番茄汁最“另类”的用途 / The Real Importance of Tomato Juice

番茄汁最“另类”的用途

已经有很多文章讨论过中国和美国、它们的共同与不同的利益、它们的关系对全球事务以及人类未来的影响,等等。

我想暂时把这些大事放在一边,关注一下这两个伟大国家都有、虽然小但总被忽略的一样东西:臭鼬。

没错,就是臭鼬(黄鼠狼)。

让我们用心想想不起眼的、常被遗忘的臭鼬吧。尽管中国和美国臭鼬各不相同,但它们基本上不是任何保护工作的对象,不像中国的象征性动物——熊猫、老虎和金丝猴,或是美国的秃鹰、野牛和狼。

与人们能列举出的中美之间大多数相似之处一样,两国臭鼬的共同之处也伴随着重大的差异。可以这么说,最具指导性的观点,来自于对差异的理解,而不是来自一味追求表面上的近似。

中国的黄鼠狼属于黄鼬,个头比较矮,全身棕色。神话和迷信里说,它们能干坏事,有时具备超自然力量。一些人把它们看成厄运的先兆或是鬼怪的化身。

美国臭鼬没有黄鼠狼那样灵活,身材更高,更肥胖,伪装也差一些,它们身上带有鲜明的黑白条纹。提起它们,大多数美国人更容易联想到臭气和公路上被车撞死的动物,而不是什么超自然的东西。

中国臭鼬和美国臭鼬的一个共同之处就是它们尾巴下面的腺体都能发出强烈的臭气。

在这方面,我虽然没有亲身体验过中国臭鼬的臭味,但我能证明,美国臭鼬的可怕恶臭,是我这辈子闻过的最难闻气味。

臭豆腐和榴梿就算臭上一百倍,也比不上这种味道,不仅强度比不上,持续时间也远远不如。衣服如果被美国臭鼬喷到,即便是用最强力的洗涤剂也洗不掉那种气味。对此,我有亲身的体会。

念大学的时候,我曾到我叔叔汤姆在威斯康辛州北部的钓鱼度假村打暑期工。我在那里给房子刷漆和做杂活儿。度假村的主体宾馆是一栋高耸的原木房子,客房是一间间小木屋。

我的职责之一就是照顾汤姆叔叔的黑色拉布拉多小狗,名字叫做“卡比”(Cappy)。拉布拉多犬是游泳高手,卡比非常喜欢到宾馆周围的松林深处去探险。它喜欢人,像海绵一样吸引人们的注意。

一天,干完活儿后,我带上卡比,划着一条铝制小船出行。夕阳西下,我们沿着河岸线划行。

我开始钓鱼,卡比在旁边看着。突然,岸边的矮树丛里发出一阵沙沙的响声,接下来我就看见,卡比像箭一般地跳下船,游到岸边,消失在树林里,湿淋淋、急匆匆地去追赶什么野生动物去了。

我连忙把船划到岸边,呼喊着卡比的名字,但已经来不及了,它早已一头扎进树林深处。我听见它穿过灌木丛,发出很大的声响。然后,就听见它发出一阵阵哀嚎。

当我赶上卡比时,我不需要看什么《野外指南》就能知道它到底追赶的是什么动物。显然,是一只臭鼬。卡比的脸被臭鼬近距离喷了个正着。它变得臭不可闻,只要一走近它,鼻子就会感到难受。就是臭豆腐小贩搞个大集会,也不如它臭。

我反复冲洗卡比,但无法去掉它毛上的臭味。

回到宾馆,从前爱逗卡比的客人像躲避麻风病患者一样躲着它。突如其来的冷落让喜欢交友的卡比很悲伤,躲在角落里闷闷不乐。

第二天晚上,我去了当地的一家名叫“比尔与荷利”(Bill and Holly’s)的餐吧。这是一家烧烤酒吧,位于林中的乡村小路旁,离最近的镇子有30分钟车程。餐吧的老板比尔和荷利已经在那里住了很久,经历过很多寒冷的冬季。两位都是很有趣味、善于招待客人并且爱出主意的乡下人。

餐吧的一角有一台弹子游戏机,另一角是投币保龄球机。墙上挂着许多巨大的鱼类和兽头标本。

在吧台后面的镜子周围,装饰着各种本地啤酒的标牌:布拉茨(Blatz–“给密尔沃基带来声望的啤酒”)、帕布斯特(Pabst)、哈姆(Hamms)、雷宁库格(Leinenkugels),等等。

比尔对我非常宽容,尽管我是个城里孩子,一个芝加哥人,而且还是长青藤联盟大学的学生——在他眼中我是那种“交往之前需要先谨慎了解”的那一类人。

我跟他讲了卡比碰到臭鼬的事儿,他很平静地听着,好像无动于衷。我又说,度假村的客人一直躲着卡比,让它感到非常伤心和孤独。

我说完之后,比尔问我是否用番茄汁给卡比洗过澡,口气听上去好像这是一个在出现这种情况时最显然要问的问题。

一开始我以为这是个提问陷阱,是想要让我难堪,可比尔坚持这样问我。

他让我去镇里的超市买一大罐番茄汁,带回家给卡比泡个澡。他保证用这种方法可以去除臭鼬的味道。

他显然认为,我是方圆100多英里之内唯一不知道“番茄汁方法”的傻瓜。

第二天,我照着他的指示去做,他的方法管用了。卡比欢天喜地,我也很高兴。

现在的问题是:番茄汁对去除中国臭鼬的臭气也同样有效吗?我猜想,不管中国用什么办法消除黄鼠狼的臭气,这种办法至少在明朝就应该存在了,甚至可能更早。

亲爱的见多识广的读者,请您赐教!

