Addition: If you don’t apply #11, all may be lost–except weight, that is.
My month in China revealed to me a new weight loss plan. Yes, there are already too many diets out there, but hey, summer’s coming and we’re always hoping something new will make the difference this time. Also, I know there’s already a Chopsticks Diet. But that plan is Japanese and mine’s Chinese.
Here are the rules, based on eating at streetside cafes in Sichuan, China. Remember, in China, it’s family style all the way. (You’re on your own adapting the plan for home.)
THE AMERICAN IN CHINA DIET
1. Chopsticks are the only utensil you may use for eating, no matter how inept you are. In fact, the more likely you are to make a fool of yourself, the better. That in itself is an appetite inhibitor. No stabbing of food is allowed. The only exception to this chopsticks-only rule is that you may use a spoon for soup broth if a spoon is offered without your asking, and looking pitiful is not allowed. Also, there are no finger foods in this diet–chopsticks all the way. (Survival tip: Cheap wooden chopsticks have better friction than fancy plastic or ivory-looking ones.)
2. Eat from whatever you want that is put in front of you. But don’t pig out on just one thing; remember all the dishes are for everyone. Be polite.
3. From the meat dishes, choose the pieces that aren’t mostly fat. Don’t worry, that’s not rude. Most of the Chinese friends at the table love the fat pieces.
4. If you have any say in what’s ordered at a restaurant, put in a request for vegetables. Even if they’re cooked in more oil than you’d normally use, they’re good for you and tasty. I loved the stir-fried greens.
5. There’s no clean-plate prize. You don’t have to eat all the rice that’s in the bowl at your place. But if you do, it’s no big deal. You don’t have to eat every bite of every dish you try. But if you do, it’s no big deal.
6. Now, here’s a biggie. It goes against everything I’d tell you in any other cross-cultural situation. In this plan, you must hold onto every bit of American table manners you’ve learned. Do not adapt to Chinese table manners. Do not hold your rice bowl up to your mouth and slide the last bit of rice in with the side of your chopsticks. Do not hunch down with your chin practically in your bowl. Do not slurp up your noodles. If you don’t adapt to those Chinese styles, you’ll have to slow down to eat really carefully to keep from dropping rice and slippery potstickers and greasy sauce onto your shirt. The only exception to this anti-cultural rule is with a bowl of soup: After you’ve used your chopsticks to eat all the pieces, and if no spoon is offered for the broth, you may pick up the bowl and drink the broth.
7. Especially in Sichuan, go for the dishes that are at least one notch spicier than your comfort zone. This will numb your taste buds, which decreases appetite.
8. If food is offered that you’ve never eaten before, you must try it. That includes, but is not limited to: pig snout, deer tendons, cross-sections of octopus arms, fungus water. . . .
9. Here’s another biggie. When everyone else is finished eating, you’re done too. Put down those chopsticks, no matter how much you want more. If you’re still hungry, stop at the market on your way back to your hotel and pick up some fruit. You are not required to use chopsticks when you’re eating your fruit.
10. If you’re a tourist, I probably don’t need to add this, but I will anyway. Walk. Walk. Walk.
11. Eat Chinese meals. Do not set foot into an import shop, where you’ll find too many of the things that tempt you most. I don’t even dare name them.
So, to summarize the most important points:
- Use chopsticks only.
- Retain American table manners.
- Stop when everyone else is finished.
- Walk. Walk. Walk.
- Eat Chinese food.
* * * * *
Before you ask, yes I did follow this plan even before I identified it as a plan. And yes, I did drop some pounds. (Thanks for noticing, Char.)
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