一篇迟到的书评

一人食2019-01-09 12:39:56



《纽约客》:

“一人食”将越来越普遍

新书激起当下中国年轻人的生活方式变革

BY JIAYANG FAN


还记得我第一次一个人在餐厅吃饭的经历,当时我满怀热情地发了一个推特:“一个人吃火锅哦!”还上传了一张照片。照片里,热气腾腾的锅子周围是各式各样的盘子,上面堆满了金针菇、豆腐块和绿豆面条。我一个人坐在这张四人桌前,精心为我的食物摆好造型,一方面想用美食诱惑看到这条推特的朋友,另一方面则是自嘲现在的孤独处境。“绝望的时候需要不顾一切地大吃一顿。”在拿起筷子之前,我又为照片加上了这句旁白文字,然后把它发布到了Facebook和Instangram上面。

蔡雅妮肯定能理解我的这股冲动,因为她去年秋天在中国出版了一本新书,名叫《一人食》,这本书是由她拍摄制作的一系列同名美食短片的文字珍藏版,“一个人也要好好吃饭”是书和视频所共同传递的主题。





三十多岁的蔡雅妮曾担任某杂志的图片编辑,现居上海,未婚——用中国人的话来说就是一名“剩女”——她之所以突然想到拍摄“一人食”,源于两年前的一段尴尬经历。辞职后的她经常独自一人去同一家餐厅吃饭,但没想到却遭到服务员的嫌弃,并且连打包剩菜剩饭都遭到了拒绝。餐厅服务员的行为或许很无礼,但是在中国出现这种行为太正常了,因为在重视集体观念的中国人眼里,做饭(包括吃饭)是被视为具备某种社交功能的。几千年来,“三菜一汤”一直是中餐最为基本的菜式,这意味着一顿饭必须三个人或者更多人在一起吃才算。这也难怪中国人常年吃的一道用牛肉、鸡肉、猪肉和蔬菜炒制而成的菜肴,会被称为“合家欢”了。

蔡雅妮在这本书的序言里写道:“起初,我每天都宅在家里,以烤土司和便利店里的便当为食,时间一长,我觉得以后不能再这样了,于是想自己做饭,却又无从下手。”然后,她用了我们许多人都尝试过的方法——在互联网上寻求帮助。网上的烹饪教学视频给她提供了实用的烹饪技巧,也同时激发了她的创作灵感。最终,她决定拍摄“一人食”。

每集视频虽然只有短短3分钟长,但画面很美,配有背景音乐,带有点时尚杂志的感觉。这些视频在优酷网的点击量已接近800万次。视频以一个个故事开场——一位母亲背着自己的孩子在菜市场买菜,或者一个丈夫安静地起床为自己准备早餐,并没有打扰到身边熟睡着的妻子;有些视频则一开始就拍到主人公切菜备菜的熟练手式。这些视频正是给那些一无所有、孤独烦闷的年轻人一边吃着微波炉加热过的拉面,一边通过公司的无线网络随手点开看的。但蔡雅妮并不倡导这样的饮食和生活方式。她劝诫读者说:“一个人吃饭,更不能随便、不能将就,食物有超乎想象的治愈力量,它能填饱你的肚子,更能治愈你的孤独。”



<水煮鱼> 剧照



<港式煲仔饭> 剧照


然而,在这个世界上最大也最繁忙的城市中,到处都是努力打拼的都市人和疲于奔命的外来务工人员,他们通常每周要工作70个小时,在这里,瞬息万变的生活方式时时刻刻都在革新社会规范。面对这种情况,为自己精心制作一顿美食佳肴是否切实可行?蔡雅妮在自己的视频和图书中,为人们提供了即便一个人吃饭也不会受到歧视的方法。

但是她并没有首先质疑这样一个问题:为什么中国人在独自一人用餐时会有被歧视的本能反应?作为咖啡闲聊女王,蔡雅妮的语录和照片显得复古精奇,她在书中写道,她希望传递一种“生活方式和生活态度”,但她并未进一步精确阐释这句话的意义,也并未过多着墨于探索一个基于社会文化背景的更核心的话题——当一个人既没有装饰得美美的厨房,也没有闲工夫精心雕琢一顿饭的时候,他应该如何毫不拘谨地在众人目光下一个人吃饭,不用担心受到歧视。

