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Sichuan and Spice
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14782272393_d2d91f4d35_bInteresting piece in Nautilus, Why Revolutionaries Love Spicy Food: How the chili pepper got to China. As you may know there isn’t any specific thing which is “Chinese food”, anymore there is “Indian food”, or “European food.”* The article focuses on the emergence of Sichuan cuisine, which unlike Cantonese food, took to the arrival of New World chili pepper in the past few hundred years and seamlessly integrated it into its armamentarium.

What was a total surprise for me is the fact that it seems possible that the population of modern Sichuan has only weak demographic connections to classical Sichuan, as instability in the 17th century resulted in a population crash to around ~1 million. Subsequent to this over 10 million Han Chinese from the regions directly to the east, Hunan and Hubei, migrated into the region, replenishing its population. This obviously has cultural and genetic implications…. (if this was common, as some have asserted, then the low between population differences between Han regions in terms of genetics makes a lot of sense)

* My mother thinks most Americans eat hamburgers and cookies.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Sichuan 
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23 Comments to "Sichuan and Spice"
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  1. It is generally asserted that the 17th century population replacement is the reason why Sichuan people speak Northern (or “Mandarin”) dialects, i.e. relatively close to the speech of Beijing and environs. I’ve often wondered if there are detectable substrates or relicts of pre-17th century Sichuan dialects in the region.

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  2. No true ‘mercan doesn’t eat hamburgers and cookies, so your mother is correct!

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  3. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    My Dental Practice confirms your mother’s hunches. Many American eat cookies.

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  4. “My mother thinks most Americans eat hamburgers and cookies.”

    Your mother is right. Most Americans do eat hamburgers and cookies. Most Americans also eat other things, but I’d guess that the percentages of Americans who eat hamburgers is on the order of 90% and that the percentage of Americans who eat cookies is similar.

    ;)

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  5. “* My mother thinks most Americans eat hamburgers and cookies.”

    Your mother forgot to add peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, pizzas, and french fries.

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  6. My mother thinks most Americans eat hamburgers and cookies.

    “White food… Hamburgers and ho-dogs”: https://youtu.be/z2lEKZR2Ohg?t=1m50s

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  7. I’m tempted to advance “bread” as “European food”. They have bread in China… technically. It’s not so common for Chinese people to eat it, except to the extent that you consider dumpling and bun wrappings “bread”. A question I received several times while I was there was “why do foreigners complain so much about our bread? Isn’t bread bread?”

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?

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    • Replies: @Jefferson
    "I’m tempted to advance “bread” as “European food”. They have bread in China… technically. It’s not so common for Chinese people to eat it, except to the extent that you consider dumpling and bun wrappings “bread”. A question I received several times while I was there was “why do foreigners complain so much about our bread? Isn’t bread bread?”

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?"

    Asian Mongoloids are not big consumers of milk and bread. But Asian Caucasoids like them. Jesus Christ loved to eat bread. If you use the extremely broad definition of Asian, than Bethlehem is part of Asia.

    , @Bao Jiankang
    Wheat was present in northern China before rice was. Bread is still more commonly eaten than rice in parts of rural northern China. (Globalization and modern supply chain allows to cities to have a more diverse cuisine.) Here is a common bread eaten in China. Despite it's similarities to other breads around the world I'm not aware that it is borrowed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bing_(bread)
  8. Well Zhang Xianzhong was particularly evil. The “Seven Kill Steele” story is famous, if perhaps exaggerated, but there’s no smoke without fire. The Qing writers report that after “liberation”, Chengdu was so deserted there were tigers roaming freely around the city.

    The post-Qing nationalist historians say that’s evil Manchu-talk, but yeah Sichuanese dialect is fairly close to Hubei dialect, and you can’t fake that. The Sichuanese really got slaughtered.

    There was a similar case in the Yuan-Ming transition, when north Hunan was depopulated, and had to be filled with immigrants from Jiangxi.

    I don’t recall any previous depopulation-refilling episodes, certainly not state-led as these two. People say the Post-Han civil wars, the Red Turbans and the 3 kingdoms were so bad that the whole population fell to 25 million or so, but I don’t recall any specific regional pattern to it.

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  9. @Michael Watts
    I'm tempted to advance "bread" as "European food". They have bread in China... technically. It's not so common for Chinese people to eat it, except to the extent that you consider dumpling and bun wrappings "bread". A question I received several times while I was there was "why do foreigners complain so much about our bread? Isn't bread bread?"

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?

