Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Food in Chinese Culture




by K.C. Chang

The importance of food in understanding human culture lies precisely in its infinite variability--variability that is not essential for species survival. For survival needs, people everywhere could eat the same food, to be measured only in calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins. But people of different backgrounds eat very differently. The basic stuffs from which food is prepared; the ways in which it is preserved, cut up, cooked (if at all); the amount and variety at each meal; the tastes that are liked and disliked; the customs of serving food; the utensils; the beliefs about the food's properties--these all vary. The number of such "food variables" is great.

An anthropological approach to the study of food would be to isolate and identify the food variables, arrange these variables systematically, and explain why some of these variables go together or do not go together.

For convenience, we may use culture as a divider in relating food variables' hierarchically. I am using the word culture here in a classificatory sense implying the pattern or style of behavior of a group of people who share it. Food habits may be used as an important, or even determining, criterion in this connection. People who have the same culture share the same food habits, that is, they share the same assemblage of food variables. Peoples of different cultures share different assemblages of food variables. We might say that different cultures have different food choices. (The word choices is used here not necessarily in an active sense, granting the possibility that some choices could be imposed rather than selected.) Why these choices? What determines them? These are among the first questions in any study of food habits.

they eat dog?!
Thank You Mr Chang, your essay was quite helpfull!
not that some cultures don't eat bugs as part of their cuisine.... i was simply trying to phrase it so that the most common people who have access to the internet would understand. BTW fried bugs are actually a delicacy, however much it sounds disgusting!
sorry for the double.... triple post :P
I agree with Kat, though in a sense, shouldn't that mean that we all should eat bugs? as they are the most common? the thought makes me shudder. though in truth, if i was asked whether i would starve or eat something truly disgusting, i would chose the latter. I would rather be alive and sick, than STARVING and sick.
I think this article is incredibly informative. I feel that dwelling on our own likes or dislikes about one ingredient mentioned one time does ourselves and the author a great disservice.
I'm indian but I would love to go to China and eat authentic Chinese food coz you know what you're getting is the real thing. I think the writer is right, few other cultures are as food oriented as the Chinese. They are so hospitable........
I need some information about production of new food and the chart of production of this and nutrient effect of this . can you help me ? can you give me a perfect information about this? if you can pleas send to my email .thanks
To me eating dog would be a crazy idea. But on the other hand I have to respect the cultural differences. What might seem normal to me, might be considered crazy by someone of another cultural background.
in my opinion when an economy such as china has a surplus population as it does and does not have enough resources such as beef as we do in the U.S. they must rely on what they have. if dog is all they have then they must eat it. Would you think differently of France because they eat Horse meat? Or mexico because they eat cats?