Friday, October 7, 2011

Wet Market

One of the English words I learned shortly after moving to Beijing was "wet market." Perhaps that in some foggy memory cell this word had been stored, but when people mentioned the "wet market" to me I wondered if I had to bring scuba gear. I guess that happens when you grow up in a land with supermarkets.

Turns out "wet" just refers to the fact that lots of animals and other products are still very fresh at these markets. "Fresh," as in "still alive," and thus wet (if you are a fish or a crab).

On my recent birthday, the one where I turned 21 again, my friend Meike and I went to a cooking class, which was tied to a visit to a local wet market. I loved this market. It's just amazing to watch all this beautiful food. Some of it is pretty strange for our appetites - pig feet anyone? Cow stomach? - but the more I see these things, the more I start appreciating them. (From a distance though, mind you. Not yet on my plate.)

(OK friends, a small admission: I have long ceased to be a vegetarian, and while I still don't eat much meat and do not like how the consumption of animals hurts ecosystems and endangers species, I do quite enjoy seeing those markets and seeing food presented and purchased in such an honest way.)

After this moral interlude, here are some pictures. See for yourself if you can "stomach" one of these markets...

Meat extravaganza. It's almost a puzzle game to try to match each shape with an animal...

Any kind of vinegar, oil, or spice you would like. (Well, Chinese only.)

More noodles than the eye can see.

Beautiful garlic. (I think!)

Colorful display of fruit and veggies. Most if not all of Beijing's wet markets are inside now. It's better for hygiene and also more comfortable shopping during the cold winters. Inside a huge space lots of small businessmen rent a stall to display their goods.

Animal feet.

Ground beef or pig feet - your choice.

More meat on display. Admittedly I got a bit carried away with the pictures here. I guess the omnivore in me was catching up.

I thought these were a bunch of old rags sitting in dirty water. Turns out they are stomach. I am not sure how to prepare stomach.

Kidneys or liver? Check your biology book.

Chunyi Zhou, with whom Meike and I did the cooking class. Here she shares some background information on soy sauces and vinegars for Chinese cooking. For more information about Chunyi's great cooking classes, see

The pretty courty yard in the Li Shi hutong where Chunyi holds her cooking classes.

The kitchen. About a million times cleaner than the average restaurant kitchen in Beijing, if you ask me.

Shanxi vinegar. One of the best to buy.

Everything is cooked with the wok.

In het nederlands: Voor mijn verjaardag - al begin september - gingen een vriendin en ik op Chinese kookles en naar een lokale "wet market", een markt voor verse groentes, fruit, vlees en vis. Sommige produkten ken ik niet en soms als ik ze herken (varkenspoten, koeienmaag) heb ik weinig interesse om ze te eten, maar het bezoek aan zo'n markt is wel echt een belevenis. Na de markt gingen we naar de kookschool van Chunyi Zhou om Chinees te leren koken.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beijing Meteorologists

Recently I already reported on the weather forecasting magic that happens in Beijing (see this blog post). A few quotes from the boys this week just cracked me up (in a sad way) about the pollution in this place.

Simon: "Ah, I can see it is a field day, we can play outside today!"
(After seeing blue sky in the morning).

Thomas: "Let's go see if it rained. If it rained, it is going to be a nice day."
(When opening the curtains in the morning. If it rains, the pollution is washed away.)

We see how clear it is on the way to the bus stop. (If you look carefully, you can see Simon park his bike, just behind the tree.)

Amazing sky above the bus stop. If you see clouds (instead of a haze) you know it is going to be a great, great day.

School bus and blue sky.

Beijing meteorologists on the bus.

In het nederlands: Er is toch veel vervuiling in Beijing. Het is niet altijd even erg en er zijn veel mooie dagen, maar het feit dat je kinderen erover nadenken of ze wel of niet buiten mogen spelen op school - iets wat niks met regen maar alles met vervuiling te maken heeft - geeft toch te denken.

An Na & Li Na

Last Sunday, I watched as China's tennis star Li Na loses her match against Monica Niculescu and is forced to leave the China Open.

It was a sad moment for tennis in China. Li Na had only recently won the French Open and was placed 5th in the world rankings. She had been much celebrated as the first Chinese and the first Asian to "reach the summit of the Grand Slam" and all spectators (including myself) had very high hopes for her performance in her very own China.

It was a quick game, and after a 6-4 and 6-0 loss in sets, Li Na was ousted from the China Open. I was a bit sad, but the boys were happy to get up and walk around the stadium again. No real hardship for them.

On the photo above you can see Li Na and me in better days, at the beginning of the match. (Use your magnifying glass to spot Li Na on the far side of the field in pink skirt and white top.)

Tennis practice outside at the China Open in Beijing. I am sure these guys are famous, but I have no idea who they are.

Future star in the China Open? At least he got a free tennis ball out of the event.

Two Li Na fans discussing tactics.

Thomas and a friend enjoy the many other activities on the grounds of the China Open.

In het nederlands: Afgelopen zondag was ik erbij toen China's nationale tennistrots dramatisch ten onder ging voor eigen publiek bij de China Open in Beijing. Het was treurig om te zien en wat een leuke wedstrijd had kunnen zijn veranderde in een afslachting van Li Na door Monica Niculescu. Ik las in dit NOS artikel dat ze haar excuses aan me heeft aangeboden...