Zong Zi

Zong Zi is a traditional Chinese food. Westerners know it as rice dumpling, which is made of glutinous rice with different stuffings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The most famous type in mainland China, Jiaxing Zong Zi, gets its name after an east coastal city. The filling is typically pork, but also can be Mung beans, red beans or salted duck eggs.

A picture of Zong Zi from meishi.com

Zong Zi is a must-eat food on the Dragon Boat Festival, a statutory and traditional holiday in every middle May or early June. The festival is to honor an ancient patriotic poet called Qu Yuan, and Zong Zi has a touching story relating to patriotism.

Qu Yuan was originally an outstanding minister of the Chu Kingdom. Because of his advocacy of a foreign policy, as well as the slander from other jealous officials, he lost favor from the king, and became exiled. The exile was years of depression for Yuan, but  during that period, he created a greatest type of poetry in which he expressed strong love for his motherland. Later on, with the expansion of Qin Kingdom, his country died out. After learning the bad news, Yuan ended up drowning himself in the Miluo River. In order to keep fish and evil spirits away from eating his body, people beat drums, and threw Zong Zi into the river to distract the fish. From then on, eating Zong Zi and sailing the dragon boat became a tradition in honor of Yuan’s death.

Nowadays, the ancient Chinese tradition has faced modernization challenge. Back in 2004, the Republic of Korea applied for making the Dragon Boat Festival its own world cultural heritage. The news soon sparked great disputes between the two nations. The Chinese started to realize the young generation’s neglect of tradition. Thus, the Chinese government rearranged the legal holidays and the activity system. However, it still takes huge endeavor to grab people’s attention back to the protection of ancient tradition.

 

Dim Sum

Dim Sum represents a healthy eating style in Chinese culture. Traditionally, Dim Sum is served with tea, which quite resembles the combination of coffee and dessert in the British tradition. In America, I think Dim Sum is one of the few foods that still maintain typical Chinese taste and style, because too many foods are Americanized to accommodate the local taste.

This is a combination of various dishes of Dim Sum. Also as a contrast between the Dim Sum dining culture and the coffee and dessert tradition.

Pretty interesting, Dim Sum literally means “TOUCH YOUR HEART.” It consists a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and other goodies. The function of TEA in this eating tradition is to help digestion and cleanse the palate. With hundreds of years of precipitation, the making of Dim Sum developed into an art. It requires complicated procedures to make each dish look beautiful, smell good, and taste flavorful.

With a couple of small shared dishes, who doesn’t enjoy a lazy afternoon with friends? For most Dim Sum restaurants in China, the atmosphere is hardly conducive to romance. Instead, it’s a place of noise and fun. People talk and laugh loudly, which is also considered a good approach to stress relieve.

This is quite different from the American fast food culture here. In contrast, Chinese people enjoy the time that they spend with friends or families in a dim sum restaurant. They don’t like to buy a fast-cooked food, take it away, and eat it alone. In the Cantonese area, people go to a certain restaurant day after day. Thus, people would develop a group of often-see friends, and gossip about their neighborhood.

But now in the market, Dim Sum is also on a fast-food trend in order to follow people’s fast living pace. It is packaged, and quick-freezed. Microwaved it, and then it’s ready to be on table. When eating the fast-microwaved Dim Sum, I feel like it’s losing sort of cultural essence, because it no longer has the enjoyful and gossiping environment that should be accompanied with.

Wine

Here’s a poem about wine by William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet.

Wine comes in at the mouth

And love comes in at the eye;

That’s all we shall know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you, and I sigh.


I’ve heard a saying – wine is born for women. At my age of 21, I’ve only drunk wine twice – once with my mom on her 46th birthday, the other at NAPA valley for a drinking test. From then on, I believed in the saying.

It has something to do with the color – red, which represents fascination and passion. At the first sight of a structured wine, it’s like a young girl who doesn’t have much experience in life. The light could come through the red color in the bottle. As the wine stays longer, the color goes darker, just as girls start to absorb all the sadness and happiness.

For the first time I tasted wine, I was sitting at a round table with my mother on her 46th birthday. She held a glass in the left hand. I could clearly remember the reflection of the red color on her face because the light flashed back. She was telling me all the hardships that she went through starting from her twenties. Because of that special moment, I grew to know a women, with a bottle of wine.

A shot of wine bar at Beringe, Napa Valley, California, on August, 2012.

The second time, I visited the Beringer wine cellar in Napa Valley, California. I saw hundreds of barrels lying underground. I was amazed. When asked to make a drinking test, I couldn’t even tell how it is different from the previous wine I’ve tasted. In a different environment, the taste and feeling, all changed. The longer the barrels lie down, the better the wine could be. Suddenly it reminded of the lyric: How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? The same to wine, how long must a barrel lies down before you call it wine?

Isn’t it interesting?