Generational Food Culture

chopsticksIn an article from a 2003 Seattle Times issue, Ted Anthony calls into question the practice of using chopsticks due to some reports that link chopstick use with arthritis.  Although there is much disagreement about the validity of these reports, it may cause a shift in the way many Chinese eat their food.  Anthony wonders since “Chinese are always reviewing, modifying and creating traditions. Coffee is luring many drinkers from tea, and more Chinese are trading rice and dumplings for KFC and Pizza Hut. Could this herald the dawn of a nation of diners who eat with forks and knives — and, given the imminent arrival of Taco Bell, sporks?”.  Although one doctor claims that the Chinese will stick to their culture, it is entirely likely that a revolution could occur.  On the other hand, the Chinese appear to be very rooted in their culture.  I have been taking a Chinese Literature course from 1910-1980 and much of the literature is heavily against any outside influence, though there is a large gap between the ideals of the youth and those of the adults.  The Chinese youth could very well begin to use forks and knives in a rebellious stance against their parents.

Always one of the more interesting topics, to me at least, is the interactions between older and younger generations.  This topic is especially appealing in a Chinese context because of the more recent struggles with authority among the youth.  I hope that there are cultural differences in food practices between generations.  Next week’s blog post will explore this potential topic in a little more depth.

This article gave me even more ideas about Chinese food culture dynamics and how I could incorporate those ideas into my own ethnographic field project.  I could examine the different food culture practices between kids and the older generations.  How do the elderly feel when they see a KFC as opposed to a group of teenagers?  Do kids seek out American candy and sweets? Do parents discourage eating at “fast-food” restaurants?  How do people see those who eat with their left hand instead of their right?  I also think there might be an opportunity to explore the different types of food services and how culture changes depending on those.  For instance, do street food vendors attract a different customer base than a restaurant?

For most of my project I imagine that I will be looking for a few restaurants in Beijing that would be receptive to allowing me to observe and interview couples on dates or groups out for family dinners.  As of now, I have not begun to actually look for restaurants in Beijing because I imagine that would be semi-impractical.  Although, I could start to look at Google Maps and reviews online to help guide me to foreigner friendly restaurants.