    “I’m tempted to advance “bread” as “European food”. They have bread in China… technically. It’s not so common for Chinese people to eat it, except to the extent that you consider dumpling and bun wrappings “bread”. A question I received several times while I was there was “why do foreigners complain so much about our bread? Isn’t bread bread?”

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?”

    Asian Mongoloids are not big consumers of milk and bread. But Asian Caucasoids like them. Jesus Christ loved to eat bread. If you use the extremely broad definition of Asian, than Bethlehem is part of Asia.

    Read More
    • Replies: @granesperanzablanco
    Uighurs certainly enjoy their bread and bagels

    https://www.google.com/search?biw=1366&bih=657&noj=1&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=uyghur+bread&oq=uyghur+bread&gs_l=img.12..0j0i24.59393.61477.0.63032.9.9.0.0.0.0.78.617.9.9.0....0...1.1.64.img..0.6.423.rGY0BVlpXq0
    , @Michael Watts
    To what extent would you be willing to say that Asian whites in Syria have more "European culture" than Asian mongoloids farther east?
    , @Bill P

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?”

    Asian Mongoloids are not big consumers of milk and bread. But Asian Caucasoids like them. Jesus Christ loved to eat bread. If you use the extremely broad definition of Asian, than Bethlehem is part of Asia.
     
    Bread is essentially fermented food, like a lot of Chinese area dishes, such as fermented beans, baijiu, Mongol kumiss, kimchi etc. The thing is that you need high gluten wheat flour to make real bread, and the Chinese mostly eat rice. Northern Chinese grow wheat and eat a lot in the form of noodles and dumplings, but it isn't the staple crop of Chinese civilization just as neither rice nor corn took over in Europe over the last 500 years despite both being features of European cuisine today (e.g. polenta, risotto). Is it really surprising that Chinese never made much use of leavened bread given that Europeans still haven't really discovered hominy (corn processed with lye to make it more nutritious)?

    What happened is that instead of creating an economy based on wheat, the Chinese focused more on rice and beans. It makes sense there because of the monsoon climate that dominates the fertile regions of China. European and Middle Eastern civilization developed in a very different Mediterranean climate that favors wheat.

    But the tools - lactobacillus and yeast - were there all along, and the Chinese have used them extensively. Just not to make leavened bread.

    One thing I've noticed is that there's a noticeable east/west cline of these kinds of food. NE Europeans eat dumplings that are a lot like Chinese jiaozi and drink fermented milk (kefir) that is reminiscent of kumiss, while NW Chinese peoples eat leavened bread like bagels and drink wine made from vitis vinifera (although the Japanese should be credited with great advances in viticulture of vitis amurensis in Manchuria in the 1930s, which may represent an agricultural opportunity in East Asia). But when you go to the far ends of the Eurasian continent there's less in common.
  10. I knew the right answer was lurking in there somewhere

    When the chili pepper arrived, the Sichuanese plugged it seamlessly into their preexisting palate.


    They were already addicted to the buzz, in the way that Northern Europeans are or certainly were, a generation ago, to heaps of salt, in everything. Not proper food without it.

    The original Szechuan pepper seems to be a prehistoric Tibeto-Burman thing.
    I could pull a similar trick to the Chairman’s bullying prank mentioned in the article, and regale the Great Leader with a tranche of sloppy French cheese, say Chaource. Favourite food of the Communards, therefore imbued with revolutionary virtue … c’mon Mao old son, get it down yer neck. Here’s some buttermilk to wash it down.

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    • Replies: @utu
    So chilli peppers came as a cheaper substitute for Szechuan peppers? Was Szechuan food really spicy hot before Columbus?
  11. Mass migration, depopulation, repopulation were common theme in history, at least in China. After fall of Han (and Jin) dynasty, northern barbarian tribes took turn in their domination in northern China. There was depopulation in north. Han escaped to either south or actually into barbarian home land region which could be safer. Ancient version of invading world and inviting world. Hexi corridor was such place for Han seeking refugee place. Only after northern China became stabilized. These Han people were invited back to resettle in north by new emperors.

    Certainly there were sizable Han staying behind who sought self-protection by forming self-governing fortified farms protected by militia and lead by landlords.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Difference Maker
    There were noble military families that survived to the Tang in the Northeast as well. Hard to imagine
  12. @Jefferson
    "I’m tempted to advance “bread” as “European food”. They have bread in China… technically. It’s not so common for Chinese people to eat it, except to the extent that you consider dumpling and bun wrappings “bread”. A question I received several times while I was there was “why do foreigners complain so much about our bread? Isn’t bread bread?”

