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Monday, May 25, 2015

I Drank Bird Spit (and I Liked it)

When Corinna and I were first dating, one of the things we found we had in common was a propensity to buy drinks that appeared to be packaged as a dare.

We're both into ethnic markets, and in fact the first time she came over to my house she commented that she'd never seen anyone else with her spice cabinet. Which is to say everything you could season food with from the far corners of the earth. Some of those spices, when we consolidated households, were truly out of hand, especially when it would turn out to be a seasoning neither of us liked but had both bought to try.

It's getting to the point where it's hard for me to find beverages I haven't tried. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've had the calamansi soda before, it'd just been a while. The Bird's Nest 'white fungus drink' though, that was new. Very sweet and viscous with large pieces of agar agar in it. I usually think it's a mistake for the people labeling these things for export to the United States to use the f-word on the label. Wood ear mushrooms become 'dried black fungus' with sloppy translation and while we've all eaten it in Chinese takeout hot sour soup, most Americans aren't going to put something labeled 'black fungus' in their cart.

Apparently, though, the 'bird's nest' part isn't just a nickname, there's actually bird's nests used in making the beverage, namely the nests of a swift that makes it's nest mostly out of dried spit. Not much spit gets into the finished product, while the 'white fungus' is listed as 20ml/L, the bird's nest is last, after artificial sweeteners and thickeners and whatnot, as 1ml/L. I'm pretty sure one milliliter per liter concentrations of rat poop are routinely allowed in food by the USDA, so I'm not sure what the bird's nest really contributes to the finished soft drink.

So from a standpoint of marketing to Americans, 'white fungus drink' is a way better label than 'real reconstituted bird saliva beverage.'

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