Paul D. BUELL A woman picks tea leaves at the Dragon Well Tea Commune in Hangzhou, 1978. PHOTO BY JOAN
Health, Nutrition, and Food (Jiànkāng yíngyǎng shíwù 健康营养食物)|Jiànkāng yíngyǎng shíwù 健康营养食物 (Health, Nutrition, and Food
Traditionally, Chinese food was healthy, mainly because millennia of famine led people to learn by trial and error how to eat to survive. But the Chinese diet has changed with modernization, as more fats and sugars have become available. Traditional nutritional medicine worked well to remedy certain deficiencies, despite being based on concepts very different from those accepted today.
Chinese cuisines were developed partly as ways of maximizing security in a world of scarcity and frequent famine, but also responded to the desires of the well-to-do to show off wealth and sophistication. Grain staples are basic, but the distinctive elements are flavorings, including soy sauces, Chinese “wine,” ginger, onion relatives, and peppers. Regional variation is enormous, with four to five major culinary areas and many minority cuisines.