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中華文化多語談:飲食文化


華人飲食文化淺談


每個文化中,飲食可說是最能突顯其文化概念的部分之一。中國菜已經普及到全世界,無論什麼國家都看得到中國餐館。以下,簡單地介紹華人飲食文化的幾個特徵。


一、概念與食材


華人對飲食行為非常重視「均衡」與「和諧」,食材的屬性(「熱」、「溫」、「涼」、「寒」)、水分、顏色(肉類、豆類、蔬果類、穀類)等都要講求均衡與和諧,同時也重視人體與季節之間的調和。例如,在寒冷的冬天身體會比較虛弱,此時必須要「補身體」,攝取一些可以滋養身體的食物。


中國菜食材的來源相當廣泛,高檔食材除了熊掌、魚翅、燕窩等之外,牛、羊、豬、?、鴨、魚等肉類以及豐富的蔬菜水果都可使用,因此中國人有「四條腿的除了桌子不吃,天上飛的除了飛機不吃,水裡游的除了潛水艇不吃」的說法。穀類方面,中國北方以麵食為主,南方則以米食為主。烹調方式也有許多種,傳統的中國菜,一定要煮熟之後才吃,「生」的東西絕不端上桌,不過現在受到其他地區飲食文化的影響,也有生吃的情況,例如沙拉、生魚片等。

二、地方菜


無論哪一個國家的飲食文化一定會受到當地氣候、人文的影響,發展出具有地方色彩的菜色,華人世界也不例外。以中國大陸為例,每個地方都有當地獨特的菜色體系。中國大陸各地的菜色分類為「八大菜系」,包含魯菜(山東)、川菜(四川)、粵菜(廣東)、 閩菜(福建、台灣)、蘇菜(江蘇)、浙菜(浙江)、湘菜(湖南)、徽菜(安徽)等菜色,都具有特色。


台灣的飲食文化也非常豐富。台灣住有漢民族系(早先從中國大陸福建省一帶飄洋過海來台灣的本省人系、客家人系、戰後隨政府遷來台灣的外省人系與原住民系的種族,就人口而言漢族所佔比例最大;因為如此,在台灣的漢民族系的飲食文化已成為台灣全體飲食文化的基準,特別以福建系的飲食文化為主。二次大戰後,來台灣的外省人將中國各地的料理帶進台灣。因此,除了台灣菜與台灣小吃之外,非常道地的上海菜、廣東菜都吃得到。

  1. 禮儀與禁忌

華人吃飯比較典型的場景是,一家人圍坐圓桌,圓桌上擺著好幾大盤的菜色,大家使用「公筷」夾取自己要吃的,分量來食用。這種吃法,即使在婚禮、生日等節慶宴會場合都一樣,不像歐美的飲食方式提供每人一份。華人吃飯的禮儀讓小孩在吃飯過程中,學習到尊重長輩的道理,了解到所謂的「五倫」。座位分配也有其特殊含義,尤其是正式的聚餐,離門口最遠的是主客的位子,主客的正對面就是主人的席位。


華人飲食文化中,禮儀上的規矩與食材禁忌比歐美少很多,不過,由中醫的概念考慮身體健康的飲食禁忌或迷信相當多。例如,孕婦不可以吃西瓜、苦瓜、涼粉等生冷的食物,亦或在懷孕時吃很多白色的食物,如豆腐、牛奶,便可以生出皮膚細白的嬰兒。這些傳統概念多半沒有科學根據,可是我們卻可以從中知道華人世界對飲食的一些概念。


問題與討論

  1. 華人飲食文化中,重視的概念是什麼?
  2. 中國菜的食材有哪些?
  3. 請說明各個地方菜的特色。
  4. 在台灣可以吃到什麼樣的中國菜?
  5. 華人飲食文化中,有何種禮儀與禁忌?
  6. 你曾經吃過哪一種外國菜?
  7. 請你比較中國菜與日本菜的特色。
  8. 請你比較中國與日本的飲食文化中的禮儀與禁忌。
  9. 中文有許多跟飲食有關的諺語、成語,請舉出三個介紹一下。
  10. 請舉出跟中國飲食文化有關的迷信,找找看日本有沒有類似的迷信。


註一
一般人,尤其是老一輩的人,多多少少都有某種食物是「涼」的、某種食物是「熱」的一些模糊概念,其淵源如前所述,因為古人把食物跟藥物一樣,分為「熱」、「溫」、「涼」、「寒」等不同的性質,中醫稱之為「四氣」或「四性」,這種食物分類法是中國老祖宗所特有的,為歐美文化所無。

 

Chinese Culture trough Foreign Languages: Chinese Food Culture

A Short Introduction to Chinese Food Culture

        The food culture of any region in the world can express the characteristics of that region. One such food culture, Chinese food culture, has become popular all over the world. It seems that no matter which country you find yourself in, you can always find a Chinese restaurant. This article will give a simple introduction to the characteristics of Chinese food culture.

