once scored points by picking up a passable bottle of red from France, but shot myself in the foot by failing to gift wrap.

The other option is to pick up a bottle of rice wine. From personal experience it seems that these are generally carted along to a restaurant for immediate consumption with friends or family. In both cases the number of attendees can be many so it’s not unusual to see people wheeling a shopping cart down the street, stacked high with bottles of baiyunjiu, the local favorite. For the less discerning palate there is always erguotou, twice distilled for extra kick.. The former comes in a decorative bottle with a long neck, the latter is available in economy size bottles that are usually used for storing domestic bleach and produces the same initial burning sensation when you take a swig. But you will probably have a marginally longer life expectancy if you stick to ertoujiu and anyway, bleach is more expensive


4 Responses to “Alcohol”

  1. Jan Says:

    Bet that would bring up my stainless steel hob a treat. 🙂

    新年快乐, CB – it’s your year.

  2. cyanide bunny Says:

    i was in a store yesterday afternoon and found they sell in 4L units too

  3. janh1 Says:

    … …4 litres!! 🙂 That’s some party pack. Bet it goes nicely with chicken feet.

  4. Pseu Says:

    Not for me thanks. Got any Chardonnay???

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