A boring story about my depressing night with my boss and a duck... There's no point to it really, it's just my narrative way of venting.
Monday night of our trip we were supposed to meet our advisor/professor/boss X at Borders to discuss science and maybe get something to eat at 8pm. We hung around till 8:45 or so till he showed up, because his 2 year old had been having trouble settling down.
X said "Okay, we're going back for that duck."
"Chow Bar?" I asked. He'd been talking about this duck he used to eat all the time in this town, the best duck he'd ever tasted as he put it. He wanted us (or at least the non-vegetarians) to experience it. I was expected to drive as usual. Chow Bar had always seemed like a cheap fast-foodish sort of Chinese/Korean joint to me. They have those bubble teas with large straws and tapioca spheres that you suck up on the bottom. I don't like American Chinese food that much, but it's okay-ish.
My fellow students on the trip were my Indian friends H and J and this other guy A. J is a vegetarian and I a vegan. X ordered one duck to share, plus rice, I ordered spicy green beans and J vegetable lo mein.
X was very enthusiastic, talking about how hard it is to cook duck properly, how unique the meat is and so on. I tried to participate from a nutritional perspective, saying things like "How's the omega-3 content?"
J had brought some of his own food in a plastic container and X was criticizing him for bringing food into a restaurant.
The waitress said "It's okay. We can make an exception."
"You see?" X said. "That's one of the benefits of being with me. Because you're with me they're making an exception. I'm like family here."
He knew the owner, but not the waitress. I ordered a Chinese beer called tsingtao or something.
"Ching dow?" the waitress asked.
"Did you pronounce it ching dow?" asked X. "It's ting dow."
"It's ching dow."
"No, I'm quite certain it's ting dow. I've studied mandarin chinese for 20 years."
I asked X if he was trying to teach the Chinese their own language. A laughed.
"What part of China are you from?" X asked.
"Ah there's the problem," he said. "It's pronounced ching dow in shanghainese."
"It's the same everywhere."
Finally she carded me and left.
"I was trying to distract her so she wouldn't card you! So much for that plan" X said.
I'm 26 and had my ID with me, so I'm not sure what the point of that was. A said later that he thought X was drunk and he usually gets pretty tipsy after just one drink so I figured this was probably true.
When the duck arrived X said "That's a whole duck? It looks more like a half."
"You can count the number of legs and wings" the waitress said.
X kept urging A and H to eat more duck. They liked it I guess, but weren't all that hungry. I didn't bring up meat ethics at all, but my presence must have caused some need for rationalization on X's part.
"I'm respecting the duck by enjoying its meat" he said. "It's dead anyway and I'm respecting its body."
I didn't say anything. What am I supposed to say? I've got my flaws, but I don't try to rationalize them as being somehow commendable.
X talked about how he couldn't stand the taste of mammal meat. He said that birds DNA is so different from humans that he thinks its okay to eat them. I tentatively asked whether he'd be okay with eating a highly intelligent alien species with highly different DNA--or no DNA. Admittedly bringing up speculation about aliens is a lame approach, but it was the best I could think of on the fly without getting confrontational. He said that he thought it highly unlikely for intelligent aliens not to be closely related to us in terms of DNA. A dubious dodge... alright. Whatever. I thought it seemed awfully convenient that his rationalization fit perfectly with what he does and doesn't like the taste of, but I didn't feel like starting a debate.
"There's only one reason I eat meat. Because it's tasty." H said. "I've tried to justify it too many ways, but I've realized these are just rationalizations."
"I like your reasoning a lot better" I said.
The restaurant owner brought out a small complimentary vegetable dumpling for each of us. X kept urging A and H to eat more duck repeating "we are respecting the duck".
A and H had stomach aches after we left. There was no time for the noble pursuit of science.
I live with meat eaters and am hardly ever annoyed, but this combination of glutenous duck-lust and bull**** left me really annoyed.
The next night I mentioned the stomach aches to X. He said "Oh, you know what? I bet it was those dumplings. They weren't so good." Hah, yeah...