(1) Grilled sausages: Made with nitrate-laced fatty pork and flavored with garlic, these are quite irresistible. Advertisement was through the 5 senses, sight, smell, sizzling sound, taste, and served on a stick. To add more fun: Often a game of chance (4 dices in a soup bowl) was played between the vendor and the customers. In the 60s, rumor had it that the sausages were made from rat meat that seemed to have torpedoed the trade for at least one winter, until people wised up realizing that it would take quite a few rats to make even one link.The labor costs for catching the rats and collecting the itty-bitty meat from each rat would have been too prohibitive comparing to using a slaughtered pig.
(2) Grilled corn on the cob：This one looks pretty straightforward except it has a long story. In the 50s, through the US Aid program, many Taiwanese saw whole ears of corn for the first time and promptly named them huan-be (番麥, savage-wheat) (Note: corn seemed to have been cultivated by the Aborigines but unfamiliar to the Han people). They were supposedly animal feeds until some enterprising people discovered that the rock-hard corn kernels could be softened up by brushing on sweetened soy sauce to provide moisture and taste and grilling over charcoal fire to slowly cook. And a glorious new snack was born.
(3) Baked sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes to the Taiwanese were almost like potatoes to the Irish. Well, maybe just a little. They were usually purple on the outside and white on the inside. Usually peeled, and chunks added to rice gruel to make the latter more filling and more appetizing. Mostly in the winter, they were baked over charcoal inside a reclaimed oil barrel, operated and sold by street vendors. The photo below is a recent snapshot of the Taipei city-sanctioned sweet-potato-selling program for needy single-mothers. It does bear some resemblance to the old sweet potato carts without the bamboo noise-maker (竹筒搖響 which generated loud clicking sounds) to attract customers.
(4) Roasted sugarcane: There are two major types of sugarcane in Taiwan, the yellow-green ones were for sugar-making and the dark-purple ones for general consumption. In the summertime, one can bite off and chew on sugarcane chunks or use a pressing machine, both to extract the sweet juice. Then someone invented baked sugarcane for the wintertime. Freshly pressed piping hot sugarcane juice was supposed to be better tasting than simply heating up a cold batch. It was really a matter of personal opinion; although the demand have seen a decline since the 1990s.
There was a game played as well. Take a whole stick of sugarcane of about 1.5m long which was held standing by using the end of the handle of a 甘蔗鐮sugarcane scythe with the contestant standing on a stool for height, then he (never a girl), with one swift motion, sliced down the side of the sugarcane before it fell. Whoever had the longest cut was the winner with the skinned section as the prize.
|A sugarcane scythe, surprisingly still available here|