Chapter 83: Salad, But Not Safe | Speaking of China

12 Responses

  1. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon July 21, 2010 at 7:54 am | | Reply

    Wow, At least he ate the spaghetti …Gi Jye won’t even try it, and all of our kids love it, the only thing he will eat is salad and garlic bread. But that’s probably because when I met him, he had already been here a few years, so salad wasn’t too foreign to him. But spaghetti, no way, he won’t even try it!

  2. Chris Waugh
    Chris Waugh July 22, 2010 at 8:08 am | | Reply

    John’s reaction to raw lettuce strikes me as a little odd – and I mean no offence by that, I have simply never come across such an aversion. Is it a regional thing, perhaps? I mean, there is no shortage of salad-like 冷菜 on Chinese menus. And just on Monday, I cooked my wife steak and mashed potatoes, and wanted to make a salad to go with it all. Trouble is, I couldn’t find lettuce anywhere, so I had to settle for 圆白菜/western-style round cabbage. She noticed and commented, asking, “How come you used cabbage instead of lettuce?”

    And I guess in addition to regional differences, there’s also the personal differences, as Rhiannon’s comment suggests. I took my wife back to New Zealand for the first time last February, and culinarily-wise I was quite surprised by two things: First, my parents had found an Asian supermarket in Hamilton, the rather small city they currently live in, so we could stock up on a few things that would suit my wife’s tastes. But most importantly, she took to ordinary Kiwi food like a duck to water. She didn’t like everything, of course, but for the most part, she tucked in like she’d been born and raised right on the same island as me! Even when we took her to the fish ‘n’ chip shop (such shops are generally run by Greek or Chinese families, for whatever reason), she avoided all the Chinese takeaways and went for a burger and chips.

    So I’m glad that John got stuck into the salad in the end. For one thing, I never found it pleasant to have my better half reject what I cooked for her, and one of the major benefits of a cross-cultural relationship is the culinary variety.

  3. Crystal
    Crystal July 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm | | Reply

    John’s reaction is not surprising. I think my parents also would think in the same way.
    But I guess that most young Chinese who at least once visited McDonalds have experience with raw lettuce…

  4. Michael Corleone
    Michael Corleone July 23, 2010 at 6:18 pm | | Reply

    I am from china and was once married to a white women in US. The food was really a big problem. I could eat American food since I had lived in US for quite a few years, but she wont eat my stuff. She may try it once or twice and that’s pretty much it. As a typical middle western person, she loves fast food and only drinks soda, which she knows it is bad but still couldn’t stop. I cook and eat chinese-like food most of the time and I hate eating junk food everyday. You know the obesity rate is more than 30% in US, largely due to the fast food industry. So we ate pretty much separately. I guess that is one of the problems leading to divorce. It is so hard to convince a typical American to eat alternative food and quit drinking pop, since she has never been abroad. I hate to admit, that lots of American women, couldn’t torlent the smell of typical chinese food, and only likes something smell like Jack in the box. She hated that stir and fry smell so I almost quit typical chinese cooking. We know that cooking typical Chinese food in an American kitchen is a nightmare. Well, I have to admit, as a typical middle westerner who grew up in pure American culture, she had not much interest in anything that is Asian or foreign. That’s why we ended up in divorce. The food difference was the trigger.

  5. Robyn
    Robyn July 24, 2010 at 7:56 pm | | Reply

    I’m here via a tweet by Sezin Koehler. Definately a regional thing — never encountered salad-y items other than liangban huanggua when I lived in Shanghai but pretty common in Sichuan, or Chengdu at least. Wrote about that recently.
    Am enjoying your archives. Cheers.

  6. Matt Wilson
    Matt Wilson August 1, 2010 at 6:28 am | | Reply

    I just read a book about Chinese gardening and agriculture methods: “Farmers of Forty Centuries” and I have an idea about your BF’s aversion to raw vegetables.

    In that book, the author describes how Chinese farmers use raw sewage in their fields as a fertilizer. The farmers go into the towns in the morning and buy the contents of everyone’s chamber pots, and then take it out to the fields and dump it right on the crops. Apparently, this is a practice that goes back generations.

    It all works very well, but the one absolute requirement is that vegetables must be cooked.

    This may be the origin of the tea culture too — tea evolved as a way to make boiled water palatable.

  7. truthfully
    truthfully August 9, 2010 at 10:16 am | | Reply

    How can you spend hours cooking salad??
    I live in the uk and I’m not really a fan of salad so I get were his coming from.

  8. kh
    kh March 14, 2011 at 7:25 am | | Reply

    Hi again,

    I have a few intercultural culinary stories to share. So I’m chinese-canadian from vancouver.

    Firstly, growing up, whenever my family went to western restaurants, we never touched the salad. It wasn’t clean. We don’t know how the vegetables were handled. It’s raw and uncooked, so who knows what bacteria is festering in the folds and crevices of the leaves. Yes, uncooked foods (especially those from restaurants) cause diarrhea.

    My other story involves cooking for my ex-boyfriend who was “white/western.” I made this soup with pork bone, white radish, and dried mushroom, which I left to boil for hours. He didn’t like it; he said it was bland and tasted like fat. So he “improved” it by pouring milk in, creating a cream of pork bone soup, I suppose.

    Intercultural relationships are difficult. At the time, I took it very personally: you don’t like my soup, you don’t like me. As if my middle name were porkbonesoup. But now that we’re no longer together, I can laugh at the experience, though I still think it was quite disrespectful.

    Needless to say, there were also foods that he enjoyed, that he shared with me with great enthousiasm which I rejected. Of course, I believe I behaved respectfully. But of course he took it personally, as well, my rejection of his foods.

    Who knows what what. Certainly, not I.

  9. Marianne
    Marianne February 1, 2013 at 9:30 am | | Reply

    Yes, the lettuce thing rings a bell. Makes perfect sense when you know about the fertilizer.

    Anyway, today my neighbor ate her own homegrown lettuce raw after we tried to imitate Korean bbq at home. No fertilizer and no ‘农药‘ and she was pleasantly surprized by the taste.

    My boyfriend is from the Northeast and I’m from Holland but living in Southern China for a long time. I’m extremely into Chinese food, but honestly, prefer Sichuan or Fuijian, Shanghai or Cantonese to most of the North East. However I don’t dislike it and want to learn how to cook a few dishes. Meeting his parents in a few days for the first time (that’s how I found your site, googling ‘meeting Chinese parents for the first time…) and will ask the parents to teach me a few dishes.

    Dutch food honestly speaking is rather bland and can’t compare to Chinese food. We did go to a Belgian restaurant in Beijing and my boyfriend really loved it! His view on Western food changed. That said, most Western food isn’t really good here. Unless you really dish out a big wad of cash.

    For us food is something that brings us together! We’ve learned to appreciate some of each other’s dishes.

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