Jodie's journal

Taiwan 1950s: Flour sack underwear


In 1950's Taiwan you could see US and Republic of China flags everywhere, including on children's bottoms. A lot of small kids wore short pants or trousers with the two flags and the words “China and the USA – working together”. They weren't making a fashion statement, or even a political statement.

Their clothes were made out of flour sacks that were distributed under a US aid program, so the printed label on the sacks became a colourful decoration on the back of the pants.

Life was very tough then and people were poor, so they really appreciated the free supply of good quality cotton, my high school teacher, Mr. Chen, told us. They made the pants big and loose, because the cloth was rather rough and scratchy.

Ghost month party

In the seventh month of the lunar calendar, I remember my grandmother would always prepare a table of delicious food, and offer a meal to the ghosts. The ghosts or spirits included our family's ancestors, the gods of the land, and any other lesser ghosts that dwelled in the area – all were invited.

However, as a small child, I honestly had great doubts about this tradition. I watched very carefully, but I wasn't so sure if the ghosts and spirits really came to eat the meal. Every time, my grandmother would put all the food out nicely on the table, but as far as I could see there was no sign that the ghosts were eating it. In fact, it looked like it hadn't been touched at all.

Mindfulness kitchen

Many Asian people learn cooking from their families, but in these cultures, the learning style may be very different from what you expect.

If we went into the kitchen and asked our parents: “how many teaspoons of sugar do you add into that dish, and how hot do you make the pan?” we may not get the answer we want. Sometimes they will answer “I am not very sure. It depends. You should just pay attention, instead of asking”, or even “You ask too many question, stay out of the kitchen and stop bothering me!”

In my family's kitchen, when our parents were making soup, stir-fried dishes, and so on, they would add salt, soy sauce, sugar, pepper, then taste a little with a spoon, then add a little more of this or that. That was often how they measured the ingredients, so they really couldn't say what was the 'correct' amount.

Mazu: the Legend of the Sea Goddess

The Mazu temple in Dadaocheng, Taipei

Three or four hundred years ago, war and famine drove many people to emigrate from south China to Taiwan. Piling their belongings into small wooden boats, they embarked on the dangerous 100-mile sea crossing. The area is regularly swept by typhoons. For protection, the immigrants would always bring a statue of Mazu, the goddess of the sea, from their local temple. They believed she would calm the seas and guide them safely to Taiwan.
 

Don't throw away the best parts of a pineapple: the core and skin

The pineapple core

A pineapple's core is very hard, and not as sweet as the rest of the pineapple, so we usually don't want to eat it. But it is still very aromatic and nutritious. If you have a very powerful blender like a Vitamix, it can still be used to make a beautiful contribution to your cooking.

Usually I buy the fresh pineapple from the street market. I cut the core from the rest of the pineapple, then chop everything into smaller chunks, about 1 or 2 cm long, and keep them in the freezer.

Here are a few ways you can use the core of a pineapple:

1. Blend the core in a good blender like a Vita-mix, to make juice, or smoothies, together with other fruit or vegetables.

Taiwanese fast food: Lu rou fan

What is the most popular dish in Taiwan?
What is a typical Taiwanese dish?


When we were little, my mom was sometimes too busy to prepare our lunch. She would give us some money and tell us to eat at the Luroufan stand near our home.

We would be so glad to have the chance to eat out, especially Luroufan, because it was our favorite. My sisters and I would run to the Luroufan stand.

At lunch time, the shop were always busy, but the luroufan was usually served very quickly. Everything was prepared, so the waitress simply needed to spoon the sauce on top of the rice in the bowl, and bring it to us right away. We never needed to wait for long.

Church, temple and childhood

(photo by Joyce Tay)Before I was 30, I never enjoyed entering a Taiwanese temple. The Gods looked weird, wearing strange clothes and hats, some of them were even very dark. They were frightening to me. They were not God. 
They were not kind like my God.

The burning incense in the temple was even worse. It made the whole temple smoky, the smell of the incense pushed me away from the whole religion. I didn’t understand why those people were holding the incense and talking to those wooden idols.


I thought everything about the temple was just stupid: the Gods were not real, incense smelled terrible, the people were ignorant. I didn’t even agree with the way Taiwanese offered the food to their idol God and their ancestors.

12 ways to explore old Taipei's Dadaocheng area

 

1. Morning markets

Tàipíng market: This is the oldest open market in Taipei, built more than 100 years ago. The market offers all kind of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. The food stores around the market have been offering the most delicious food for more than half of a century. Originally, it was a wholesale market.

Yǒnglè market: It was originally established around 1910, during the Japanese colonial period, when it was the first indoor market in Taiwan. It was the first time Japanese administrators organized an outdoor Chinese style market, and brought the stallholders into a cleaner and more hygienic indoor market. Upstairs on the 2nd floor is a fabric market.

2. Night markets

Níngxià night market:

Taiwanese Beer Houses

If you're visiting Taiwan on business and your local business partners take you out for dinner, it's very likely they'll take you to some famous, expensive restaurant, in a prestigious location like Taipei 101. Even if you are here visiting friends, it's still likely they'll take you to some clean, well-staffed restaurants for dinner. Possibly your host will even take you to a western-style restaurant, even though you're in Asia.

Things to do in Taipei, Taiwan: Mazu temple's beer garden

Mazu Temple Beer Garden (photo by Joyce Tay)Mazu temple's beer garden

Did you ever see a church with its own beer garden? Probably not, but in Taiwan people have a more relaxed attitude to such matters.

For example: the beer garden in the Temple to the sea-Goddess Mazu, near Dihua Street. You might think that it's very disrespectful to put a beer garden here, but I would say it must be the mercy of the Goddess, that more than 40 family-run restaurants could make a living by her temple, and the hard-working people could enjoy very good food and beer in her courtyard at a bargain price.

There are many street restaurants around the temple, and people enjoy eating and drinking under the banyan tree in the temple yard. It's a place the hard working people have traditionally gone to relax after work. There are more than 40 authentic Taiwanese street food restaurants and food stalls.
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