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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

Illustration Chopsticks and bowl


[Illustration:

A Chinese dinner party.]

Rice and soup are brought on to the table in large vessels from which individual saucers are filled. Other dishes are partaken of by all present directly from the common bowl.

It is considered a token of hospitality on the part of the host or friendliness on the part of an acquaintance to take an especially choice piece of meat or vegetable from the bowl and to place it on the plate or in the mouth of a fellow diner.

The two chopsticks are both held in the right instead of separately in each hand as ordinarily believed. They are maintained by the thumb and ring finger and manipulated by the index and middle fingers. One stick remains motionless, the other is so manoeuvred as to entrap with ease a morsel of meat or even the smallest grain of rice.

The sticks (square at the top and round for the rest of their length) are made of bamboo or more precious woods, ivory or silver. On the upper portions, poems and pictures are often engraved.

Spoons are used for liquids.

[Illustration: Chopsticks and bowl.]

An ordinary meal among the middle classes consists of eight dishes--two vegetables, eggs, fish, shell fish, bird and two meats (pork and goat; or, in some parts of the north, mutton and beef).

justify;">With this will be served a large tureen of soup with rice, the latter taking the place of bread.

When eating rice, the bowl is raised by the left hand to a close proximity to the mouth and the rice is rather scooped than picked up.

The importance which is attached to rice as a life-sustaining article may be judged from the exclamation of a Chinese sailor when he was informed that it was held in but secondary repute in America. Throwing up both hands with an expression in which were combined horror and pity, he cried: "Oh, the sterile region of barbarians which produces not the necessaries of life; strange that the inhabitants have not long ago died of hunger!"

Two good meals a day, the customary number, and a light luncheon, will in the average native home represent the expenditure of about ten cents in American money.

Wine is served only on special occasions.

The hotels in the large cities are distinguished by titles as in this country, though the Chinese proprietor gives freer rein to his imagination, choosing such titles as "Cum Lee" (Golden Profits), "Cut Shing" (Rank Conferring Hotel), the "Cut Sing" (Fortunate Star), etc. They are often comparatively tall structures and are usually clustered together in one quarter of the town.

[Illustration: A Chinese distillery.]

The ground floor of the ordinary hotel is reserved for the proprietor's apartments and the kitchen. The first floor contains one public and several private dining-rooms; and the second and upper floors are divided into sleeping apartments--the partitions of which are so thin that even a whispered conversation is intelligible to a party in the adjoining room.

There is not much comfort to be obtained in the villages, and the accommodations are worse in the south and central districts than in the north and Mongolia.

The country caravansary is built in the form of a quadrangle with the walls, in the North, of mud or clay.


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