Arts, Culture & Media

Beyond The Great Wall

JA says China is changing as Han Chinese move further west: in this region, you have great diversity and that culture is being threatened. So food is one way of preserving and exploring that culture. (Whatever food people eat in these regions, the foods are affected by climate, terrain, access to water and fuel.) ND: yes, if you think about a pre-industrial place many people know more about their food because it comes from someplace local. JA: many areas of Western Tibet, it's too high to even cook so the diet is simple. ND: in one place, a dried part of lamb was just passed around. (I noticed there's also a salsa or chutney recipe coming from the Indian influence. ND: yes when the Dalai Lama fled, a good part of the population fled to Nepal as well and some have come back and they've been influenced by other diets. So when I traveled to Lhasa I found some other cultures represented in the diet. JA: people have been relatively isolated in this area because of the mountains. There's pineapple and other tropical foods in this diet, this is southeast Asia diet. There's a kind of catfish or perch and then they put them on a grill and stuff them with a coriander leaf. (What else influences the food there?) The influences are that it's a sub-tropical climate so they're eating rice and fresh fruits and vegetables and leafy greens. So a lot of fresh or barely cooked food. (Is the movement of Han Chinese into these areas changing the food there?) JA: absolutely and wherever Han Chinese go, they're remarkably about getting green vegetables into the diet. (Did you find that these cultures are very vulnerable to such changes?) ND: absolutely. (When you arrive in a spot, how did you broach the topic of your book?) ND: we never asked people for their recipes, we would just go around and taste things and take pictures and ask questions. They thought it was a bit goofy. So we just figured out the recipes. We're always approximating.

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