To know a culture it helps to understand the food that nourishes the local people. To that end, we decided to take a cooking class in Shanghai. Cherry was our fearless leader (www.cookinshanghai.com) who took our group including Thom and James with a couple from California and a gal from Ireland, to the local wet market and then to a local apartment to cook our meal. Allowed to have some input into the meal we wanted to create, we chose our favorite dishes: scallion pancakes, dumplings and spring rolls.
After a short walk from the subway entrance where we all met up, we walked to the local wet market. This is not a local grocery but more like an indoor farmer’s market with absolutely no health/safety standards, where you can primarily buy produce and meat/fish from stalls. Very locally priced, it was fascinating to watch Cherry pull up the picture of the produce we were looking at on her handy iPad and learn fun facts like how eating bamboo helps offset the bad effects of eating meat or this veggie can help you lose weight or have better skin complexion. Eating dates can help with dizziness–who knew??? Every food in Chinese culture has a health benefit. Finally emerging from the overwhelming smells of the fish market, I gulped fresh air like it was my last breath.
Waiting for the elevator with a local resident in his pj’s eyeing us like WTF are you doing here, we went up to the fifth floor to the apartment where we would cook our feast. Surprisingly large, Cherry explained that they had created a much bigger kitchen than normal just for their business. Before starting our cooking journey, we, of course, had to take time to get to know each other and drink tea. Cherry taught us the healing properties of the different types of teas–White Tea to heal the stomach, Red Tea to cure “cold bones” and lose weight, etc. While our chef began prepping for us, we chatted and learned that the one couple from California were an aeronautical engineer and a soon-to-be Berkley law student on China vacation. The Irish gal had taken a 9 month leave of absence from her job to travel the world with her boyfriend. They were or had been to in addition to China: India, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand and the US. WOW! I am jealous. Ahhh…to be young and have no responsibilities!
James started out as bored and disinterested but as he mixed, rolled, flipped and ate, ate, ate, he started to have as much fun as a 21 year old boy can have with his parents. As the only local residents with a refrigerator, we got all the leftovers so that made him even happier. Unable to taste anything myself due to my weak stomach, it all looked very good and easy to replicate at home. Made of very basic ingredients, we look forward to cooking more at home. Maybe I can even encourage James to use his new skills and cook for his parents…dreams can happen!