As I was perusing the streets near my hotel and catching fleeting whiffs of durian fruit, it finally occurred to me that traditional Chinese cuisine seems to have a wider diversity (at least in terms of different types of foods found in single dishes) than western cuisines. I began to develop my own — admittedly incomplete — theories on the diversity of (what I’d imagine) traditional food options as compared Europe and North America. I figured these personal theories might be worth sharing.
Could the diversity of consumption options (fancy way of saying “food”) be by virtue of simply being a more biodiverse region, and they’re therefor exposed to more and diverse things to eat? Could it be because China is an ancient civilization, to which Chinese culture has simply had more time to develop a variety of dishes and cuisines? Maybe it’s due to more recent events, such as the massive famine that corresponded with Mao’s rule. Chinese people are maybe more willing to eat differing, “exotic” or what westerners would perceive as unpalatable, simply as a survival trait in response to trying times. As a result, this seeming acceptance for a such a diversity of foods appears to be deeply ingrained in Chinese society and culture.
This all makes me wonder: how is it that we find certain foods (from a western perspective) to be “gross”? Is this simply taught or conditioned from our culture? If so, why are there certain foods that we generally judge as gross or untouchable in the West, while others – such as milk and eggs – really are pretty strange when considering the source. I would imagine it likely boils down to (no pun intended) what we are familiar with in our cultures, or in other words, what we are regularly exposed to and inevitably grow accustomed to. I’m sure there are various foods that we regularly eat in the West that most Chinese would find strange or repulsive.
All that being said, I have loved the food here thus far (aside from the lack of cheese, a pillar of my diet). I should also acknowledge that none of this is really based on empirical evidence, but simply my initial reflections (and western biases) from my surface level experience in this part of the world. I invite any and all who might actually have legitimate answers to these questions, or if you also have interesting ideas/theories. Nonetheless, I’m excited to continue indulging in new foods that my various senses have never encountered!
P.s. This would ideally be an opportune blog post to share pictures of food, however I unfortunately do not have any. Once again, it would be best to consult Ayo, as she has been doing a remarkable job of documenting many of our meals. I promise to share photos on my next post. Until then, if anyone is dying to see pictures of other things from my trip, I’d be happy to share my google photos album with you. Although I must warn you, my photography skills are very poor, hence my reluctance to share pictures on various social media platforms. Apologies for the extensive “p.s.”.