By Robert Bicknell

25081.gif (15822 bytes)

January 29, 2006

The Year of the Rooster, Chicken or whatever you want to call that foul fowl has departed and none-too soon. I cannot remember when a year has caused so much misery to so many people on a global scale. The Bird Flu scare was bad enough, so good riddance to last year. Now its time for MY year…

The Year of the Dog.

I am a dog…literally. My official professional title is Director of Golf (D-o-G). I was born in the Year of the Dog – 1958 and have all the characteristic traits of a dog: I have a cold nose and a warm heart; I’m loyal beyond belief; not afraid of anything that walks, talks or digs holes; I bark like hell when irritated; chase parked cars; love to play fetch and, according to my wife, I have the intelligence level of a tennis ball.

While I love ushering in a new year, there are some potential pitfalls that I must negotiate my way clear of each and every Tet…such as the tradition of "100 per cent" which means downing a full glass of whatever the host is offering, and the dreaded Banh Chung.

I know what you’re thinking, "He’s not going to attack Banh Chung again this year, is he?"

Yes, he is.

I view Banh Chung the same way an experienced dog views peanut butter…with total distain. Give a dog peanut butter once and he might possibly bite your arm off if you try that trick a second time.

I got a lot of letters last year when I proclaimed to the world my true inner feelings about Banh Chung. Many of them were supportive, some lectured me about the need to support Vietnamese traditions and one jackass sent me a Banh Chung and a note saying "when in Rome…"

Look, if the Romans had to deal with Banh Chung during their conquests, they would’ve never made it out of Italy, ok? The world would have a completely different history.

For the record, I fully respect all Vietnamese cultural traditions except when it comes to eating dogs or Banh Chung. As I am a "dog", I do not believe in cannibalism, so that covers the first part.

Banh Chung are a different matter altogether.

As I mentioned last year, I ate an entire Banh Chung by myself during my first Tet in 1992 and didn’t go to the toilet for three months. By the way, back then, Cognac was the preferred drink of choice in Hanoi and going "Tram Phan Tram" (100 per cent) with water glasses of Cognac all night made firecracker bombardments the next day a real experience.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Banh Chung were originally created as weapons. I have mental images of attacking armies being bombarded and decimated by a hundred thousand of these dreaded cakes raining down on them from catapults on high, smashing through armour and laying waste to the invaders.

Hell, if the Vietnamese loaded Banh Chung into the cannon, Dien Bien Phu would’ve ended months earlier.

I also believe that Banh Chung served another purpose as a weapon, in that the invaders would eat these dastardly things and not go to the toilet for six months. Thus, they would be forced to retreat to their homeland where they would beg their leaders for Motilium, grapes and radioactive enemas.

The English translation for Banh Chung is "Glutinous rice cake". Note the operative word is "Glutinous" and the root of that word is "GLUE". That alone should set off warning bells.

The word "cake" is also misleading…hey, when you think of "cake" you envision something that is light and fluffy. Banh Chung’s are anything but that.

A really good Banh Chung weighs approximately the same as a small planet. The last time someone accidentially dropped one, the resulting tremors set off a volcano in Pompeii.

Now, before I get bombarded by hate letters, I need to qualify the above by saying that MOST people enjoy Banh Chung. I believe that everyone, especially tourists enjoying Tet for the first time in Vietnam…should try a Banh Chung…


Back to Issues