A slice of bread or even a few slices for dinner might be a normal dinner meal for you, as a Westerner. However, have you ever tried offering a piece as well to your Chinese friends and was confused with the facial expression you got in return? Don’t worry, we as Chinese would not ask you directly in the face “Hey, is that it? Just a few slices for dinner?” In fact, what we honestly think in our mind is full of question marks and exclamation marks trying to figure out if that friend is on a diet or is just too tired to cook some hot food.
A well-known American author and nutritionist Adelle Davis had a profound saying that is making our daily life a constant nudge to how to eat healthier and proper. She said “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” This quote was so influential that it has been translated into many languages for instance, the German is “Iss morgens wie ein Kaiser, mittags wie ein König, abends wie ein Bettelmann.” This quote holds valid and it is indeed the “ideal” way of leading towards a healthy lifestyle. However, typical Chinese families are of the total opposite.
Historical data or statistics do not explain so much into why Chinese prefer warm food for dinner. But, accordingly to my own personal perspective as a Third Culture Kid (TCK), it has a lot to do with the dependance of the father in the family. Imagine the following scenario, a Chinese family who is home after a hard day at work and is looking forward so badly to his wife’s cooked food waiting for his return on the table. The kids in the family are nudging the mother asking when papa is arriving so that they finally eat together. The typical traditional family scenario depicts the role of the parents as the father is out to work the whole day and the mother is at home as a housewife taking care of the young kids. This style of living has continued in several generations as a result of the feeling of having to eat warm dishes for dinner. Although, the roles of men and women are changing in the Chinese society, a bowl of warm soup or noodle soup would fulfill the hunger satisfaction to the maximum.
There is no right or wrong to this question on whether one should simply have a few slices of bread or warm dishes for dinner. Depending on where you are, in which culture you are surrounded in, it is important to pay cautious awareness of the eating habits in the society. When you as a foreigner visiting a Chinese country, then simply enjoy the warm food that you are being served with. However, when you are a Chinese person living in a Western country, sometimes being served with a few slices of bread for dinner you could see it as giving yourself some dieting time, or any other methods to make yourself feel better.