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?"

    Asian Mongoloids are not big consumers of milk and bread. But Asian Caucasoids like them. Jesus Christ loved to eat bread. If you use the extremely broad definition of Asian, than Bethlehem is part of Asia.

    Uighurs certainly enjoy their bread and bagels

    https://www.google.com/search?biw=1366&bih=657&noj=1&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=uyghur+bread&oq=uyghur+bread&gs_l=img.12..0j0i24.59393.61477.0.63032.9.9.0.0.0.0.78.617.9.9.0….0…1.1.64.img..0.6.423.rGY0BVlpXq0

    Read More
  13. @Jefferson
    "I’m tempted to advance “bread” as “European food”. They have bread in China… technically. It’s not so common for Chinese people to eat it, except to the extent that you consider dumpling and bun wrappings “bread”. A question I received several times while I was there was “why do foreigners complain so much about our bread? Isn’t bread bread?”

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?"

    Asian Mongoloids are not big consumers of milk and bread. But Asian Caucasoids like them. Jesus Christ loved to eat bread. If you use the extremely broad definition of Asian, than Bethlehem is part of Asia.

    To what extent would you be willing to say that Asian whites in Syria have more “European culture” than Asian mongoloids farther east?

    Read More
  14. @Expletive Deleted
    I knew the right answer was lurking in there somewhere

    When the chili pepper arrived, the Sichuanese plugged it seamlessly into their preexisting palate.

     
    They were already addicted to the buzz, in the way that Northern Europeans are or certainly were, a generation ago, to heaps of salt, in everything. Not proper food without it.

    The original Szechuan pepper seems to be a prehistoric Tibeto-Burman thing.
    I could pull a similar trick to the Chairman's bullying prank mentioned in the article, and regale the Great Leader with a tranche of sloppy French cheese, say Chaource. Favourite food of the Communards, therefore imbued with revolutionary virtue ... c'mon Mao old son, get it down yer neck. Here's some buttermilk to wash it down.

    So chilli peppers came as a cheaper substitute for Szechuan peppers? Was Szechuan food really spicy hot before Columbus?

    Read More
  15. @Jefferson
    "I’m tempted to advance “bread” as “European food”. They have bread in China… technically. It’s not so common for Chinese people to eat it, except to the extent that you consider dumpling and bun wrappings “bread”. A question I received several times while I was there was “why do foreigners complain so much about our bread? Isn’t bread bread?”

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?"

    Asian Mongoloids are not big consumers of milk and bread. But Asian Caucasoids like them. Jesus Christ loved to eat bread. If you use the extremely broad definition of Asian, than Bethlehem is part of Asia.

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?”

    Asian Mongoloids are not big consumers of milk and bread. But Asian Caucasoids like them. Jesus Christ loved to eat bread. If you use the extremely broad definition of Asian, than Bethlehem is part of Asia.

    Bread is essentially fermented food, like a lot of Chinese area dishes, such as fermented beans, baijiu, Mongol kumiss, kimchi etc. The thing is that you need high gluten wheat flour to make real bread, and the Chinese mostly eat rice. Northern Chinese grow wheat and eat a lot in the form of noodles and dumplings, but it isn’t the staple crop of Chinese civilization just as neither rice nor corn took over in Europe over the last 500 years despite both being features of European cuisine today (e.g. polenta, risotto). Is it really surprising that Chinese never made much use of leavened bread given that Europeans still haven’t really discovered hominy (corn processed with lye to make it more nutritious)?

    What happened is that instead of creating an economy based on wheat, the Chinese focused more on rice and beans. It makes sense there because of the monsoon climate that dominates the fertile regions of China. European and Middle Eastern civilization developed in a very different Mediterranean climate that favors wheat.

    But the tools – lactobacillus and yeast – were there all along, and the Chinese have used them extensively. Just not to make leavened bread.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that there’s a noticeable east/west cline of these kinds of food. NE Europeans eat dumplings that are a lot like Chinese jiaozi and drink fermented milk (kefir) that is reminiscent of kumiss, while NW Chinese peoples eat leavened bread like bagels and drink wine made from vitis vinifera (although the Japanese should be credited with great advances in viticulture of vitis amurensis in Manchuria in the 1930s, which may represent an agricultural opportunity in East Asia). But when you go to the far ends of the Eurasian continent there’s less in common.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Shaikorth
    The main theory is that kefir is of North Caucasian origin which would make it a southern import to Russia. An interesting question is how widespread was Near Eastern use of fermented milk before Turkic invasions.
  16. @Bill P

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?”

