Sorry to disappoint you, but this blog post is not about putonghua (普通话), the common or everyday language in China.
Quite the contrary, this short piece is all about the experience of visiting relatives or friends in China, and wining & dining with them, day in day out, throughout your stay.
In other words: everyday Chinese. Food.
It’s about enjoying the ease of eating as many hot meals as you like, from dawn to dusk, without the drag of having to think up ideas of what to buy or cook for the family.
And contrary to what you would expect, all of this is feasible without resorting to junk food and an unhealthy appetite as well.
Exercising the extra calories off in the neighbourhood park comes with the package.
For the less sportive types, an evening stroll after dinner is not uncommon.
Because whenever you visit China, you have really come to 中国 and that is exactly where you will find yourself: 中, in the middle, at the centre of attention, all eyeballs on you and you only.
To some, especially at the umpteenth time, it may become a bit of a drudgery, the every day eating out when visiting China once more.
Being the honourary 老外 in the company doesn’t always leave you much room to manoeuvre either. Oh yes, they will admire your chopstick skills and sure, you won’t have to eat anything they put in front of you. If you do eat everything without any questions or without pulling awkward faces, you will be a bit of a disappointment to your hosts: as a 老外, you’re expected to live up to the preconceived stereotypes. Foreigners only like certain Chinese dishes and nothing else. And that is that. End of discussion. Period.
To me however, on every single occasion, it still turns into a fascinating experience yet again.
No, I’m not a gourmand.
I’m not even a gourmet.
And still I enormously enjoy it.
Might it have something to do with the booze?
In Shandong, one of the more northern provinces of China, amongst the men, you’re expected to behave like a man. And that means drinking. Heavy drinking. Alcohol. Real alcohol. It usually begins with 白酒 and ends in beer. There always is plenty of the stuff to go around.
Whether you can collect all of your thoughts coherently while drinking and especially after drinking and the obligatory nap that follows, entirely depends on the strength of your liver and the rest of your constitution.
But honestly, that’s still not why it delights me so much.
Perhaps the social aspects of enjoying meals together is the missing explanatory factor for my enthusiasm.
I should return for some more culinary, social anthropological field work soon.
After all, I like Chinese, don’t I?
Watch “Monty Python – I Like Chinese” on YouTube?