Beijing, Winter '23, Day 6 - Home with food

Published by Bill Glover on

This post is part of the Beijing Winter 2023 series.

We gave ourselves another rest day today. My eldest has spent a bit of time on homework and writing his own travel journal. Our youngest has been learning to pull himself up into a standing position. I tackled life admin; taxes, school registration, and a clear out of our family calendar for next year. 2024 sees several changes to family routine and we are taking whatever time we can to get ahead of things.

Something I haven’t written much about is food. My history with eating food in China has been overwhelmingly positive. In the early days, it took me a while to get used to some of the textures. I came to love tofu when visiting Hong Kong. There was the pumpkin full of chicken joints in Hangzhou. The 煎饼 (pan-fried cake) in Beijing. I’ll never forget my food tour in Guangzhou where I found myself enjoying a box of fish skin. There were a couple of years when it seemed every dish came covered in grilled cheese. As someone who never orders seafood, I found myself ordering crab ravioli in Shanghai. I then went back to order it again on my next visit. China, and the people I’ve met here, has broadened my culinary awareness in ways I didn’t expect.

Wonton in beef broth for breakfast.

Wonton in beef broth for breakfast.

I could go on, but back to today. What does a typical breakfast look like? If, like me, you grew up on a diet of cereal or toast, the thought of wonton, noodles or rice for breakfast may seem wrong. I can assure you, it is oh so right. If mornings weren’t such a frantic rush at home, this would become my breakfast of choice.

枣馒头 - steamed date buns

枣馒头 - steamed date buns

One very happy young boy.

One very happy young boy.

Traveling with a toddler who is transitioning to solids can be a nightmare. Things they liked yesterday are things that end up on the floor today. Each meal presents different challenges. Eating in restaurants is an exhausting exercise in patience. We carry a couple of pouches of pureed fruit and vegetables with us for emergencies. We’ve been incredibly fortunate that we’e never had to use them and both of our boys have taken to food here. Our youngest refuses to be a fed with a spoon, but hold something up with a pair of chopsticks and he’ll devour it.

Another supermarket offering child sized trolleys.

Another supermarket offering child sized trolleys.

We were back in the supermarket again today, if only so that we can get out of the house for a bit. The supermarkets I remember as a child are still there today, serving the same parts of town. Here, it feels like the supermarkets have changed every time we’ve come back. We’ve seen familiar Western brands come and go. Often replace with local competitors offering a greater variety and offering it cheaper.

I’ve always loved wandering around supermarkets while traveling. There is so much more to see than the inevitable foods that you don’t have back home. Product placement tells you a lot about local diet and how people shop. There are the moments of delight when you find a familiar brand, and then shock when you see the price. My eldest, he walks up to the array of fish tanks and says, “I’ve eaten this one!”

I’ve been told-off for taking photos in the supermarket on more than one occasion. So instead so I’ll leave you with two photos from the cold walk home.

Bikes parked outside the exit of a subway station.

Bikes parked outside the exit of a subway station.

A new building has sprung up on land once owned by the local utility company.

A new building has sprung up on land once owned by the local utility company.