Saturday, February 04, 2006

Happy Human Day

The 7th Day of the New Year on the lunar calendar is "Human Day" or ren ri.

I am vaguely remembering that it is the day humans are created or something because today is the birthday of humans (ren de sheng ri). Does anybody know any differently? Please correct me.

On this day, we have to eat a dish of 7 vegetables. Yes, that's 7 vegetables cooked as a mixed veggie dish.

What does that reveal about the asian society and culture?

1. Plant diversity is very high.
The diversity of vegetables and edible food plants must be so high that it was easily accessible to the peasants and commonfolks of China and possibly east and southeast asia.

2. Food diversity is very high.
Not only were the variety of vegetables in great diverse amounts, it also shows that they were consuming a great diversity of plants and domesticating, planting these food crops that we might not be consuming today. If you go to your kitchen right now and look in your refrigerator, how many different types of vegetables can you find? Or even anything green?! Green eggs not counted. Honestly, seven is a lot. But it must not even be a lot if it's supposed to be a comfortable number for them to handle back then. Perhaps there are vegetables that they were consuming then that we have now lost. In the village in Thailand, I observed so much more food diversity in terms of the type of plants they consume that I was amazed at where they even think of eating these things!

3. Cash crops are taking over the world.
If we city folks are thinking "wow 7 vegetables in one is a lot... who would have think of that", that's because the commercialized cash crops are taking over our world. It is wiping out food diversity and local knowledge, knowledge of our ancestors in terms of giving variety in our diet. Why is variety important? On an anthropocentric level, it provides diversity of nutrients for our body that a single diet of wheat will not. On an ecocentric level, having food diversity means that there needs to be crop diversity - no monoculture. Subsistence farmers plant perhaps 10 crops in the same area of land as compared to the 1 crop by a monoculturist. This ensures that the soil nutrient doesnt get depleted. Also, it ensures the survival and continued existence of 10 different species of plants as opposed to the 1 cash crop which most of the time, we CANNOT eat. Can you imagine eating oil palm?

Even then, what's up with brocolli?! Do you know about more than 5 of the vegetables we eat regularly and can easily find in our supermarket are all really just the yellow mustard plant that has been bred selectively to become different "vegetables" but they are all just the mustard plant, ONLY! If you think you are eating different types of vegetables when you eat brocolli, cabbage, etc... no really... it's just one plant. NO DIVERSITY!

4. Neo-colonialists are amongst us.
Who owns these monocultures? Big corporations.
Who wipe out the subsitence farmer and introduce the limited variety of vegetables and food in our markets? Big corporations.
Where are big corporations from? The west.
Ok this is a really simplified way of looking at this but if you think about it hard enough, the west are dominating our food supply even if the farmers are in the east or south. Globalization of food supply is wiping out local subsistency. We know Singapore cannot support our own food supply because we are small but what about big agricultural countries like Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia. Why can't they support their own population's food demands despite being an agricultural country? Because they only grow cash crop that is being exported out of the country for foreign exchange. So people remain poor, hungry and forced to eat whatever the neo-colonialists dominate our market with. Why do you think US has a whole entire region called the "corn belt". Because whole entire states are just growing monocultures of corn and wheat and dumped on countries that do not otherwise subsist on those things. Where do u think your cornflakes come from?

5. Our ancestors have very bad taste in food.
Do you know how icky 7 vegetables mishmash together in one bowl taste like?! Pfft! They couldn't even have the decency to cook them seperately... or maybe it's just my dad. hehehe

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