“Living the local life”
After skillfull negotiations Pia, our interpreter, got me permission to spend some time in the local hotel kitchen. It has been a while since I have “felt the heat of the kitchen”. This is such a special place to me, a sanctuary and a place that only the dedicated long for, but why? I am still searching for the answer, all that I can offer as an appetiser to that is, a need that space. The space that I had just walked into was the real thing.
Hot, filled with coal smoke soiled uniformed figures buzzing around furnaces bellowing flames from dinosaur stoves of the industry. The extraction unit was hanging from the roof caked with soot, entwined in a web of crusty old electrical wires supporting open light bulbs lurking like spiders ready to pounce.
At the heart of this was a team of really skilled chefs, all going about their duties in noisy buzz, lunch pressure was on, and they were “cooking”, food was being churned out, and from this really uninspiring kitchen, art was being created, the smells were mouthwatering the presentation was sculptured out of nothing. There was a majestic flow, if only I could speak better Chinese; it would have been a real learning experience. This proved one thing, no mater what you cook, as long as the ingredients are fresh and of good quality, anything is possible.
Now it was off to the market to see where it all started.
This was a real buzz. Veggies, whatever you can dream of, all fresh in the local farmer’s barrows, live fish in baths and yes, and then the live stock. All live samples on display and behind it a very explicit display of how to dissect the fowl or beast down to its last useable organ. Intriguing to say the least, freshness no complaints.
Then there is the deli section, this is where the town folk have small carts with a table next to it and you can try a variety of local fare, great may I add. The Chinese donuts really caught my eye and I managed to get a lesson in the art of cooking it. Then, to the great amusement of the market, proceeded to show then how I could mess it up in 3 easy moves. By popular request and under strict guidance of the elderly lady who owned the store, I was allowed a second chance. This time my skills surpassed expectation and it was a masterpiece, I was even told that if I ever visited again I would have permission to make one for her daughter.
Hans the camera man and the Doc had brought along their musical gear to the market so we decided to liven it up a bit. Sitting at a table they began to play. The market got quieter and quieter, curiously the people started to gather, I have found the Chinese to be very reserved and not as expressive as us, slowly I was proved wrong. As the group grew so did the clapping and the smiles enveloped the face of the onlookers. It was as if the music had got everyone forget about their toils of the day and the hardships of the market, totally entranced by the joyous Austrian music. A couple began to dance, the crowd had now swollen to well over a hundred clapping and chanting, I moved back from the crowd, looking at the sheer joy and excitement that we had brought to the village, something so simple can let you forget about the world around you. All their worries seemingly evaporated and transformed in hundreds of smiles and joyous clapping. We are really sowing miles of smiles across China.