Students and professors from the University of Montana learn about how people are dealing with life and livelihoods under dynamic conditions

Dragon Cook Book

January 14, 2012

Story By Avery Old Coyote

Vietnam is known as “The Land of the Dragon People.” Legend has it, the patriarch, which is represented by the sea, met the matriarch, represented by the sky or heavens. Together, they had 100 children and they became the Vietnamese people. The Vietnamese, or Dragon People, are proud and strong. They are an embodiment of the dragon, which symbolizes invincibility and versatility. The dragon is king of all realms demonstrated by its ability to cross over to all kingdoms: air, land and sea.

America is known as “The Land of Opportunity.” Legend has it, Americans have the opportunity to buy a cheeseburger on every street corner. The producer, represented by the giant corporation, met the consumer, represented by the fat American. Together, they had 300 million children and became the pickiest country in the world.

All kidding aside, the Vietnamese are the most hospitable and welcoming people I have ever met. They also happen to make the best food I have ever eaten. Despite the fact that I can’t pronounce half of the dishes they prepare, I can say how they taste: delicious. And even though I didn’t know half of what they cooked was edible, I do know it was healthy. I also know that, perhaps rooted from the legend of the dragon, the Vietnamese do not discriminate on what type of animal or food they eat or where it comes from. All food, no matter if it comes from the air land or sea, is sustenance.

I had never considered frog to be a nutritious meal. Nor had I thought of squid, turtle soup, fish eyeball or snail as a delicacy. And I certainly had never even heard of mud skipper or balut (duck fetus), much less eating them, but I can confirm from experience that all of the previously mentioned foods are in fact, not only edible, but enjoyable when cooked properly.

I am not saying all Vietnamese try to find the most peculiar animal they can find and eat it. Vietnam has a plethora of absolutely fabulous foods that are quickly becoming popular throughout the world. Pho is the main staple of Vietnam, and can be found on virtually every block, but I am also not suggesting that all Vietnamese eat a strict diet of pho. You can also find a ton of other delicious homemade treats and homegrown fruit along with a pizza or even a cheeseburger if you look hard enough. Nevertheless, I do think that the Vietnamese can provide a valuable lesson to most of the world.

It is no secret that the global climate is changing. As the atmosphere and oceans warm and melts the world’s polar ice caps and glaciers, the sea level subsequently rises. Worldwide implications include water scarcity, mass migrations and food insecurity. This could mean significant shifts in livelihoods in industrialized and developing countries alike. If we all take a page from a Vietnamese cook book, remember the recipe for the versatility and strength of a dragon. Whether from the air, land or sea, all animals, veggies and fruits are valuable and not to be wasted.

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