Dha-guhr – That I Am!

I am “with cold” with a sore throat and a bit of a fever, and my head is fuzzy – just not quite working at 100% – just a little off… So, I spent part of the afternoon watching cooking shows on the TV. Just two: Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods”. These shows are usually interesting to me. I have been in more than 80 countries, and every country I have visited has a gastronomy boast.

Bourdain’s fun – he tells you what he likes and what he doesn’t and why. Anthony was in Italy this afternoon – he loves Italy, and so do I.  I would gladly live there just for the marvelous food. As long as you don’t cross the local Mafia boss (just kidding), life would be great. I have a cousin in Rome who knows the local people and great authentic places to eat quite well after thirty or more years there.

My first time in Italy, I spent significant time in Venezia, and carbonara for breakfast was the local treat. Long, soft noodles, gooey egg and cheese sauce, and crunchy, salty pancetta – just a great way to start the day, and I have never found such tasty carbonara anywhere here in the States – never. Mr. Bourdain had a meal with carbonara on his show this afternoon, and it brought back great memories of Italy – nothing beats carbonara for breakfast!

Andrew’s fun, too – he tells what you should appreciate about what he doesn’t like, and he eats it anyway (unless it has walnut in it).  Mr. Zimmer was in Chengdu, Sichuan, China – I have never been to Chengdu, and I want to go. This is the world’s capital for chiles – I love hot, spicy food, and I can stuff chiles down my throat until the cook quits cooking! One of Mr. Zimmern’s tour guides came with a tag-along named Dha-guhr, and that brings me to the title of my post – actually, this is the second thing that brings me to the title of my post, so read on!. I need to go to Chengdu!

The first time I was in China in Shanghai, and last time I was in China in Beijing, I heard the word “dha-guhr” mentioned behind me throughout my trips. I know a little Mandarin – just a little – I can be polite, ask simple questions, count, but I stop right about there. One word I do know is “dha-guhr”.

I learned the word “dha-guhr” in Ulan Bator, Mongolia in the ’80’s. My hotel was a local place with local furnishings including the most peculiar bed I have ever slept on. It was about 1-1/2 M square – about 4 or maybe 5 feet square – you were supposed to sleep rolled up in a ball with a heavy blanket to keep warm. The old Chinese man who would come into the room during the night to put wood in the big. blackened pot-belly stove always grunted when he saw my feet hanging over the edge. “Dha-guhr,” he’d say every time on his way out. I learned about that word “dha-guhr”…

Like many words in Chinese, there are two sharply different meanings depending on context. Dha-guhr literally means “big piece of meat” in Mandarin Chinese. Dha-guhr is 1) the big clumsy oaf, or maybe the country bumpkin, or 2) the big boss, or the “big cheese” (maybe the local mafia boss in Italy, Mr. Bourdain) depending on context.

In Shanghai, I had to bend my head to fit in the elevator (dha-guhr, I heard behind me). In Beijing in a alleyway restaurant, we needed to move the tables around a bit so that I would fit (dha-guhr). In Beijing in a restaurant bathroom, I just could not close the door (dha-guhr). In Shanghai, the subway cars were, well, smallish, and I was heads and shoulders taller than anyone around me – I could see to either end of the entire train, and everyone in the train could see me (dha-guhr). Zimmern’s tag-along was 2.2M or about 7-ft tall athlete Dha-guhr – an apt nickname.

In Italy, I was the big boss (dha-guhr). In China, more the clumsy oaf (dha-guhr). That’s OK. Great food in either place! I’m big – 3 ft shirt sleeves, 3 ft waist, 3 ft from crotch to the floor. I can look imposing (dha-guhr), and I can be clumsy (dha-guhr).

I have a trip to Taiwan coming up (dha-guhr).

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