A Chinese proverb says: "The only things with four feet which we don’t eat are tables; the only things with two feet which we don’t eat are our parents."
It’s only a joke, but it shows that the Chinese could cook and eat almost everything. But no matter what was served, there used to be serious eating manners in old Chinese society, which were promoted by the Chinese philosopher Confucius.
In The Analects of Confucius, Confucius put forth a number of guidelines for eating. Some of them were as follows:
• Rice should be finely cleaned, and mincemeat should be cut quite small.
• Do not eat rice which has been injured by heat or damp and turned sour, or fish or flesh which has gone bad.
• Do not eat food that’s discolored, or has a bad flavor, or anything which is ill-cooked, or not in season.
• Do not eat meat which is not cut properly, or served without its proper sauce.
• Even though there might be a large quantity of meat, do not allow what you take to exceed the due proportion for the rice. It is only in wine that there is no limit, but do not allow yourself to be confused by it.
• Do not partake of wine and dried meat bought in the open market.
• Don’t forget ginger when you eat. And also do not eat much.
These words were written 2,500 years ago, but they’re not out-of-date yet. The thoughts about health and hygiene still work today.
Confucius required that rice should be finely cleaned and meat should be cut small because he didn’t want people to eat too fast or too much. The process of cleaning rice and cutting meat was meant to help people think more about their food, and learn to cherish it.
Confucius refused to eat ill-cooked and unfresh food because it was unhealthy, and only ate food which was in season because it was cheap and fresh.
He recommended against food from open markets because it was exposed to the air (and bacteria), and he ate meals with ginger because ginger was believed to kill germs in food.
He drank alcohol, but never let himself get drunk. (He was also never too drunk to drive, perhaps because there were no cars so many years ago.)
He also prayed before eating.
After reading what Confucius wrote about food, I believe that he’s something of a lost gourmet. If he were alive now, he’d fit in well with the health-conscious eating of the millennium.
To find out more about Confucius’ words, click here. — Yu-Ru Lee
New food alert: M&M’s now come in a "Crispy" version, which has been likened to "Nestle’s Crunch bars in an M&M form," or "breakfast cereal with candy shells." Pick some up and decide for yourself. ... Another new food alert: Addicted to crunch but want to eat healthy? Seneca Foods is test-marketing New Crispy Apple Chips in Detroit. They’re dried-to-a-crisp apples with 3.5 grams of fat per serving (that’s 65 percent less fat than the same amount of potato chips). Tasty flavors include Red Hot Cinnamon and Granny Smith — no word on when Salt ’n’ Vinegar will be available.