If you look through the door of my pantry you will see a window into my world. My pantry expresses my likes and dislikes and my cultural background by the presence and absence of certain goods. You will also see that in my house, we are not hungry. I have been hungry in the past. I plan against this by stocking up for the possibility that there might come a day when I might not have money. It isn’t an entirely rational approach to domestic food provisioning as it is a practice that produces waste. But, I always know where my next meal is coming from. And I also know I am lucky to be able to be so potentially wasteful. My household budget is shaped by my past experience of hunger. I am sure I am not alone, but for some reason hunger is not a fashionable term these days. What is that all about?
I have no idea who the gentleman in the picture is, except that two things in particular struck me about him as I sat opposite him on the MTR heading toward Shenzhen, and the magical world of Lo Wu Commercial city. The second was his attire as he was smartly dressed for a day out to collect provisions with a friend across the boarder in China. The first thing that caught my eye about him, however was his smile, which seemed to cover his whole face. What was particularly unusual is that smiling is something particularly uncharacteristic amongst adults in Chinese culture. Continue reading
Christmas dinner is always a bit of a challenge in our house. In the period before we moved to Hong Kong I would always cook a whole salmon. The first year we lived in Hong Kong, I ventured to the wet market to purchase a fish. Salmon are not widely available in Hong Kong, certainly not in the markets, so I got some other fish. I’ve still no idea what it was, but I do know we all got really ill. For the next two years I ordered the whole meal from a restaurant in Sai Kung, which arrived hot and tasted lovely, but was mostly turkey imported from the US. This year I am cooking venison purchased locally. What strikes me about this tale of food feasts is what we understand about what comprises fresh food and how that is so linked up with cultural differences.
While the word hue refers to colour, to be a hewer is to be someone who carves out. When I was in graduate school, one of the more influential papers I read was written by geographer Kathy Gibson. The paper, titled “Hewers of cake and drawers of tea”, was an analysis of class struggle and gender in the face of miners strikes in Queensland, Australia. The point of the paper was to illustrate the importance of domestic activity and women’s work in the reproduction of conditions under which strike action is made possible. Indeed, strike times, as well as times of employment and plenty, are sustained by the graft of women and the community in which and through which they forge their domestic craft. It is often through ordinary activities, such as cooking, from which social life is hewn. Continue reading
One of the things I like best to do on a sunny day in Hong Kong is go to Stanley. This small and rather upscale village on the far side of Hong Kong Island takes some energy and effort to get to, but here you can sit behind a Belgian beer and watch the ships on the horizon go by on their way to distant ports. The combination of journey, beer, and view provide a sense of holiday for the few hours one spends in this place. But Stanley was not always such a carefree place, and indeed for some it is a place where although cared for, the circumstance is not free.
I like coffee. In fact, I like coffee much more than tea. This preference was easy to indulge when I lived in Seattle, where getting a cup of coffee is not a difficult task. It became much more difficult in England, where quite often what is passed off as coffee is actually some sort of instant coffee drink with lots of milk and sugar (to my mind instant coffee is not really coffee). I didn’t know what to expect when I moved to Hong Kong. I worried that the cultural residue of being a British colony, combined with the modern relationship with China would mean that in Hong Kong a good cup of coffee would be hard to find. Tea? Easy. Coffee, well what to expect? Continue reading