相反,蔡雅妮在“一人食”中描绘的是如斯光景:俊男靓女们似乎正在一个抽离于摄像机的时空里一丝不苟、精心考究地烹饪美食。其中一集的主角是烈日松饼——一种由草莓、奶油和砂糖制成的酥软糕点——只见画面中那位长发飘飘的年轻姑娘正坐在铺着野餐垫的公园草坪上,悠然享受着刚刚她亲手烘焙的烈日松饼。还有一集人气颇高,介绍的是港式煲仔饭,但我们很难想象如果一个人没有精湛的厨艺,如何才能独自完成这道奇特的料理。另外,在蔡雅妮镜头下“美好时空”里,主人公做菜时间似乎没有任何限制。(要不是为了让视频更加赏心悦目,批量烹饪也许对一个人吃饭的“厨师”来说更为明智。)



<烈日松饼> 剧照


看完整个系列短片,我尝试回忆了一下我曾品尝过书中的哪些美食。沙爹肉串:很久以前我曾在上海的一个小摊前尝过。黑芝麻布丁:在莫特街的一家甜品店里吃的?水煮鱼:在纽约法拉盛的一个地下美食城里吃过,那里被叫作“新世界”。“新世界”是小吃一条街,可以见识到来自世界各地的小吃美食和烹饪方式,其中许多小店已经成为了我的冒险之地。在中国,像“新世界”这样的美食一条街正越来越受到欢迎,因为它们不仅提供了简便又实惠的美食,而且还有多种口味可供选择,这正是繁忙的都市人所需要的。我两个月前曾去过云南昆明,在一家新开张的沃尔玛超市里就有一个美食城,看起来更像是一个大学食堂。



<沙爹肉串> 剧照


为什么蔡雅妮的视频与图书看上去和片中的美食一样赏心悦目?因为这些视频与图书也是一种受大众欢迎的消费品。也许作者想要提供一些教育,但也许连她自己都没有意识到,很多东西仅仅在厨房里是无法教会的。老实说,众人希求的是对一种更独立、更私人的生活方式的认可,以便适应日新月异的中国社会。也就是说,社会应该允许独自用餐的人毫不拘谨地进行消费,既不用担心受到歧视,也不为遭人评判而心生焦虑。

“我就是一个人在看这个视频。”在视频“烈日松饼”下面,一条颇为讽刺的评论是这么写的,“它让我感到放松,也让我感到丧气。”独自一个并非意味着孤独,有时候,一块烈日松饼也许就是你需要的全部陪伴。

当然,并不只有中国存在害怕一个人吃饭的现象。在韩国,“家庭”指的就是“那些在一起吃饭的人们”。一个晚餐直播节目“Mok-bang”在该国的网络上尤其火爆,节目中的主持人会与在线的观众分享自己正一个人享用的晚餐。如果你正在屏幕前大吃大喝,同时与多达上万人的虚拟同伴们对话聊天,那么你可能已经把独自用餐的孤独行为,转变成一项团体活动了。

我最钟爱的一家火锅店“贝壳湾”坐落在皇后区的埃尔姆赫斯特大街延长段上。那家店人声鼎沸,屋子边上还装有炫目亮丽的霓虹灯,感觉如同身处大陆一般。有时,我与朋友一起吃饭;有时,我独自享受美食。那次我一个人吃火锅的时候,花了很长一段时间才承认自己是因为尴尬而伪装得异想天开,而并非本性如此。把我一个人吃饭这个事实在社交网络上直播,跟独自一人黯然神伤比起来,似乎是一个更明智的选择。看上去是这样的,直到我把辣椒油泼洒得满桌都是,不得不忍受放了超多大蒜的调味料里散发出足以击退一整个村庄的人的味道,然后我打开了我的小说——一本没羞没臊的恐怖小说。

