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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Perils Of China - Food Porn    

By Garreth Humphris
5504 Views | 11 Comments | 2/2/2014 4:06:15 PM

Ok, so I know recently I have posted some photos on the blog showing food, I want to validate it with the note ’for educational purposes only'. That is, it is important that readers can see different types of food before venturing to China!



The food porn I am commenting on is the type that daily graces the messages I get from friends, associates and strangers posing as friends on my WeiXin account.



For those of you who haven't been introduced to WeiXin, it is a bit like a Chinese equivalent to Twitter...but with chat facilities, the option to spy on people who might be nearby you, a lonely hearts chat facility (pick up a lost bottle on the beach) and the ability to snap photographs of common food items and post them to a gazillion people without a care!



It is like porn because like it's fleshy counterpart of the same name it arrives in my mailbox at high regularity, mildly stimulates the saliva glands for a moment, almost satisfies a need but because it isn't immediately available and on offer, leaves a totally unrealistic and dissatisfying feeling for the rest of the day.



There seems to be two distinct types - the commercial restaurant driven eye-popping voyeuristic smorgasbord of flesh and vegetables marinading in their own juices and the home-style, do-it-yourself version of noodles in a saucepan with a hint of self-conscious garnish.



The problem is...it seems everyone else is doing it, flouting it, wolfing it down and you are at home with your small portion of steamed carrot and plain rice - trying to abstain - and you are bombarded with ritualistic images of guilty pleasures.



For example, I dragged myself out of bed the other chilly and wet morning to go on my exercise walk before the daily pollution pushed all the oxygen from the air and, as I rounded the last corner of my trek, my phone made a small buzz and an image of a chocolate eclair, lying wontonly and delicately prone on a white platter on scarlet cloth came into view - a fine drizzling of chocolate sauce and a delicately placed glacé cherry adorned the smooth sugar-dusted surface. My friend in Australia had updated their view...’just about to consume this whopper', she tweeted, ’don't you wish you could drop by and share?’



So, once aroused, what is a man to do? Backtrack on my exercise path and seek solace in a deftly rolled Croissant con Chocolate from the French bakery I had previously avoided? Imported food porn? Or seek out a more simple rolled and folded local street variety of egg pancake - slightly smoky with a glowing touch of oil and chilli. Or even drop by the dumpling restaurant for the small perky wontons, those delicate twirls of flavour and surprise in their slightly salty chicken flavoured soup?



A few hours later, a plate of gleaming eggplant, soft darkened skin in oily, meaty sauce was delivered to my mailbox - how could people do that to a vegetable so pure and soft?

And my goodness, in the same photo, in the background, even plain and simple tofu, the mainstay of vegan people everywhere, had undergone the food porn transformation - mixed lavishly and vivaciously with small silver fish, crazy chilli and oil draping it’s soft white exterior, pulling it into the abyss of depravity!



As I munched on my celery stick and plain rice cracker, I looked back on my achievement so far! My resolution of the past month had been to treat my body as a temple - to exercise caution and constraint with the action I undertook! To no longer seek the morsels of unthinking contentment, to be aware of all oils and fats, carbohydrates and sugars, proteins and amino acids in exactly what weight and proportion as they passed from thought to lips to gullet!



So imagine my chagrin as the flood of delectable dishes continues! This week every contact has sent me a photo of what they had for their ’end of year dinner’ and also what they are about to consume as a celebratory dinner from their mother’s table.



I have before me steamed greens on a bed of plain rice, no adornments, no flavours, no vice! Oh, Chinese food porn, how much longer before I again succumb to your wicked, fattening ways!


Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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(Showing 1 to 10 of 11) 1 2 More...
#2014-02-02 16:17:46 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

I have to say that generally the Chinese are absolutely captivated with food, so little surprise that they are firing off pictures of what they are about to eat on WeiXin, which I don't use and now, thanks to you Gareth, I will never bother to use. I don't think I could handle the barrage of food pics that you've been suffering.

