The Chinese Know: We Are How We Eat: We often think of food as something to pop into the microwave. In Taiwan, fresh food is a way of life
If you come across someone you understand on the road in Taiwan, he’s more likely to greet you by requesting, “Perhaps you have consumed?” The polite move to make is claim yes, but whether or not you haven’t, it’s likely that you will be having a genuine meal rapidly. In Taiwan, great food is under no circumstances difficult to find. Restaurants are 3 or 4 to a block, and outdoor grocery marketplaces flourish like dandelions after a rainstorm. Outdoor cafes range the streets throughout the day, while stands advertising snacks are a huge attraction of the favorite night markets, where one can acquire anything from Hello there Kitty toasters to leather shoes or boots.
Metropolitan areas like Paris and Florence come close to competing on the food front, but they can’t surpass the sheer variety that a walk down any street in Taipei reveals. From one direction comes the rich smell of frying bread, from another the aroma of boiled pork dumplings and from yet another fermented or “smelly” bean curd, a Chinese favorite. Even the raw fruits and vegetables in the markets give off their own sweet smell.
Last fall I left the United States to spend a year in Taiwan on a Fulbright media fellowship. I returned to my birth country to learn as much about Taiwanese and Chinese culture as possible. As a journalist I was dissatisfied with coverage of Asia in the press: it seemed as if journalists paid attention to Asia only when a disaster, natural or political, occurred. Where were the articles about everyday life? I realized that there is a bigger account to find out about Chinese culture. Certainly, the story starts with food.
It’s simple to understand why food is indeed central to Chinese world. There’s the satisfaction of queuing with outdated men and moms for just-out-of-the-oven rolls early on each morning, or poking around the outdoor marketplaces searching for the juiciest yellow-fleshed watermelons. I liked going to the person who distributed the fried meats buns and seeing him glaze my variety with a spicy reddish colored sauce, stick it in a plastic material carrier and wrap it in newspaper to ensure that it would be hot when I arrived home.
Then simply there’s the ingenuity of Chinese cooks. They may not be able to change a sow’s ear into a silk purse, but they can certainly make it into a sumptuous dish. The Chinese joyously eat everything. A pig, for instance, is literally eaten from head to toe: roasted pig’s ears and stewed pig’s feet are both delicacies. The outdoor-market peddlers come out even in weighty rain and unrelenting heat. They find out their customers are prepared to brave inclement weather to get the freshest fruit, vegetables and meats they are able to get. 1 day I saw a female riding residence on a bike with a seafood in her basket that was consequently fresh it practically flapped itself onto the street.
And lastly there’s some of the pleasure of ingesting. What may possibly contend with biting right into a pork dumpling dipped right into a sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, scorching chilies and fresh new ginger and featuring its nice juice squirt out the medial side of the mouth area? Or drinking a glass of milk tea with an oversize straw that lets you simultaneously eat the little chewy semisweet-candy balls floating in the tea?
At the table, people reach across you, pass dishes and put food on your plate. They constantly ask, “Have you eaten enough?” After class learners pour into cafes for an instant resolve of soup noodles and gossip prior to going home going to the literature. Birthday dinners continue course after training. Indeed, all situations of special event, from weddings to holidays, focus on food.
I’ve generally loved to consume, however in America sometimes Personally i think like I’m an anomaly. Here foodstuff is so quite often an offhand assumed, something to get popped from the freezer in to the microwave and consumed before the tv set set. We store in sterile supermarkets where our meats is covered tightly in layers of Styrofoam product packaging or minced into unrecognizable sandwich meats. We consume so much that’s processed that it is easy to forget the natural texture, flavor and color of whatever it is we’re eating.
Is it any accident that the best movies about food involve the cuisine of additional cultures? “Eat Beverage Man Woman,” “Babette’s Feast” and “Big Night,” to name a few. And isn’t it interesting that the foods we’re regarded for internationally will be the fast foods dished up at McDonald’s and KFC? That’s not to say that American foodstuff is overprocessed. In recent years our country’s curiosity in eating well has grown dramatically. The Food Channel and the proliferation of farmers marketplaces have undoubtedly helped make meals a bigger component of our lives, but it’s still not really the centerpiece it is in Taiwan. In that country, sitting down and sharing a scrumptious, fresh meal is among the basic ways that friends and family members communicate with each other. I want it experienced the same ability to bring people together here.
Fung lives in New York City.