(Above is our classroom heater. Sam was very thankful for it)
This journal prompt was about the culture around food and drink in China. Students were asked to reflect not only on new things they have tried but also the culture around meals and food. Below is Sam’s response.
During my stay here in Xi’an, I have noticed that the culture around food and drink is very different from America’s. For example, I have found that there are lot more beliefs behind the culture of food and drink here in China. For example, the foods I eat for breakfast every morning are chosen by their health benefits according to ancient Chinese alchemists. For breakfast, my host mother feeds me Chinese dates, which are supposed to supply blood to your system, and one food that supplies qi to my system, usually corn, pumpkin, or Chinese yams. For every date I want to eat, I also have to eat a qi-food, and vice versa. This is to ensure that I have a balance of blood and qi for the whole day to keep me healthy. Also, I am supposed to drink only hot water throughout the day, or else it will get me sick. In America, we have no such beliefs around food. Maybe it is because we have a different concept of medicine and health, but maybe it is just because life here in China is more rooted in tradition than in America. Coming from a pretty secular family, it also makes me wonder whether or not religious families in America also have some beliefs around the meaning of certain foods.
Another aspect of Chinese food and drink that is deeply rooted in tradition is chopstick etiquette. For example, you are not allowed to stick your chopsticks pointing up in your bowl when you are finished eating because it represents the incense used when respecting dead people. You must lay the chopsticks down on the table to show that the dead are at rest. Also, you are not supposed to bang your chopsticks on the edge of your bowl because only beggars do that when they are begging for food. Also, you are supposed to keep both hands on or above the table throughout the entire meal. Having a hand in your lap is rude. Often the other hand is used to hold your bowl closer to your mouth to aid the difficulty of using chopsticks. Again, there is so much tradition and meaning behind the rules of what is polite and impolite at the dinner table. In America, we have these kinds of rules with your fork and knife, but they aren’t connected to actual traditions or real-life things.