The Real Importance of Tomato Juice

Much has been written about the US and China, their common and differing interests, the impact of their relationship on global issues, the future of mankind, etc.

I’d like to put aside those bigger issues for a moment and focus on one small but often overlooked thing which these two great countries have in common: skunks.

That’s right, skunks.

Let us spare a thought for the lowly and often forgotten skunk. Although different species of skunk occur in both China and the U.S., they are not exactly a poster child of anyone’s conservation efforts — unlike China’s iconic pandas, tigers and golden-haired monkeys, or America’s bald eagles, bison, and wolves.

Like most similarities one can cite about China and the U.S., the common ground relating to skunks is accompanied by significant differences. It may well be that the most instructive points arise from understanding the differences rather than seizing on superficial similarities.

Chinese skunks are weasely looking, low-slung and brown in color. They are reputed in mythology and superstition to have mischievous and occasionally supernatural abilities. They are seen by some as harbingers of bad luck or embodiments of spirits.

American skunks are more waddly than weaseley. Taller, fatter, and less well-camouflaged than Chinese skunks, they sport distinctive black and white striped coloring. Most Americans are more likely to associate them with roadkill and a bad smell than with any supernatural traits.

One thing which both Chinese and American skunks have in common is the ability to issue a powerful stink from the glands underneath their tails.

On this point, although I have not personally experienced the stink of a Chinese skunk, I can attest that an American skunk’s withering stink is the worst smelling thing I have ever come across.

Worse even, by a factor at least a hundred times, than stinky bean curd or durian fruit. Not only in magnitude, but in staying power. Clothing which has been sprayed by an American skunk is unwashable even with the strongest detergent. I know this from direct experience.

I had a summer job when I was a college kid, as a house painter and jack-of-all-trades at a fishing resort owned by my Uncle Tom in the northern midwestern state of Wisconsin. The main lodge was a towering old log cabin, and the guest rooms were small wooden cottages.

Part of my responsibility was to look after Uncle Tom’s Black Labrador puppy, whose name was Cappy. Labradors are great swimmers, and Cappy loved to explore the deep pine forests which surrounded the lodge. He loved people and soaked up their attention like a sponge.

One day after work I took Cappy out in a small aluminum boat. I rowed the two of us along the edge of the shoreline as sunset approached.

I was fishing. Cappy was watching. Suddenly there was a rustling noise in the underbrush on shore, and the next thing I knew, Cappy rocketed out of the boat, swam to shore, and disappeared into the forest in hot, wet pursuit of some wild animal.

I quickly rowed the boat to shore, calling his name, but it was too late. Cappy had already inserted himself deep into the forest. I heard loud rustling noises as he chased through the bush. And then I heard Cappy issue a series of very woeful whines.

By the time I caught up with Cappy, I didn’t need a field guide to know what animal he had chased. Obviously, a skunk. He had had been sprayed right in the face, up close and personal. He smelled unbelievably bad, so bad that to linger anywhere near him was painful to the nose. It was even worse than a large convention of stinky bean curd vendors.

I washed Cappy repeatedly, but this was no use in ridding his fur of the stink.

Back at the main lodge, guests who had played with Cappy before now shunned him like a leper. Gregarious Cappy was saddened by this sudden pattern of avoidance. He sulked in the corner.

The next evening I went to the local eatery, Bill and Holly’s bar and grill, located on a country road out in the middle of the forest, 30 minutes’ drive from the nearest town. The proprietors, Bill and Holly, had been there for a long, long time, enduring many cold winters. Both were colorful, entertaining characters, and resourceful country folk.

The bar had a pinball machine in one corner, a coin-operated bowling machine in the other, and lots of big stuffed fish and animal heads mounted on the walls.

Behind the bar were mirrors festooned with local and regional beer brand logos; Blatz (“The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous”), Pabst, Hamms, Leinenkugels, etc.

Bill was fairly tolerant of me, despite the fact that I was a city kid, a Chicagoan, and a student at an Ivy League University — which placed me in kind of “suspect until proven O.K.” category in his eyes.

I told him the story of Cappy’s encounter with the skunk. He listened very matter of factly, seemingly unimpressed. I added that the resort guests had avoided Cappy ever since, leaving poor Cappy very sad and lonely.

After I finished my story, he asked me — as if it were the most obvious question in the world under the circumstances — whether or not I had given Cappy a bath in tomato juice.

I first thought this might be a trick question aimed at embarrassing me, but Bill insisted.

He told me to go to the supermarket in town, buy a large can of tomato juice, bring it home, and bathe Cappy in it. He promised it would remove the skunk smell.

He obviously thought I was the only idiot within a hundred miles or more who was not aware of “the tomato juice solution.”

I followed his instructions the next day. It worked. Cappy was delighted. So was I.

So now the question is: is tomato juice also effective at removing the smell issued by Chinese skunks? I am guessing that whatever the Chinese solution to skunk smell is, it’s been around since at least the Ming Dynasty, if not longer.

Dear knowledgeable readers: please enlighten me!


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