Sunday, July 7, 2019

Craving authenticity

I just discovered three new YouTube food documentary channels, and I am utterly captivated.

Each channel features a young woman (respectively from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces) subsisting in rural environments, hearkening to the heydey of agricultural, pre-industrial life. Equipped with little but the land, family and their traditions, and few supplies (maybe a wok and few jars), the stars of these channels capture our fascination.

For example, Ermichuiyan goes fishing for eels and loaches in the evening and concocts a variety of dishes. A basic dish might be stir-fry consisting of 鳝鱼 (eel),姜 (ginger),葱 (scallions), and 料酒腌制 (cooking wine).

Catch a barrel of eels and loaches, with Sichuan pickles,do some Sichuan cuisine to taste fresh

Or maybe Liziqi harvests green plums and uses them countless ways, like 梅子肉 (plum pork). She also shows us how she dyed and sewed her own dress, crafted her grandmother silk pajamas and comforters from her own worms, sculpted her own oven, and even made her own paper, ink, and brush.

The routine thing you shall never miss every summer- to eat green plums

Dianxixiaoge introduces us to new edible vegetables, like caoya (Typha latifolia). She also reminds us that rural living often involves learning from locals, like her Muslim neighbors in Dali to make Rushan cheese. She also demonstrates a Yunnan Bai (ethnic minority group) culinary method of blowing flavoring into a pork liver's inferior vena cava (?).

The unique sourness and milky scent from Dali, Yunnan: Rushan Cheese

Farming, foraging, harvesting, prepping, pickling, and all-around cooking, these ladies appeal to the romantic side of slow life that starkly contrasts urban living, where often the closest source of food we ever reach is the supermarket. B-rolls of the moon, stars, ethereal landscapes, children and animals frolicking in the grass further accentuate the allure of nature to urban dwellers. It's no surprise that these channels are experiencing a surge in popularity.


But beyond that, often their videos end with a heart-warming scene of eating with their families. These clips are a nice little antidote to the (at-times) vapid digital content that permeates the web. They serve as a satisfying conclusion to each video, almost as if a message saying all the hard work is worth it for family and friends.

Fry pork rind to make several local dishes

The best food for summer------Many kinds of jam.

These videos highlight how far removed we might feel from timeless practices. It's easy to remark at the ingenuity, versatility, and vigor of those in these videos and definitely hard to imagine that a majority of people used to once be like this. I'm still in awe, as I peek into their daily lives,

Note: Unfortunately, there may be some that will always doubt the "authenticity" of these videos. For instance, there will be the occasional comments that says that the production value looks too high or even contrived to be produced by one person. But honestly, I couldn't care less. It's important to realize that, of course, these families don't live in isolation from society, especially with the efficiency of public transportation. It's also likely that these women also edit their own videos. The education and preservation of traditional practices is the real value of these pieces. The aesthetics only enhance the experience.

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