    Asian Mongoloids are not big consumers of milk and bread. But Asian Caucasoids like them. Jesus Christ loved to eat bread. If you use the extremely broad definition of Asian, than Bethlehem is part of Asia.
     
    Bread is essentially fermented food, like a lot of Chinese area dishes, such as fermented beans, baijiu, Mongol kumiss, kimchi etc. The thing is that you need high gluten wheat flour to make real bread, and the Chinese mostly eat rice. Northern Chinese grow wheat and eat a lot in the form of noodles and dumplings, but it isn't the staple crop of Chinese civilization just as neither rice nor corn took over in Europe over the last 500 years despite both being features of European cuisine today (e.g. polenta, risotto). Is it really surprising that Chinese never made much use of leavened bread given that Europeans still haven't really discovered hominy (corn processed with lye to make it more nutritious)?

    What happened is that instead of creating an economy based on wheat, the Chinese focused more on rice and beans. It makes sense there because of the monsoon climate that dominates the fertile regions of China. European and Middle Eastern civilization developed in a very different Mediterranean climate that favors wheat.

    But the tools - lactobacillus and yeast - were there all along, and the Chinese have used them extensively. Just not to make leavened bread.

    One thing I've noticed is that there's a noticeable east/west cline of these kinds of food. NE Europeans eat dumplings that are a lot like Chinese jiaozi and drink fermented milk (kefir) that is reminiscent of kumiss, while NW Chinese peoples eat leavened bread like bagels and drink wine made from vitis vinifera (although the Japanese should be credited with great advances in viticulture of vitis amurensis in Manchuria in the 1930s, which may represent an agricultural opportunity in East Asia). But when you go to the far ends of the Eurasian continent there's less in common.

    The main theory is that kefir is of North Caucasian origin which would make it a southern import to Russia. An interesting question is how widespread was Near Eastern use of fermented milk before Turkic invasions.

    Read More
  17. An Afghan restaurant opened a few years ago a few blocks from my workplace. They have on their menu, an “Afghan Burger”, a traditional American style burger, but the meat is spiced with the traditional spices used in Afghan cooking. Many of the people I work with are addicted to the Afghan burgers. I am too, they are awesomely delicious!

    Read More
  18. @Michael Watts
    I'm tempted to advance "bread" as "European food". They have bread in China... technically. It's not so common for Chinese people to eat it, except to the extent that you consider dumpling and bun wrappings "bread". A question I received several times while I was there was "why do foreigners complain so much about our bread? Isn't bread bread?"

    How strong a signal of European culture is consumption of bread (loaf bread)?

    Wheat was present in northern China before rice was. Bread is still more commonly eaten than rice in parts of rural northern China. (Globalization and modern supply chain allows to cities to have a more diverse cuisine.) Here is a common bread eaten in China. Despite it’s similarities to other breads around the world I’m not aware that it is borrowed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bing_(bread)

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie
    I love that with seafood inside, usually squid.
  19. @Bao Jiankang
    Wheat was present in northern China before rice was. Bread is still more commonly eaten than rice in parts of rural northern China. (Globalization and modern supply chain allows to cities to have a more diverse cuisine.) Here is a common bread eaten in China. Despite it's similarities to other breads around the world I'm not aware that it is borrowed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bing_(bread)

    I love that with seafood inside, usually squid.

    Read More
  20. @AG
    Mass migration, depopulation, repopulation were common theme in history, at least in China. After fall of Han (and Jin) dynasty, northern barbarian tribes took turn in their domination in northern China. There was depopulation in north. Han escaped to either south or actually into barbarian home land region which could be safer. Ancient version of invading world and inviting world. Hexi corridor was such place for Han seeking refugee place. Only after northern China became stabilized. These Han people were invited back to resettle in north by new emperors.

    Certainly there were sizable Han staying behind who sought self-protection by forming self-governing fortified farms protected by militia and lead by landlords.

    There were noble military families that survived to the Tang in the Northeast as well. Hard to imagine

    Read More
  21. There seems to be a general impression amongst westerners that Chinese do not eat bread because of their understanding of the Chinese peopļe they meet, i.e., Chinese origin people, who primarily originate from Guangdong province and adjoining areas which are rice eating areas. The majority of northern Chinese consume wheat noodles and bread.

    Read More

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