A Bite of China': snack or real substance? Illustration: Sun Ying By Wallace Xu A Bite of China is an outstanding work, which took eff...
A Bite of China': snack or real substance?
Illustration: Sun Ying
By Wallace Xu
A Bite of China is an outstanding work, which took effort and time to produce. But the success of the documentary is more attributable to its theme than its skills.
When I was in college, I was poor and hungry, and one of my favorite things was to lie in my bunk and talk about the dishes that I longed for with my roommates. One of their remarks stuck with me, "No matter how you cook beef, it always tastes good."
A Bite of China is like a taste of beef after a diet of noodles. After enduring poorly produced TV products, Chinese audiences are desperate for anything meaty. The cheaply and quickly made telenovelas that glut the screens have caused many viewers to suspend their judgment.
The food in the documentary was the attraction for viewers, but the producers did not explore deeply enough into the stories behind them.
The delicious dishes of China are countless so the bites the documentary takes are rather quick and large. As one person commented online, "China is too large and it has too many dishes, so that the director had to switch from one to another at speed." A local newspaper in Chongqing complained that the famous local hotspot was discussed for less than two minutes.
Undoubtedly the shooting and editing techniques were of high quality, but great TV shows are supposed to be innovative. The story-telling logic was rather plain, a simple showing of the cooking and eating of the dish followed by a panoramic shot of the landscape it came from, especially when compared with the imaginative cooking methods.
And the show could have been a better work if it has avoided some little flaws like the chromatic abbreviation caused by different cameras.
A good dish is supposed to have multiple tiers of taste, so does a documentary. But the only flavor here was sugary. The combination of people's big smile, colorful pictures in the sunshine, and the brisk music made the documentary more like a promotional campaign. Poisoned cabbage, gutter oil, and toxic ham were all ignored.
We are proud of our history, but we should worry about practical problems. And the state of food in China today can never be simply a sweet story.
The author is a TV producer based in Jiangsu Province. email@example.com
Devotion to food culture is heart of national tradition
By Jiang Chu
A Bite of China is the first domestic documentary I have ever watched seriously.
If you want to see gorgeous food, you may feel disappointed. In the documentary, there is none of the supposedly delicious food that we can only see in top restaurants.
Instead you see natural food, normal food, related stories and the people behind food. For me, a food addict, the documentary is far more than my expectation.
At the same time last year, I was studying in UK. If you ask me what is a bite of the UK, I am afraid I can just come up with one answer, that is fish and chips. Maybe you will correct me, saying the UK still has roast beef, cottage pie, Yorkshire pudding and Cornish pasties. But overall, I feel British food is rather monotonous.
During the time I studied there, my friends and I frequently went to Chinese restaurants, which gradually became a weekly routine. For us, Chinese food is the most delicious cuisine in the whole world.
While watching the documentary, I suddenly realized that food is one of the reasons why I came back to China. China covers a vast area with a hugely varied range of geography, and thus ingredients.
To make the story of this food clear in only seven episodes is not an easy job. However, the documentary did it and provided much more.
After watching the documentary, I began to realize how narrow my understanding of Chinese food was in the past. The documentary tells stories about food from the perspectives of the various people who pick, sell and cook the ingredients, which impressed me.
You may not be moved by the dishes, but you can be moved by people behind them, especially those who woke up at 3 am to pick mushrooms, who stood in marshes to dig up lotus roots, or who drove onto frozen lakes to fish. Their commitment goes beyond shallow gourmandism to a deep feeling for the roots of an ancient tradition.
Because of these people, Chinese food culture has lasted so long. Because of these people, we can enjoy the most delicious food in the world with low prices. Because of these people, we not only have a bite of China, but the heart of China as well.
The author is a freelance writer based in Beijing. firstname.lastname@example.org
Netizens from weibo.com
A Bite of China caught my attention not because of the delicious meals it presents but because of the ordinary ingredients and simple folks who put them together.
Although their living relies on these ingredients, they don't recklessly harvest them. They take from nature and they also know to protect nature.
This mindset of sustainable coexistence will see nature grant these folks priceless returns.
Is the documentary a faithful portrayal of our reality? When the show ends and we go back to real life, we will still find ourselves surrounded by a table of the tainted, toxic and poisonous stuff we call food.
The documentary's popularity reflects our society's eagerness to record and to be recorded. Another important element is that it gives its audiences a feeling that it is close to them, it shows their lives, and it is themselves recording themselves. I believe this sense of public connection will be the future of documentaries.
From Palace Museum (2005) and The Rise of Nations (2006), to Forest China (2007) and now A Bite of China, this genre has achieved rapid and impressive development in China. Its story-telling, design, and direction are growing mature, and a unique style is emerging. But mainstream Chinese film producers, in comparison, are still lagging behind the documentary makers and care only about the box office.