Sunday, September 12, 2004

Peking Duck

No I'm not about to wax eloquent about Chinese and Thai food. These have been featuring a lot in our get-together menus of late, popular with both work-stressed adults and carefree children on summer holiday.
* Aromatic Duck Pancake Rolls with Spicy Plum Sauce
* Thai Chicken & Vegetable Samosas with Chilli Jam
* Honey Mustard Coated Gourmet Cocktail Sausages
* Mini Beef and Seeded Mustard Mayonnaise in miniature Yorkshire Puddings
* Chicken Satay Skewers

Rather, recently having worked with people from China I was struck by their down to earth honesty, goodness and attitude to hard work. It's very easy to stereotype people based on a few experiences but I decided to try and learn a bit about the culture. I'll listen if anyone wants to dwell at length on the art of Sheng-Fui and I feel every garden has to have a Japanese garden spot for meditation.

The epic, Wild Swans chronicles the lives of three generations of women, grandmother and concubine to a warlord , daughter and grand-daughter,Jung Chang, the author of the book. The grandmother's story, (probably the best read in the 3 part book) details the lot of Chinese women living out their lives in excrutiating pain with their feet bound from birth, unquestioning subservience to the whims of their men, masters, husbands and in their late years, their sons.

It also explains why the madness that was Mao took hold over this great culture.
Mao wanted to rid China of all western ideology.The story Jung's mother brings to life is the maddening irrationality of the Great Leap Forward, the famine of 1960 and the Cultural Revolution. The description of life during these years is superb if completely surreal. The writer goes to a lot of trouble to make the three heroines emerge as pearls among the swine.The reader has to continually try and remind themselves that perhaps the other characters weren't as black as painted. Not having had any similar experiences to compare, a lot is beyond our ability to imagine.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress : A Novel I feel would give a more balanced read about the Mao era. It is the story of two young men sent to a remote re-education camp, and how their discovery of a suitcase full of classical Western books changes their lives, and the life of the object of their love - the book's heroine, the little Chinese seamstress.
I've only read the reviews which highly recommend the book on many levels.

Grass soup is by one of China's best-known writers. Declared a Rightist by the authorities in 1958, Zhang spent 22 years in a labor reform camp in western China, condemned as an "intellectual." "As a hod carrier, he subsisted on scraps of food with an occasional "treat" such as live toad ("a cold appetizer... delicious"). He traces the weakening of his body and spirit to the point where he cared about only two things: the bowl of grass soup that was his evening meal, and taking his next breath. Starvation, he explains, is an effective government policy: "Only by making people endure hunger can you make them submit to you, worship you.".."

From a vantage point in this century, people will find the story hard to believe, apparent from the reviews.


Post a Comment

<< Home