1. Concepts and Ingredients

        When it comes to food, Chinese people tend to stress the concepts balance and harmony. This means that the properties of the food, like its wetness or dryness, its traditional classification (hot, warm, cool, cold; more on this below), its color (including the color of the meat, vegetables, beans, grains, etc.) all require balance and harmony. Food also needs to be prepared to harmonize the season with the human body. For example, a human body will be rather weak during a cold winter season and thus will need to be strengthened by taking in extra nutritious food.

       The ingredients used in Chinese food culture come from a wide variety of sources. In the past, Chinese food tended to use rare ingredients to indicate wealth or that a person lived a luxurious life. In addition to exotic and high-class ingredients like bear’s paw, shark’s fin, and bird’s nest, Chinese cooks used common meats like beef, lamb, pork, chicken, duck, and fish along with many types of fruit and vegetables. From this wide variety of eatables in Chinese food culture, we have the saying, “We eat everything with four-legs: except the kitchen table, we eat everything that flies: except airplanes, and we eat everything that swims: except submarines.” Concerning grains and carbohydrate rich food, people in northern China tend to eat more noodle-based dishes, while those in the south tend to eat more rice-based dishes.  Cooking method is another important area of Chinese food culture. The traditional judgment was that only cooked foods were suitable to be eaten; raw foods were not allowed on the dinner table. Nowadays, however, Chinese food culture has taken on some of the habits of other cultures and has become used to eating raw foods like sushi and salad.

2. Regional Food Culture

        The food culture of a place is affected by the climate and the people that live there; this is true no matter where you go. When it comes to developing a food culture that reflects the ‘terroir’ (the characteristics) of a region, Chinese food culture is a perfect example. Just look at Mainland China; each region has its own style of food. The so-called Eight Regional Cooking Styles of Mainland China”: Shandong, Sichuang, Cantonese, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan, and Anhui. Each cuisine comes with its own distinguishing characteristics.[1]

        Along with the cuisine of Mainland China, Taiwan’s own food culture is also fairly diverse. Taiwan is populated ethnically by the Han (including those that came to Taiwan long ago from the Fukien province on the Mainland, the Hakka people, people from other provinces that arrived after the World War II), and of course by the native peoples of Taiwan. Ethnically, Han Chinese cover the largest percentage of the total population of Taiwan, and so it is no surprise that the Han food culture has become the basis of Taiwan’s entire food culture, this is especially true of the food culture from Fukien province. After World War II, people from all over China brought their regional food culture with them to Taiwan. This is why Shanghai and Cantonese cuisine are two of the easiest styles to find in Taiwan outside of Taiwan-specific foods and snacks.

3. Etiquette and Taboo in Food Culture

It has been common practice in Chinese history that meals are eaten with the family seated around a round table set with many large dishes of food. This setting is now only found in restaurants, banquets, or in family gatherings. In the past, each person would use their own pair of chopsticks to eat directly from the large family-style dishes. Now, in public banquets or other large occasions, the diners will use a pair of ‘public-use’ chopsticks to pick the food they want to eat, and then use their own pair of chopsticks for eating. This is the common practice for events like wedding banquets and birthday parties, while in the West a separate serving is given to each person. In Chinese etiquette, the seating arrangement carries with it a very specific meaning; this is especially true for formal occasions. The seat furthest from the entrance is reserved for the guest; seated directly in front of the guest is the host.

Chinese food culture has far fewer rules of etiquette and taboos than western food culture, though Chinese medicine brings along many superstitions and taboos surrounding food and health. A good example is the forbiddance of a pregnant woman from eating cold foods like watermelon, bitter-melon and mung bean jelly. On the other hand, a woman is encouraged to take in tofu, milk, and other white-colored foods if she wants her child to have whiter skin. These superstitions are not grounded in science, though they do allow us to better understand what people in China think about the things they eat.

 

Discussion Questions:

1.          What are the important concepts of Chinese food culture?

2.          What types of food are included in Chinese food culture?

3.          Please give and explain the characteristic food of each region.

4.          What kind of Chinese food can you find in Taiwan?

5.          What kinds of etiquette and taboo exist in Chinese food culture?

6.          What foreign foods have you eaten?

7.          Please compare and contrast Chinese food and Western food.

8.          Please compare and contrast etiquette and taboo in Chinese and Western food culture.

9.          The Chinese language has many sayings and idioms dealing with food. Please give three examples and explain them.

10.      Please give an example of a common superstition in Chinese food culture. Also, try to think of similar superstitions in Western food culture.

 

Note #1

Many people have a general concept of which foods are ‘hot,’ and which foods are ‘cool.’ The reason for these concepts comes from the ancients. They believed that food was medicine and was separated into four properties: ‘hot,’ ‘warm,’ ‘cool’ and ‘cold.’ Chinese medicine calls these properties the ‘four energies’ or the ‘four properties.’ This separation of food into ‘energies’ or ‘properties’ is unique to China; Western food culture does not have such concepts.



[1] The eight regional styles are defined differently in each area; this paper only presents one such definition.

 

     
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