Eating in China


What’s the history of family-style eating? You know, the method of food serving where it’s all put on communal plates in the middle and each person helps himself.

I’m told that this became the Chinese-way originally as a way to save / conserve resources and food.

Is it possible that this style of eating somehow reduces overall individualistic tendencies or culture in a country in general? (I strongly prefer individual plates to family style.)

Other observations on Chinese eating: there is usually a single bowl or plate and all food you eat gets managed from that bowl (usually filled with rice on the bottom). The idea of side plates or bowls is uncommon (I even asked Chinese people about this and they confirmed that extra side, empty plates for bread or other food are rare).

Given the smallness of a typical plate or bowl, you inevitably have to put some food directly on the table (not on a plate). Or some food just spills over. Given how unclean most of the tables are, food gets dirtier more easily.

Chopsticks get the job done most of the time but there are times which call for a knife. But knives aren’t used.

As in all poor countries, Coca-Cola is more common than water at meals. Anything but water is served at meals.

Napkins are not a big deal, and sometimes not offered at all at cheap places.

Ben Casnocha
Ben Casnocha is the author of the bestselling business book
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