Despite all the food scandals happening in China, food intake is still one of the favorite occupations of the average Chinese. First breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and an overwhelmingly rich dinner. Rice, noodles, countless vegetables, pork, beef, chicken, seafood, fish… Every day amazing traditional Chinese dishes are cooked in all the Chinese kitchens by Chinese mothers all around the world. Just as well as in my new Chinese mom’s kitchen (I call her mom because I cannot pronounce her name properly). As tradition requires we always have more dishes than people sitting at the table. More than plenty of food for everybody one might assume, but it is not as simple as that.

Now please imagine an idyllic scene from an old European sentimental movie with regional background, mountains and grassland everywhere. A beautiful house framed by a flower garden, a big dinner table, a mother, a father and a daughter, everything is happier than ever. That is my family. Growing up with every person having their own plates with food, no siblings who wanted to eat my share as well, and still some leftovers available back in the kitchen, I always had enough to eat and never felt the urge to feed like a horse. Rather, it was the opposite: my mom always complained about how I barely touched my share.

When I first ate with my new Chinese family, it felt like a battlefield. War on a dinner table. Everyone grabbed as much food as they could, like there was no tomorrow, like there was no more food left on the world, like they did not get anything to eat for days… no, years! I still struggled with handling my chopsticks in the beginning, and seeing all these people eating all the delicious dishes I started to feel like I was being left out… on an amount of food we all could possibly never finish. And so I started to train to use chopsticks faster, so I also could eat like them – more, faster. Long story short: (1) I can use chopsticks like a pro now. (2) I never had so many stomach aches in my life before. (3) Needless to say I started to gain looots of weight in the beginning and am super sporty now to keep my weight.

Have you ever had a similar experience? Do you feel the same while eating with your Chinese/Asian family and friends? I would love to hear your stories (and I would be so happy to hear that I am not the only one).

How I learned what ‘jealousy about food’ is
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12 thoughts on “How I learned what ‘jealousy about food’ is

  • July 16, 2015 at 11:55
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    Hi Betty,

    I come from a small family. Apart for special occasions, we didn’t have many dishes on the table but we ate well. We didn’t eat with chop sticks nor did we shoved the food down our throat. I thought this was typical of most families i.e ate well till we had a visit from one of the neighbours.

    My mum was away a lot, for 2 years to 6 months. On one occasion, we had an old family friend, Mr A, a Chinese who stayed at my mum’s house. He brought his 3 daughters to stay with me. I was a kid then. He always gave us hot chocolate an hour or so before bedtime. One evening, I drank my hot chocolate noisily. Mr A would not tolerate it. He said ,’who ever is making that noise, stop.’ I ate with his family, once or twice. There were no chopsticks, no fighting over food nor did we eat noisily.

    I had stayed with other Chinese families and half Chinese families for 2 years to 6 months whilst my mum was away. Some had lots of dishes on the table but we didn’t eat with chopsticks. We didn’t eat noisily nor did we shove our food down our throat. As long as we announced to our elders that dinner etc was served, we , kids could have our food. We didn’t have to wait for every one to eat down at the dinner table. In one family, the grandma sat at the head of the table.

    I had dinner at the house of my brother’s GF (half Chinese) couple of times (this was a very long time ago). There were lots of extended family members and lots of food. Eating habits, as above.

    One of my English friends, Mr S has shoved food down his throat, at his place. His English friend, T does it, too. Mr S doesn’t do it in my place, though. I don’t get stress about it because I’m not in a relationship with Mr S.

    We all are different.

    Reply
    • July 16, 2015 at 12:51
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      Thank you for sharing your story with me. We all are really different, and I think that my situation is an extreme example. I once ate too loud in kindergarten and got punished by the caretaker really bad. Maybe that is why I am too obsessed with table manners.
      My Panda really looks out after his manners when we eat alone at home, but out of respect, I won’t say anything to his parents. I am allowed to ‘reserve’ food or start a few minutes early so I won’t get stressed. 🙂

      Reply
  • July 16, 2015 at 16:34
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    I’ve seen Chinese, Koreans and Japanese eating nosily/slurped in restaurants. I’m not sure if it is a cultural thing or only with some individuals.

    Over the years, I’ve learnt to be more vocal and will nip things in the bud. My job including the others has made me more so. Good manners go a long way. Eg in my last relationship, I came down hard on Mr C’s 21 year old daughter of very exotic origins (still lives at home). We spilt up but he still loiters.

    Reply
    • July 16, 2015 at 16:45
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      I think it is an Asian thing in general to slurp and smack. I also noticed that it is normal to speak with full a full mouth in Japan.

      Reply
      • July 16, 2015 at 21:45
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        Is it true that Japanese consider it rude to eat while walking? If so, what about ice cream, crisps?

        A French lady told me that her half sister who is from a high born French family do not eat while walking, not even ice cream. No, they don’t get on.

        I was at a Korean food event last month. A Korean chef cooked us some Korean food (with an added twist). Most of us took our food to our seat and ate it there. Amongst some of the guests who ate as they walked to their seats was a young Korean girl. She did a similar thing the month before, too. I was astounded. Very casual!

        Reply
        • August 27, 2015 at 12:24
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          I am so sorry I missed your comment!
          I don’t really know about whether eating while walking is considered rude in Japan. I’ll be in Tokyo next week so I will do some field research on that 🙂
          I was teached that I should not eat while walk because it is unhealthy, maybe it is the same in Japan too? I’ll ask my friends in Japan too.
          And maybe these manners changed over time or are different in South Korea? Or maybe the girl grew up uproad? I can only tell you that children these days act so different as how I did when I was young, which actually makes me feel really old. 🙁

          Reply
  • July 16, 2015 at 19:43
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    Table manners were big in my American family. But my family was also very big and there was not quite enough food, and so most of us grew up without an off switch! I was recently at a family wedding, and my older brother got served an extra dessert. He crowed about it and my sisters went berserk…even after all these years.

    The first time I had dim sum with my Chinese-American husband’s family, they were determined to fill my plate with food and make me eat it with a fork. But it was all seafood and I am not a big fan of seafood. Luckily, the husband eats everything, and I could slide food over to his plate.

    Reply
    • July 16, 2015 at 20:09
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      Haha one really can’t get rid of old habits easily.

      At first I always got a bowl and a spoon. I found it really difficult to eat with a spoon only, I always had to use a finger to put rice from my bowl on my spoon. That was no solution for eternity, so after a few days I started to use chopsticks.
      Every time in HK his family fattens me, so I always leave some food in my bowl. Then they normally stop giving me more and more… and more… 4 times a day ._. The only thing I won’t them to stop with is bringing me fresh, hot bo lo baau (pineapple bun) and milk tea every morning :3

      Reply
    • July 16, 2015 at 21:22
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      I’m sorry to hear that. Seafood does not agree with every body.

      I told my Chinese friend I will cook him a meal when I see him. He was grateful but weeks and weeks later, he told me there are a list of things he can only have a little of due to a medical condition. The list is as long as my arm, I am not kidding …….beer, mushrooms, seafood, most fish, bean curd etc. I cannot remember it all.

      Reply
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