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Chinese back to the old ways as SARS fear fading away
( 2003-07-11 10:07) (Shanghai Star)

Sitting around a table and eating from the same dish, sometimes enlivened by drinkers playing a raucous game of finger-guessing, is typical of a Chinese feast, which can be fairly compared to a jamboree.

That is what I experienced the other day at a wedding banquet. Flushed with their drinking feats and the hilarious jokes hurled at the bride and the bridegroom, a few hard-nosed guests challenged the couple to a morsel of food offered by them before talking the bride into downing a glass of beer, to the delight of all.

I noticed that the chopsticks supposedly for public use were never touched, and neither did the waitress bother to distribute the food evenly among the diners for fear of being rebuked.

Civet Cat
The scare brought about by the SARS outbreak seems to have been overtaken by eating habits and conventional celebration rituals that are incompatible with hygiene rules.

It occurs to me, therefore, that a time-honoured custom, no matter what negative impact it might have on the environment, dies hard and is reluctant to exit from the historical stage.

Take the habit of eating wildlife. There have been conflicting reports on civet cats. One asserts that the civet cat has been clinically proven to be a carrier of the coronavirus, while the other absolves it of guilt.

Just as we are not sure who to believe, the public are counselled to consume only domesticated animals, which are considered safer than those in the wild.

All this, it seems to me, spells out that the ban on wildlife is being shaken and proponents of the ban are about to knuckle under to the hordes of daredevil eaters.

From this perspective, we can safely predict that those restaurants that specialize in preparing snake feasts will be re-opened and enjoy a boom in business before long.

Recently newspapers have been lauding to the skies the benefits SARS has promoted across the country: people have become more concerned about personal health, devoted more time to improving fitness, paid more attention to the structure of their diet, and taken to tonics, etc.

I would have joined in the chorus if not discouraged by the sickening sight of phlegm on the pavement, which continues to mar the image of this otherwise safe city.

Now that we have won a decisive victory over SARS and everything has started to revive after the "long spell of hibernation", shall we become wiser and watch out for relapse into our bad old habits?

I hope the bitter lesson we have learned to our cost won't be lost on us.

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