那一刻,只有我的书、我的呼吸,还有一个大到可以放进一个新生婴儿的热油大锅陪伴着我。看上去这一天,我总算能够做回我自己了,但前提是我不关心facebook上我那两百多个不算朋友的朋友说了些什么。在我更新了状态以后,我的手机“砰砰”响了好几次,都是朋友发来的评论,一些讥讽我的自嘲行为,另一些则关心我是否需要帮助。我以一种崩溃的状态吃光了所有的金针菇。直到我看完了大半本小说,我的晚餐——一大堆乱糟糟的白色菌菇还没动过,滚烫的肉汤却早已冷却。但这又有什么关系呢?一个人吃火锅总能得到额外的补偿:我可以把没吃完的打包带走。


翻译读客图书


《纽约客》The New Yorker,也译作《纽约人》,是一份美国知识、文艺类的综合杂志,内容覆盖新闻报道、文艺评论散文漫画诗歌小说,以及纽约文化生活动向等。其高质量的写作团队和严谨的编辑作风,在纽约以外也拥有众多的读者。



JANUARY14, 2015

EatingAlone in China

BY JIAYANG FAN


The first time I ate at a restaurant bymyself, I live-tweeted the experience. “Hot-potting alone!” I enthused, postinga photo I’d taken of a burbling electric pot, ringed by plates of enokimushrooms, plump squares of tofu, and green-bean-infused vermicelli noodles.(If Chinese food fosters communal dining more aggressively than other types ofcuisine, then hot pot—think fondue with chicken broth and chili peppers ratherthan melted cheese—forcefully commands it.) Sitting companionless at a tablepatently designed for four, I composed the portrait of my meal with some care,both to entice my viewers and to deride my circumstances. “Desperate times callfor desperate measures!” I supplied as an additional caption before picking upmy chopsticks. Then I hastily put them down again, to link the post to Facebookand Instagram.

Yanni Cai, the author of a new book called“Eating Alone,” might understand the impulse. The book, published last fall inChina, is a follow-up to a series of short videos, by the same name, “dedicatedto the art of cooking for yourself.” Cai, a thirty-something former magazineeditor who lives in Shanghai and is unmarried—or, in the ugly parlance ofpractical-minded Chinese, a “leftover woman”—came up with the idea two yearsago, after one too many embarrassing experiences at restaurants where the staffdisdained her solo patronage and refused to pack up her leftovers. Rude,perhaps, but not uncommon in a culture where cooking (and dining) is aninherently social function, centered upon the idea of community. For millennia,the most basic of Chinese meals have involved “three main dishes plus a soup,”a spread that only makes sense for a table of three people or more. It’s nowonder that a perennial staple of stir-frys—a merry medley of beef, chicken,pork and vegetables—is named “happy family.”

“At first, I made French fries and ate fastfood,” Cai writes in the book’s preface. “As time wore on, I wanted to cook formyself, but didn’t know where to begin.” So she did what so many of us havetried: she sought help on the Internet. Cooking instructionals on thevideo-sharing Web site Vimeo offered her useful techniques and inspiration.Eventually, she decided to make her own.

Her three-minute creations—which haveattracted close to eight million page views on Youkou, the Chinese equivalentof YouTube—are stylistically indistinguishable from their English-languagemuses: extremely pretty, with ambient music and a life-style-magazine sheen.Some open with a premise—a single mother shopping with a toddler strapped toher back, or a husband waking up famished next to his still-sleeping wife;others launch expeditiously into expert chopping and dicing. It’s the sort ofaspirational food porn that a young person, bored and alone, with nothing but aWiFi connection for company, might mindlessly click through while eating a bowlof microwaved ramen—which is exactly what Cai discourages. “A person who iseating alone cannot do so casually. He cannot simply make do,” Cai admonishes.“Food has healing powers that exceed the imagination. It will nourish you, fillyour stomach but more importantly, it can heal your loneliness.”

But in the world’s biggest and busiesteconomy—where striving urbanites and struggling migrant workers alike regularlywork seventy-hour weeks, and where rapidly changing life styles perenniallyoutpace the evolution of social norms—is cooking elaborate meals for oneselfall that realistic? With her videos and her book, Cai offers a way to avoidfeeling ostracized, but she fails to question why a person dining solo in Chinais made to feel ostracized in the first place. As a coffee-table topper, herepigrammatic prescriptions and sepia-toned photos are quaint, and she writesthat she intends to share “a mode of existence and attitude about life.” Butshe does not go on to explain what that means, exactly, and she does little toaddress the cultural context in which eating alone in public—when one does nothave the luxury of a kitchen, or the time to prepare an elaborate meal—might beappropriate or even necessary.

