The Importance Of Cooking In The Chinese Household

Cooking has always been an extremely important part of the Chinese culture. One of the duties of a good housewife is to appreciate the importance of cooking and its close relation to domestic happiness. This opinion prevailed even in the days of Confucius. We learn from the Classics that Confucius was particularly fastidious as regards food for we are told that:

1. He refused to partake of wine and dried meat bought in the market.

2. He refused to eat meat, which was not cut properly, nor what was served without the correct sauce.

3. He refused to eat anything badly cooked or not in season.

4. He liked his rice polished white and his meat minced finely.

Had there been such conveniences as are now available – the equipment of a modern kitchen – and had there been properly conducted schools of cookery where the necessary knowledge might be acquired, Chinese housewives in ancient times would have been able to maintain satisfactorily a high standard of culinary art in their households.

The modern housewife is more fortunately situated. She can employ a good cook and supervise his work, thus doing away with the necessity of purchasing food from outside herself. She can procure a mincing machine to mince meat to any desired fineness; she can buy perfectly white machine-milled rice and she can easily procure any sauce to suit any taste thanks to the skill and experience of modern organizations. In fact she has everything in her flavor these days; all she has to do is to learn how to cook.

One would expect then that there should be less friction in modern households. Unfortunately this is not so. Perhaps it is that Confucius, being wise, was exacting only in the matter of food, while modern husbands are fastidious and troublesome in other directions as well. However, experience tells us that, by eliminating one cause of domestic disturbance – the food question – the modern housewife has gone far towards securing domestic peace.

"Good appetite brings happiness" is an old saying worthy of the housewife’s attention. To stimulate the appetite is the one object of our culinary art, the knowledge of which enables the housewife to produce dishes so deliciously flavored and so attractively served, that they would tempt even the most fastidious husband. The same knowledge will also help her to bring the changes in the diet, which, like a change of air, can only be beneficial to the appetite and health.

To the conscientious housewife then, who is solicitous of domestic peace and happiness, the science and art of cooking should have a definite appeal. The servant problem fortunately is not so acute in this country; so the housewife, once she has acquired proficiency in the art of cooking, needs to have less uneasiness of mind in regard to the menial work of the kitchen. Her part will merely consist of direction and supervision, if necessary. The Chinese say, with truth, that just as those who live near water know the nature of fishes, and those near mountains learn the melody of birds, so those who remain close to the kitchen acquire the knowledge of good food.

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