Which would you choose? Dinner for $1.69 or $.79

Duck, Pork, and Cabbage with Rice = $1.69

Good food on a budget is a specialty not only in China, but across the developing world. In countries which have recently joined the world economy, or only within the past 20-30 years, local food traditions have stayed strong. And although Western food is becoming more popular in these countries, their preference for local traditional dishes is unlikely to change in the near future.

The one common remark that students studying abroad make about their experience is that food doesn’t meet their standards. For example, the pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and salads option that fill cafeterias in the US provoke a homesickness that is unavoidable. Looking at the common dish I had for dinner last night, could you blame them for missing home?

Right outside my apartment is the “Sichuan Room”, a Cantonese-style Sichuan restaurant which serves amazing food at a low price. Continue reading Which would you choose? Dinner for $1.69 or $.79

Don’t Donate Money to Japan?

Non-MonetaryDonationCash Donations Post-Disaster

A clever writer at Rueter’s stirred up controversy recently with an opinionated article titled “Don’t Donate Money to Japan“. He has a point, although written quite offensively to many, which has made me think twice about sending cash immediately after a disaster.  A Yahoo Japan donation page recently showed that over $7,100,000 has been raised since the earthquake. You might be thinking, “Go us!”… but it certainly is peanuts compared to what governments shift around on a daily basis for foreign aide and one-off assistance. I’m not saying we should stop donating money to disasters like the recent one in Japan, but we should use our brains a little more before doing so.

It’s true that we feel good about ourselves afterwards, but there are MANY other ways we can help out. The donation issue has motivated me to do something about it. I’m going to put direct links on AL.ME to non-cash requesting organizations. The delivery food, drink, clothing, toys, study materials, etc. You send them products that haven’t expired or are in good condition, and they will wholeheartedly deliver to those in need. Yes, they also need money to run their organization, but they will find that money in other ways… the common man need not worry!

One of the needy organizations at this moment, which isn’t getting much attention is Second Harvest Japan.
* Food & Beverage (MUST be unexpired): rice, canned items, retort-pouch food, food for elderly people, baby formula and baby food
* Items for Baby & Elderly People (MUST be unopened): baby diapers and adult diapers
* Items for Soup Kitchen(MUST be unused): paper plates, paper cups, plastic spoons, plastic forks, chopsticks and saran wraps.

Donated food and supplies will be used both in the disaster zone and outside the zone to reach those in need.

Or send donations directly to local governments:

1. Foods (instant foods, dietary supplements, baby foods)
2. Warm blankets (That north part of Japan is still really cold now)
3. Clothing
4. Baby clothings, and DIAPERS!!!!

Attn: Earthquake relief supplies
Miyagi Prefectural Office
3-8-1, Honcho
Aoba-ku, Sendai city, Miyagi
980-8570, JAPAN

Attn: Earthquake relief supplies
Iwate Prefectural Office
10-1 Uchimaru Morioka city, Iwate
020-8570,JAPAN

Attn:Earthquake relief supplies
Aomori Prefectural Office
1-1-1 Nagashima, Aomori city,
Aomori, 030-8570, JAPAN

Attn:Earthquake relief supplies
Fukushima Prefectural Office
2-16 Sugitsuma-cho, Fukushima City
960-8670, JAPAN

Western vs Eastern Food Choices

A colleague recently asked me what the difference was between Chinese and American cuisine, besides our bread staples. I told her our general attitude toward eating is different; Americans trust science, Chinese trust tradition. I told this young, thirty-something English professor that we often make healthy choices based on what science reports tell us is healthy. (The media often attempts to play the “honest” broker… which is equally damaging.)

She replied, “But isn’t science better?” To which I replied, “when children born after 2000 have a 1 in 3 chance of developing childhood diabetes, then we are doing something wrong.” In fact, its also a matter of household income. If you are a minority born after 2000, you’re likelihood of getting Western diseases diabetes increases. Watch Food Inc here, which is a documentary explaining this problem in more depth.

Although we owe a lot of advances in society to science, the use of science as a general method of dictating food choices to the mass audience has been a failure. When the PR of Frito-Lays defends consumers’ right to enjoy “fun” food, it starts to define us as a nation. There’s nothing fun about diabetes and heart failure, which has touched every single family in America.

Food Inc. and our Meat System

In America, we are the proud kings of industrialized processes in all industries. We have achieved economies greater than any human beings who ever came before us. (“Economies” refers to economies of scale, by making production extremely cost-effective.) It is capitalism at its finest. We can also proudly say, “there is enough food to feed the world.”

But when we apply new science to food we start getting undesirable byproducts. “Food Inc.” is a 2008 documentary directed by Robert Kenner, which investigates the very unfortunate side-effects, including: E.coli growth in cows that are fed cheap corn rather than grass, the massive recalls of tainted meat which have led to avoidable deaths (often children), and poor treatment of workers (often illegal) in meat-packing facilities.

In order to live healthier lives there should be a push to consume “free range” animals, which are raised on the natural diets they’ve consumed for thousands of years. As shown in the investigative reporting, the highly mechanized way we raise animals has caused unnatural side-effects. We allow meat-packers to keep producing because our meat prices stay low. The USDA approves all the meat you see on the market shelves, but we still saw the largest meat recall in history on February 18, 2008, when a California meat company ordered the recall of over 143 million pounds of meat. 11 recalls were ordered in 2009, and we’ve already seen 100s of thousands of pounds recalled in 2010. We should all inform ourselves about where our food comes from, because the “greater good” in society is usually trumped by the greatest profits.

This report is important for all to see. Watch it here via Youku.

Great Food for $1

Cauliflower, Carrots, and Spicy Chicken
Cauliflower, Carrots, and Spicy Chicken

I would be lying if I said that eating well in China requires more than $3 or  $4 per day. In fact, the more processed the food, the more expensive it is here; which is completely opposite in my country (America). Also, to make my life easier, I choose the campus canteen options which usually vary between 8-12 options. The picture to the right is two options + rice for about $1. (The rice serving is only about 10 cents.)

Today, I ate cauliflower and carrots with thin sausage slices and spicy chicken chunks (辣子鸡 La zi Ji). La zi Ji is one of the most famous dishes from Si Chuan province. This meal was a little on the meaty side …. but,  I usually get a single meat and a single vege (or toufu) dish together with white rice. Other days it is fish and veges and toufu. Most days I’ll also order a soup which contains peanuts, kelp, eggs, and chicken bones.

My canteen meals are quite varied and I get inspiration for new recipes from there. Best of all, I can eat lots of great food for little money. Paying $1-2 for a bag of chips just doesn’t make sense anymore.