My wife and several of her family members shoot back and forth pictures of their just cooked meals to each other via mobile phone in what seems to me to be an ongoing attempt to out do each other as to who is the better cook. Frankly they're all good cooks so there will likely never be a declared winner.

And now, again thanks to you and your article, I must excuse myself so I can go make myself a midnight snack. Your descriptions above have me drooling.(doh)

#2014-02-02 19:31:28 by Barry1 @Barry1

Thanks for the witty repartee about your brushes with so many tantalising food delicacies in China, Gareth.

You've asked,

"Oh, Chinese food porn, how much longer before I again succumb to your wicked, fattening ways!"

My answer to this on your behalf is – never, I hope!

If I may be serious for a moment, Monash University in Melbourne has released the following frightening statistics as far as Australia is concerned. And the way things are going, China may not be far behind in this area.

1. Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia.

2. Obesity is now regarded as the biggest threat generally to public health here. Some have labelled it as an epidemic or health crisis.

3. Children being born now face a real risk of living shorter lives than their parents, because of obesity.

4. Diabetes - a byproduct of obesity - is sky rocketing in Australia. Heart disease and strokes are increasing markedly as well.

5. In 2007, the World Health Organisation found that 67 per cent (two out of every three) adults here were overweight. Things have not improved since then.

Given the above frightening facts, my responses to excerpts from some of your words above are as follows.

"as I rounded the last corner of my trek, my phone made a small buzz and an image of a chocolate eclair, lying wontonly and delicately prone on a white platter on scarlet cloth came into view - a fine drizzling of chocolate sauce and a delicately placed glacé cherry adorned the smooth sugar -dusted surface." FORGET THIS, GARETH - IT’S GARBAGE FOOD, FULL OF SUGAR WITH NIL NUTRITIONAL VALUE.

"imagine my chagrin as the flood of delectable dishes continues!" PLEASE FORGIVE MY BLUNTNESS, BUT I IMAGINE THAT WHAT YOU DESCRIBE AS “DELECTABLE DISHES” IS FROM MY VIEWPOINT, MOSTLY GARBAGE FOOD.

"I munched on my celery stick and plain rice cracker... I have before me steamed greens on a bed of plain rice, no adornments". AT LAST YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT DECENT FOOD HERE. YOU MAY NOT LIKE IT AND MAY EVEN TRY TO POKE FUN AT IT. BUT BELIEVE ME, YOU'LL LIVE LONGER IF YOU CONTINUE TO INGEST LOW FAT, LOW SUGAR FOOD SUCH AS THIS.

FORGET THE SUGARY SWEETS AND GARBAGE FOOD, GARETH. FOR YOUR HEALTH’S SAKE. AND FOR THOSE WHO LOVE YOU AND WANT YOU TO HANG AROUND HERE ON PLANET EARTH FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.

PLEASE BE STRONG. DO NOT WEAKEN IN YOUR RESOLVE TO LIVE AS LONG AND AS HEALTHILY AS POSSIBLE. (muscle)

#2014-02-02 22:29:41 by panda2009 @panda2009

Gareth,
I do really feel your deep love for food from your so many food pictures on your blogs. It is very interesting that I found an Aussie in English corner in Han Kou last month who was also in a bai bai pang pang shape, very cute and happy boy!

#2014-02-03 22:59:44 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@JohnAbbot
@Barry1
Gareth

John, in my OPINION, Weixin is far better than QQ and is my preferred platform for instant messaging
But to you and Gareth I must say that I am often amazed by the sheer NUMBER of food photos that Chinese people put on their "moments'/"albums' on Weixin. I tend not to get personal messages showing food - more on their albums/moments, but I am always amazed at their love of food and their 'need' to take photos of it !

