How Much Milk A Day For A 3 Year Old Chinese Food Culture: How Many Meals Per Day?

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Chinese Food Culture: How Many Meals Per Day?

When I first came to England, I was very confused when people asked me how many meals a day the Chinese usually had. I would simply answer: “obviously three, but you don’t have the same one?”.

Later, I discovered that I was wrong. Of course, different cultures have different eating habits (in Spain people usually eat five times a day). Don’t even mention how different each meal can be.

Awareness of the differences in terms of food culture between China and Western countries is probably what first sensitized me to issues of cultural identity. I thought I’d write about this for a long time.

The bold statement “three meals a day in Chinese culture” is really not accurate, especially considering the number of different ethnic groups and different regions in China. People from different ethnic groups or living in different regions have slightly different eating habits.

For example, in the far south of China, people usually had an extra meal very late in the evening, after supper. But in the North, we generally have three meals: breakfast between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. (depending on the work schedule of the people), lunch from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner around 7 p.m.

Common Chinese breakfast in the northern provinces may consist of congee with pickles, soy milk with “Youtiao” (a kind of fried pastry) or steamed Chinese “bread”. In restaurants that open in the morning for breakfast, you can also get noodles or “bao zi” (steamed bread with toppings).

Lunch normally includes appropriate dishes and is accompanied by stable foods such as rice. In the northern provinces, pastries with different fillings are also very common purchases for lunch. Students could take lunch boxes and workers went home or ate in small restaurants. In any case, lunch is usually followed by a short siesta.

I read an article some time ago about German businessmen meeting Chinese people in Shanghai. At noon, the Chinese would get up and say, “It’s lunch time now, let’s have lunch, we can continue talking on the dining table.” The Germans were very surprised, because they were in the middle of a meeting. This shows how important food is in Chinese culture.

Dinner is normally prepared properly at home, although nowadays with many family restaurants at very reasonable prices, people have started to buy food or dine in often. The homemade dinner normally includes a meat or fish dish and several vegetable dishes.

There is another saying in Chinese: “walking 100 steps after dinner can make you live to be 99”. Although this is obviously a metaphor, in China you will see crowds of people strolling through the streets or gardens around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., just after dinner.

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