Instead, Cai’s “recipe stories” depictsmartly turned-out men and women concocting preternaturally photogenic mealsfrom an almost parodic, parallel universe. One story, centered on the summerwaffle—a decadent confection of strawberries, cream, and sugar—follows asilken-haired young woman taking herself out on a sumptuous picnic set on apatch of grass as artificial-looking as the story’s premise. Another popularepisode features a Cantonese clay-pot classic requiring such a baroque set-upthat it’s difficult to imagine anyone doing so without professional culinaryaspirations. Very few characters in Cai’s charmed universe seem to befunctioning under any sort of time constraint. (Fewer still seem to contemplatecooking in bulk, surely a more sensible option for the lone chef, if infinitelyless pleasing on the small screen.)

Scrollingthrough the series, I tried to remember where, exactly, I had tasted any of theitems I was being instructed to cook. Sha-cha kebabs: at a food stall inShanghai sometime in the early aughts. Sesame pudding: at a dessert shop downon Mott Street? Spicy broiled fish: in a subterranean food court in Flushing,Queens, called New World. Come to think of it, New World—a connected warren ofeateries, each touting a regional cuisine from the old world—has been the siteof many of my solo culinary adventures. In China, food courts like New Worldare on the rise precisely because they fulfill the urban Chinese’s desire toeat eclectically and economically, without the fuss and mess ofpreparation. In Kunming, a Yunnan city I visited two summers ago, the foodcourt in the basement of a newly opened Walmart resembled nothing so much as acollege cafeteria.

There’s a reason Cai’s videos and book areas delectable as the dishes they feature; they, too, are made for consumption,much more so than imitation. They may, ostensibly, seek to teach, but the morenecessary lesson, perhaps unbeknownst to even the teacher herself, can’t betaught in the kitchen. What’s needed, most pressingly, is the acceptance of amore individualized and independent way of living, befitting a changing China.Societal permission for solo diners to consume un-self-consciously—tosavor solitude without fear of discrimination and the anxiety of judgment.

“I’m watching this alone,” a commenterwrote wryly beneath the video of the summer waffle. “It relaxes me and loosensmy heart.” To be alone isn’t always to be lonely. Sometimes, a strawberrywaffle is all the companionship you need.

Of course, the stigma doesn’t belong to theChinese in China, alone. In South Korea, where the word for family translates into“those who eat together,” the online phenomenon of Mok-bang, or “eatingbroadcast,” in which a video host shares the consumption (and sometimes thecreation) of his or her solo meal with an online audience, amounts to aMillennial response to the increasingly outdated cultural faux pas. If you areeating in front of a screen and conversing with virtual companions (sometimesnumbering in the tens of thousands) in the comment section, might an act ofsolitude transform itself into one of solidarity?

I’ve returned many times to Shell Cove, mylittle hot-pot hut on a stretch of Elmhurst, Queens, that, with its riotousneon displays and Mandarin bustle, might as well be the mainland. Sometimes Ieat with friends, and other times without. That first time, it took a while forme to admit to myself that it was not whimsy but embarrassment masquerading aswhimsy that accounted for my furious engagement with social media. Broadcastingthe fact that I was eating alone rather than sitting in private shame seemed likethe right choice. That is, until I splattered chili oil all over the table,stuffed condiment bowls with enough garlic to repel an entire village, andopened my novel—a shameless thriller.

I was alone with my book, my breath, and aboiling cauldron big enough to contain a newborn, and it seemed like the sortof date where I could be myself—if I weren’t so busy worrying about what mytwelve hundred Facebook not-quite-friends thought. My phone pinged severaltimes after my posts: texts from friends mocking my self-mockery or asking if Ineeded any assistance, in my state of desperation, finishing up those enokimushrooms. More than halfway through my novel, and my meal, a disarray ofstringy white stems,remained untouched, and the broth in the pot had boiled offto reveal a lukewarm slurry. But what was so wrong with that? Hot-potting alonehas its perks: I got to pack the leftovers.



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