Barry, you are 100% correct in what you say. I have somewhat struggled with my weight for countless years. Although I am not considered (by many) to be 'obese;', I always describe myself as 'A few Extra Pounds' and losing 15-20 kilos (and KEEPING IT OFF) is my ultimate goal
Now, despite what Gareth says I have ALWAYS lost weight when I have been in China - maybe only around 2 or 3 kilos - BUT most of my trips have been for a week or so
I consider myself to be a 'healthy-eater' but copious amounts of red wine seem to stifle my weight-losing attempts
My Chinese friends are constantly on at me to lose weight, because in THEIR EYES I am 'fat'
BUT.....they have NEVER been to a western country and have never seen the level of obesity that you describe. I reckon that if they DID, then they would not consider me to be 'so fat' !
I shed a little 'fat' over the last few weeks (4 kilos) but I still want to lose another 15 kg or so to get down to 100kilos
I tell you this to try and put things into perspective

Most people who live in Aus will know of a TV show called "The Biggest Loser"
For those who do not, it is essentially a TV show where fat people want to lose weight and the competition is to see WHO can lose the MOST weight (hence the name - The Biggest Loser!
People are wanting to lose 50kilos or more and at 118kg I felt quite 'small' compared to the 29-year old woman weighing in at just over 183 kilos !

So what Chinese people may regard as being 'fat' seems to be far removed from what western people regard as being 'fat' - Just a matter of 'perspective' I suppose ?

#2014-02-05 22:59:52 by sandy339 @sandy339

Haha, ok, I also think you have special interest in food, maybe you are homesick now? Confucious said “饮食男女,人之大欲存焉” ( the desire for food and sex is the natural instincts of man). What a good combination of them in this blog. So may I or we assume you are still a NORMAL HEALTHY BIG boy?(giggle)

I know you like fattening food, it is hard to get rid of the way how you brought up, I think you might eat fatterning food once or twice a week at noon, but never and ever eat them at supper, drink a lot of tea (in the morning: green tea; afternoon or evening: wulong, black tea or puer (普洱 Pu Er is the tea I highly recommend for you, it could consume the fat in body a lot) and enjoy your life in a balanced way, do I deliver a sermon?haha it seems so:)

#2014-02-06 19:47:55 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@sandy339
Thanks for your comments. I drink green tea every morning and never eat carbs after breakfast - so where are the fattening foods ? I dont eat cakes, I hate sugar and have a diet that is high in meat and vegetables. I even eat little fruit (due to the sugar)
I have never heard of PuEr tea (but I will check it) and the words reminded me of a Chinese kind of mushroom called Mu Er that I eat everyday

I think this could become a very interesting topic that Gareth has started here.
As a GENERALIZATION, Chinese people seem to care for their weight much more than Western people
When we go out for a Chinese meal we often think it is OK because we have a saying in the West - "You never see a fat Chinaman' ! - Which is not 100% true, but you RARELY see one

Western eating habits have become almost based on speed. Fast foods (MacDonalds etc) are convenient, just as frozen 'ready-meals' are.

We also have a little 'joke' (and I have actually SEEN this) where a fat western man goes into a takeaway and orders something like fried chips (potatoes) inside a thick bread roll (100% carbs with virtually no nutritional value) but he must wash it down with a DIET coke ! haha !

One day, (several months ago) I went into McDonalds only to buy a coffee (their coffee is good here, but I HATE the food).
A guy in front of me made me look slim - he must have been close to 200kilos (no exaggeration)
He ordered 2 Big Macs, a large fries and .......yes....a DIET COKE !

It's as if they get some kind of 'compensation' in their brains from ordering so much fatty food and drinking a DIET coke with it

'Oh, it's OK to eat burgers and fries because I am drinking DIET coke with it!"

So crazy !

#2014-02-07 19:53:42 by Barry1 @Barry1

@panda2009

"an Aussie in English corner in Han Kou last month who was also in a bai bai pang pang shape, very cute and happy"

Well, I don't know Chinese but I had to laugh when I read Panda's description of the plum little Aussie as being in a "bai bai pang pang" shape.

Well done, Panda!

