Volume 16, Issue 29 - July 17 - July 23, 2008

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Bay Reflections

Fresh, Never Frozen
A Chinese view on shopping local

by Ying Wang

Frozen peas, carrots, fish, bread? I had never seen so many foods frozen for future consumption. When I came to America 16 months ago, I was amazed at how American people store, prepare and cook their food.

Both my American families — first in Kansas, now in Galesville — shopped for groceries no more than once every week. They stored their food — whether vegetables or meat — in the freezer. I came to understand that they set their shopping schedule for ease and convenience, to save precious time.

I was taken aback.

In China, we go to open markets — usually in the morning, so we call it morning market — every day to buy fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, live seafood and all the foods we’ll eat that day. Open markets are more accessible in China, or at least where I lived, Beijing, the capital city.

In Beijing, my family has a refrigerator and freezer, just like in America. We don’t have to shop for fresh foods every day. Instead, we choose to do so because we love and enjoy eating fresh food. We save our freezers for ice cream. In spite of the convenience and efficiency freezers bring to us, Chinese people still shop and eat fresh, the way they’ve always done.

At Zao Shi

The voices of early shoppers lead the way to our morning markets. Especially on weekend mornings, there are hardly spaces to walk, though the market may be as big as a square city block. People are eager to choose the best goods before others beat them out.

Flow with the crowds to check, select and bargain for the foods you want. Smells will also guide you to fragrant fruits, sweet spices, fishy seafood and raw, carnal meat — as well as the distinct smells of each person around you. Your eyes will be dazzled by shiny green vegetables, golden corn, colorful fruits, lively fishes, gleaming shrimp and other seafood as well as freshly cut meat. You will have to resist the urge to buy them all.

Satisfied shoppers will advise you that the eggplants they just bought are fresher at stand 231 than at any other. You will want to rush to 231 before they sell out.

Before you buy that beautiful eggplant, watch the Chinese shoppers bargain over one jiao or five jiao, the Chinese currency. The bargaining may last one to a few minutes, and the buyers are often the winners.

Outside the market, you’ll feel relaxed after all the noises, crowds and smells. Then you are ready to go home to prepare and cook the fresh foods you bought.

If you buy a live fish, you will then kill and scale the fish. The Chinese way is to season the fish with sauce and spices so it will absorb flavor. We cook the whole fish, keeping the head and tail. Some people, like my father, love eating the head. Chinese people believe that the head of the fish, especially its eyes, is nutritious. Besides that, lots of Chinese love the skin of the fish. You can order a special dish made of fish skin in a restaurant in China. It is rich in protein and what we call micro elements. Many Chinese women love fish skin since it is considered good for the skin.

We Chinese cook and eat the food that we buy on the same day because the fresher the food is, the tastier it will be.

Ying Wang, from Beijing, China, came to the United States as an au pair after finishing her college degree and teaching English for three years. A summer intern at Bay Weekly through Anne Arundel Community College, she plans to study for a master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.