The Nasty Bites: Looking Your Food in the Eye

“Cooking puts several kinds of distance between the brutal facts of the matter (dead animal for dinner) and the dining-room table set with crisp linens and polished silver.” –Michael Pollan, Cooked “ … the stew of meat that’s been cut into geometric cubes and rendered tender by long hours in the pot represents a deeper…

Guizhou Rising

“We need to leave.” I spoke with urgency as I looked over at my travel companion. She didn’t seem to be worried about the vibe, but I was. We had just made our way to the end of a short, dirt trail in the mountains of Guizhou Province, and turning a corner unannounced, we found…

The Constant Struggle

In this new century, no matter where you live—the mountains of Tibet or the beaches of Tahiti—you will most certainly have a cell phone. This is especially true in China, a country whose citizens are widely known for their cell phone addiction. If you’re an expat in China, you’ll need to buy an unlocked phone,…

Regarding Wulumuqi

Wulumuqi Lu (pronounced WUL-u-MU-chi, or more authentically, UL-u-MU-chi) is the heart and soul of Shanghai’s Former French Concession. Linguistically speaking Wulumuqi is without question the best road name I’ve ever heard. If you say the word aloud—and you should—it will be instantly clear that this is another one of those words that grants pure phonetic…

This Mortal Coil

“For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they were born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk . . . . And because you cannot know persons of a nation foreign to you except from observation, it is difficult to give them…

The Ubiquity of Bamboo

  If you’ve visited a city in China, you’ll understand why I say that bamboo is the chief artifact of Chinese utilitarianism. It’s everywhere. Scaffolding is the most conspicuous example, but during a 15-minute walk around Shanghai you’ll see many other forms: brooms with bristles and shafts of bamboo, pole saws, hanging rods, fences, food,…