@sandy339

"do I deliver a sermon? haha it seems so"

Well, the only reason you deliver this "sermon" and words of good advice is because you care.

For that, I thank you, Sandy.

@paulfox1

Very interesting and entertaining words as per usual, Paul.

I'm a food lover like most people here. I've found a way to stabilise my weight as follows.

I eat one piece of fruit in the morning such as a banana or an apple. Then I eat NOTHING further except drinks (liquids) such as juice, coffee or cordial till 5.00pm that late afternoon, when I can pig out a bit.

It means during the day I become a bit hungry, maybe around 3.00pm or 4.00pm. But no big deal, I just hang out till five before eating anything. A matter of routine habit with me now.

I've been doing this for the past several months and have lost around 4 kgs. It's a pretty easy way to slowly lose weight, if one doesn't succumb to the mid afternoon hunger pangs, that reduce in intensity, the longer one does this.

I've also just purchased online a book called "The Fast Diet" by Michael Mosley. It's been shipped out from the UK even as I write this. If it proves to be any good, I'll let everyone here know about it.

By the way, does everyone here agree with me that reading a proper book with paper pages is better than reading an ebook?

#2014-02-11 22:15:43 by sandy339 @sandy339

@paulfox1

Oh, you drink green tea every morning, it is so good habit:)
No Pu Er is a tea not Mu Er , yes they are similar in pingying, Pu Er is in general two kinds: fermented ones and raw ones. The fermented ones are like black tea, less stronger; the raw ones are supposed to be stronger in digest. If you go to a tea house, they will let you try them all, hope you could try and drink some, it is really good someone who want to keep fit or overweight, haha,

When you go out for a Chinese meal you often think "You never see a fat Chinaman' ? Ok, Chinese food is supposed to be greasy, we almostly use cooking oil for every dish, and the kitchen is comparatively oily, but now it is getting better due to our health consciousness.

It is interesting to know the guy had 2 Big Macs, a large fries and a DIET COKE, it seems to me a lot of westerners they cann’t control themselves by eating something unhealthy, or too much, maybe it is diet difference? I am not so sure, and also thank you for your blogs and comments….

@Barry1
Thanks for sharing your eating habit,
In our mainstreet eating habit in China, it is not right, ok I share with you what we think is right( it is a cliche to us, since we were told from our childhood and it can be traced back in ancient time.) We should eat like an emperor at breakfast, like civilian at noon and like beggar at night.
Yes, I agree with you: reading a proper book with paper pages is better than reading an ebook, but it depends, some books are not available, we could only get ebooks, and I only buy books I am really interested in, or they are very classical and worthy to keep, otherwise I will borrow or download, it is so nice to read some books with paper pages before my bed time:)


#2014-02-13 10:31:51 by Barry1 @Barry1

@sandy339

"We should eat like an emperor at breakfast, like a civilian at noon and like a beggar at night."

Thanks for this, Sandy.

I was wondering if any smart person would pick me up on this point and congratulations - you did!

Yes, what you said is correct. It's better for all of us to eat more in the morning and less in the evening. The problem being, that many workers simply don't have the time to eat a hearty breakfast, so they postpone it till either lunch or dinner time.

I don't consume red meat or chicken either, which is a good thing. Meat tends to bog down in one's digestive system, not particularly the best type of food to eat.

As for comparing traditional books with paper pages and ebooks, I fully agree that real paper books are superior. Not only for their look, their feel and their scent - but they can be mighty useful also if one's in an urgent hurry and there's no toilet paper left in the house! (rofl)

#2014-02-13 12:47:57 by aussieghump @aussieghump

After writing this little blog, I've decided to use photographs to document my food intake each day! So, every time I put something in my mouth, I photograph it!

So I line up breakfast, put a known object (for size comparisons - portions) and snap a photo. At the end of the week, I tally up the food...It is certainly an interesting time selecting food and snacks if I know there is a permanent record of my misdemeanours and indiscretions.

I bet you would be shocked if you did it yourself!! Haha!

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