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In China, breakfast remains a matter of the heart

外媒:中国人心系中式早餐.jpg


The culinary colonisation of the globe may now have us all eating the same old margherita pizzas and arrabiata pastas. But there is one last bastion of gastronomic independence: breakfast. The things we can bear to put in our stomachs right after rising are often the most culturally authentic things about us. And nowhere is that truer than in China.

烹饪方式在全球的殖民式推广,或许让我们现在全都吃着一样的传统玛格丽特比萨和香辣番茄意大利面。但还有最后一座堡垒在坚守着烹饪方式独立:早餐。我们能忍受一起床就吃下肚的东西,从文化角度而言往往是最真实地反映我们是谁的东西。而中国比其他任何地方都更符合这句论断。

Nobody loves things western more than the Chinese, but when the sun comes up on any Chinese city the east dominates the breakfast trade. Like their ancestors before them, even the most westernised Shanghainese queue up before bamboo towers of steamed buns, spitting woks of crispy bottomed dumplings and steaming vats of rice gruel, to eat food that proudly declares its Chineseness.

没有哪个民族比中国人更喜爱西方的东西,但在中国任何一座城市,当太阳升起的时候,早点生意绝对是“东风压倒西风”。哪怕是最西化的上海人,也会像他们的祖辈一样,在码得高高的一笼笼包子,一锅锅滋滋作响的锅贴,和一桶桶热气腾腾的米粥前排队等候,以享用这些自豪地宣告自己中国身份的食物作早餐。

They’ve got nothing against a good cornflake here or there, just for variety, or even an Egg McMuffin on the run, but a soup-filled bun made with dollops of pork fat — the much-loved Shanghai shengjian mantou — goes straight to the heart of mainlanders like no cornflake ever could. And of course, all that fat, salt and carbohydrate goes straight to the heart muscle too. But reason not the nutrients: at its best, breakfast is not just food, it is more like love.

中国人对偶尔吃一顿可口的玉米片早餐也不排斥,但只是为了换换口味,赶时间的时候他们甚至会匆匆忙忙抓一个吉士蛋麦满分当早餐,可是只有饱含汤汁的生煎馒头(上海人的最爱)才能直抵中国人的心房,那是任何玉米片永远到不了的地方。当然啦,那里面饱含的脂肪、盐和碳水化合物也会直抵心肌。但别拿健康说事了,最好的早餐不仅是食物,它更像是一种“爱”。

One young millennial queueing at the neighbourhood “baozi” or steamed bun stall in Shanghai’s former French concession, said he was there for a bit of a bun “chaser” to the bowl of Cheerios he had consumed at home. East meets west in this young man, who says he’s just as happy to draw from either menu for his first meal of the day. But when it comes to taste? China wins hands down.

一个“千禧”世代的年轻人,正在上海前法租界居民区的包子铺排队买包子。这位年轻人说自己在家已经吃了一碗脆谷乐(Cheerios),来这儿想再吃点包子,补充点“硬货”。东西两种文化在这个年轻人身上交汇,他说作为一天之中的头一餐,中式和西式早餐都能让他吃得很开心。但论及味道,中餐毫不费力地赢了。

China’s stubborn adherence to its bun-and-rice-gruel antecedents means that even western fast food restaurants such as KFC have to learn to wrap a steamed bun to survive in the mainland breakfast market. In fact, KFC’s rice porridge with pork and hundred-year-old egg is so popular at breakfast time — paired with a deep fried pastry or “youtiao” for a set meal as low as $1 — that it’s often sold out by the time I get there.

中国对包子、米粥等传统食物的顽固坚守,意味着即使是肯德基这类西方快餐店都得学着做包子,才能在中国的早餐市场上生存。事实上,肯德基早餐时间供应的皮蛋瘦肉粥配油条套餐(该套餐售价8元人民币,约合1美元)极受欢迎,我去的时候经常已经卖光了。

But for all that Shanghai loves its buns, street eats of all varieties are under threat in China, says Anna Greenspan, author of Shanghai Future: Modernity Remade. Soon after I moved to China in 2008, for example, the city tore down one of the most famous and best-loved food streets, Wujiang Road, leaving Starbucks, McDonald’s and Subway in its place. “In the developed world, there is a renaissance of street food culture, with the food trucks,” she says. Not so in China, where street food markets are seen as unhygienic, noisy and just plain un-futuristic. In December, yet another famous Shanghai food street was demolished.

尽管上海人如此喜爱他们的包子,但《上海未来:重建现代性》一书的作者安娜•格林斯潘说,在中国,各种街头小吃都正面临威胁。举个例子,2008年我刚到中国不久,上海拆掉了最著名、最受欢迎的美食街之一,吴江路小吃街,现在那里只有星巴克、麦当劳和赛百味了。安娜•格林斯潘说:“在发达国家,一辆辆流动食品车所代表的街头食品文化正在复兴。”在中国则不是这样,街头小吃市场在这里被认为是不卫生的、嘈杂的,而且毫不现代化。去年12月,又一条上海著名的美食街被拆除。

To add insult to injury Shanghai’s largest state-owned food group, Bright Food, recently bought the British breakfast icon Weetabix, and is working hard to introduce western shredded wheat and milk culture to China. Good luck with that. Weetabix seems to be tackling the snack market first, recently introducing green tea and dark chocolate Alpen cereal bars, just for the China market. But outside the Jiadeli supermarket, opposite the bun stall where UnTour took us, Yue Yumei, 53, says she’s never even heard of Weetabix. Vive la dumpling, I say: let them eat street food.

无异于往传统街头小吃伤口上撒盐的是,上海最大的国营食品集团光明食品最近收购了英国代表性早餐食品品牌维他麦,而且该集团正努力将西方的牛奶麦片文化引入中国。祝他们好运吧。维他麦似乎想先打入零食市场,近来推出了专门面向中国市场的绿茶和黑巧克力欧倍谷物棒。但在一家“家得利”超市外面,就在UnTour带我们去的一家包子铺对面,53岁的岳玉梅说她从没听说过维他麦。锅贴万岁,我要说,他们想吃街头食品就让他们吃吧。

2016-06-23

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