Changing Rice Bowl: Economic Development and Diet in China by Elizabeth Leppman

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By Elizabeth Leppman

The publication offers with an issue of perennial curiosity to chinese language and non-Chinese alike: chinese language meals. chinese language tradition is outstandingly food-oriented, and non-Chinese are thinking about what chinese language humans in China really devour, as contrasted with nutrients in ever-popular chinese language restaurants.

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Rice also can be grown — indeed grows wild — in natural marshlands, as it was in the original Neolithic agricultural area of northern China in times before the Chinese developed irrigation (Ho, 1969). It can also be grown as a dry-land crop, providing that natural rainfall is sufficient (about 80 inches or 2,000 mm per year). Fast-maturing varieties have extended gready its latitudinal extent, and the northernmost rice paddy in the world is in far northern Heilongjiang Province, at Mohe on the Amur River (Heilong Jiang) at 53°31' north latitude (Zhao, 1994: 182).

In classifying foods as fit or unfit to eat, allergic reactions explain only a few food avoidances. The explanation of the pork taboo among Muslims and Jews as related to the danger of trichinosis generally has been discredited (Harris, 1986; Simoons, 1994), but an alternative explanation for that and other taboos is still a matter of debate. Materialists, such as Harris (1986), trace it to cultural ecology, while Simoons (1994) maintains a more symbolic explanation. Eating means taking substances into the body, crossing the barrier that exists between the outside and the inside of ourselves.

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas; digua or "ground squash" in northeastern China) and white or Irish potatoes (Solanum tuberosum; tudou or "soil beans" in northeastern China) came much later, via the Columbian Exchange from America (Crosby, 1972; Ho, 1955). Although Westerners tend to eat them as vegetables, sweet potatoes fill the role of fan in the Chinese diet, and they can be made into flour. They came to China through Manila by the end of the sixteenth century; a governor of Fujian province encouraged their cultivation for famine relief in 1594 (Anderson, 1988: 97).

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