Friday, May 29, 2009

Lunch With The Ladies

In an effort to maintain peace in the land (or at least to keep the waiguoren from dining elsewhere), compromise prevailed as the Yao women decided, in the end, that we would dine at the first woman's home, but that the other would do the cooking. (Nice job helping them get it together, Steve!)

And so we entered the village of Zhongliu...a beautiful community of rice paddies, mountain streams, and simple but attractive homes. While I had envisioned that a remote village of this type might be more like one shown in National Geographic with huts or homes made of mud bricks, this was certainly not the case. The houses were made of wood and had square footage comparable to western homes, albeit not as ornate or modernized.

The home we entered had three levels. The bottom floor was not enclosed and was more of a makeshift barn, with a pig sty and the "restroom facilities"...basically a concrete slab with a squat toilet. Up the steps was the living space...a wide open room with a table and chairs, a television (yes, even in these remote locations CCTV has a market), and perhaps the set-up that keeps you grounded in the fact that you are in a remote location...a fire burning right in the middle of the floor. Long branches were kept alight under a rack that could hold cauldrons or woks for cooking. The roof above this area was constructed differently to vent the smoke from the room.
The third level, which we did not see, was reported to have the bedrooms (which we were told we can rent next time for 20 kuai per person per night). The woman who owned the home explained that it wasn't as fancy as other homes in the village but that it was what she and her husband could afford. In my mind, while it lacks some modern conveniences, it fits beautifully within the setting.

After the quick tour, it was time for some cooking, Yao style. Using the previously mentioned fire, these women worked together to create a truly delicious brunch. Starting with string beans, some type of potatoes, and an egg dish that was loaded with green vegetables, the women prepared (and gabbed) for around a half hour. Completing the meal was sauteed eggplant, rice, and, perhaps the highlight, a dish made from flowers that the women had been gathering as we walked through the paddies. Needless to say we were stuffed for hours afterward.

When we were finished eating, the women each took their turn at trying to peddle merchandise. One of the women even went as far as to try and sell Steve some pink sunglasses (which we had seen on her daughter in a picture she had shown us earlier in the meal!). Silver bracelets, pashminas, and wall hangings all made an appearance as well. Seeing that we were not interested, they encouraged us to stay with them next time, took the 120 kuai we paid for brunch and sent us on our way.

Deciding to walk out with us, the Yao woman famous for her nose-blowing joke, made sure to secretly tell me that if we come back to Zhongliu, we should stay with her...not the other woman. Sorry, Steve, I guess business is business.



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