Eating in Vietnam. Also, a Travel Companion

The Bindlestiff

I’ve stood at the entrance to a Vietnamese kitchen and been told that Vietnamese kitchens are cleaned but once a year. With a laugh I was then beckoned inside. I have, in my notebook, the name for a Vietnamese herbal medicine that will, and I’m quoting an authority here, “Line your gut so the bad bacteria doesn’t get absorbed but everything else flows out.” In other words, I’ve had to imagine the chemical workings of an anal luge while eating crispy, fried pork bits served at room temperature. I’ve consumed so much pureed fruit with condensed milk that I’ve needed to skip dinner, but then had dinner anyways. I’ve sipped ultra-sweet nước mía from plastic cups that crumple when touched, and I’ve done this while watching chickens with slit throats dance until death on a sidewalk. I’ve eaten banh mi from vendors on bicycles, street corners, trains, and boats. I’ve…

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