Why I Don't Like Wotou
October 2010 Issue, HI Art
Exactly, I do not mean that I hate all kinds of Wotou (a kind of steamed corn bread). What I do not love are ‘false’ Wotou made of mixed grain-flour, just like people usually dislike ‘pseudo-ethic’ and ‘pseudo-folk’ things as well as ‘pseudo folk songs’. Wotou is nothing else, so it must be made of cornmeal. A traditional and genuine Wotou fresh from the steamer with glistening yellow and steam, which is eaten with big pieces of brined vegetables, is so rough that it is hard to swallow. In the past almost all Chinese people have ever eaten Wotou: each person would have one at the meal time.
Wotou: Also known as ‘Wowotou’. A kind food, which is conical, made of cornmeal, sorghum flour or other coarse-grain flour, with a hollow at its bottom. Mixed grain: Generally speaking, it refers to the mixture of rice and millet or sorghum and that of wheat flour and cornmeal or sorghum flour. When there is a lack of quantity or nutrition in one of them, people sometimes mix them during cooking.
Roasted slices of Wotou are delicious. In the past, rich people splurging on oil would make fried Wotou slices; eaten with preserved bean curd, they might be the tastiest green food. However, they could not be eaten with delicate dishes such as simmered pork and ribbonfish, or you would feel their unpleasant coarseness; furthermore, if you had chance to taste abalones and lobsters, you might want to say ‘farewell’ to Wotou. I guess that Wotou offered to Cixi, an empress dowager in Qing Dynasty, was made of chestnut meal and top-quality wheat flour, and it is said other delicate materials such as honey and butter had also been added to it. No wonder she loved ‘Wotou’ so much: it is not real Wotou at all. I assume that the dowager would never understand why the common public dislikes Wotou. Now the age of Wotou has passed and it is hard to find a traditional one. Owners of present restaurants are so warm to their customers: what they offer is not completely made of cornmeal, but cakes made of mixed grain-flour, just like those enjoyed by Cixi then.
Similarly, there are few real folk songs now. A lot of songs in disguise of ‘folk songs’ are odes to certain people or policies, such as The East Is Red, The Mountain and Water in Jiao City (jiaocheng de shan, jiaocheng de shui), A Tale of Spring Time, and Entering a New Era. What are genuine folk songs? They are songs popular among public, easy to know, full of sincere feeling and can be sung freely, such as Orchid, Lady Meng Jiang, Jasmine, The Serving Maid (xiao baicai) and Going to the West Gate (zou xikou). The feature shared by most folk songs is that they are different from the official, mainstream and academic ones. They are transmitted orally and cannot be copied; they are casual and romantic because they were not created driven by force or money. Of course, there are also ones that have been revised successfully. For example, The East Is Red revised by Li Youyuan, He Luting, Li Huanzhi and Gongmu during Yan’an Rectification Movement in 1942, has been welcomed by modern people including children. And Riding White Horses, a folk song in Northern Shanxi Province, which is the prototype of The East Is Red*, is brilliant, too. Its lyrics are as follow:
We ride white horses on the beach full of sand;
Riding a white horse and carrying a gun,
The Japanese guns have no covers,
Sunday, September 17th, 2010
(From en.wikipedia.org) "The East Is Red" is a song that was the de facto anthem of the People's Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Lyrics:
The east is red, the sun is rising.
Chairman Mao loves the people.
The Communist Party is like the sun.