Chinatown, London, December 31, 6 p.m.

056If it’s New Year’s Eve and you want a cooked duck carcass, or a squid, or some other headless fowl, London’s Chinatown area is the place for you. It was jammed with people tonight, lined up to get hot, freshly prepared rolls, fish cakes . . . and duck.

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ESFOUO

Monday morning when I woke up, it was clear that the day before I had been exposed to ESFOUO — that is, excessively salty food of unknown origin.

The interior of my mouth was puckered, my tongue was coated in a brackish seawater film, and it felt like you could chip salt crystals off the crust on my teeth.  I wanted to drink about a gallon of water to rehydrate.

My brushing the night before had not saved me from my briny fate.  It was as if the salt from the ESFOUO had found every crack and crevice unreachable by human toothbrush and lain dormant, then rose and spread its foul dessication while I slept.

What was the ESFOUO?  Who knows?  I hadn’t eaten cheap Chinese food, which is a standard ESFOUO culprit.  (I sometimes wonder whether General Tso actually defeated opposing armies by chicken-based salt poisoning.)  I’d had a superdog and fries at the Browns game, drank a beer pre-game, ate some cereal, and had a piece of store-bought pecan pie with Cool Whip.  So, which was it?  Was the superdog chock full of salty preservatives, or was it the pecan pie?  Or did that unique combination of grub meld into a witches’ brew of salinity that attacked my defenseless mouth?

It took repeated brushings, Listerine garglings, and mass water infusion to return my mouth to a passable state.  With that disgusting experience still fresh in my memory, I’ll be examining every morsel carefully for the next few days, wondering if I am unwittingly ingesting another ESFOUO.