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Memories of Ancestor Tables

by Rongguang Zhao

Personal Perspectives

Winter Volume: 2010 Issue: 17(4) page(s): 22

In the last few years of the Qing Dynasty there was a European scholar who, while doing in-depth research about cultural relics and remembrances in China, said: This is the greatest country with many cultural relics, but they show or have little concern about protecting them.

Since 1911, Chinese cultural heritage has not paid adequate attention to things food-related. Was this due to the countries many natural disasters? After 1949, neither state policies nor people's consciousness due to the 'Smash the Four Olds' of the Cultural Revolution helped maintain these memories. As a great civilization with a background of five thousand-plus years of literary and culinary history, there should be sorrow about the loss of so much of China's cultural culinary heritage along with concern for this heritage of China's phenomenal food and dietary history.

With newer reforms and greater open policies now, food production and eating habits have changed enormously. They have improved farm to market, kitchen to table, and producer to consumer. Behaviors, customs, and conceptions of people's dietary are continuously changing, and doing so rapidly. Are these changes threatening the country's culinary heritage? Have they had a serious impact on the tables of everyone's ancestors?

Attention all food and dietetic experts, researchers, food companies, and all who consume food, and that means all of us. In the name of: Keeping Memories of Our Ancestor tables alive, there are a half dozen things we can and must do. They are:

Organize experts, scholars, and those in food production, manufacture, and distribution to update and correct, as necessary, all dietary heritage found in archeological records.

Carry out scientific means of identifying and recording every national, regional, and ethnic minority cultural dietary heritage.

Promote individuals, departments, and programs to implement policies and regulations to maintain every group's cultural dietary heritage.

Make concerted efforts to develop systems that record, promote, and protect every cultural dietary heritage.

Establish a non-governmental agency that can and will work with other national and international organizations to influence the greater society to record everyone's ancestors tables keeping newer ones and updating older ones.

Share this collected information as widely as possible to enable greater understanding of China's and every country's cultural dietary heritage.
Zhao Rongguang is a professor in the Chinese Dietary Culture Institute at Zhejiang Gongshang University in Hangzhou, China. He has deep understandings of culinary heritage and his country's and every country's need to preserve this important aspect of life.

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