Jamaican in China: Walt gets cookin', vegan-style, in Xishuangbanna

Travel | by Walt Goodridge
Posted: December 3rd, 2010 | Updated: May 6th, 2011 | Comments
uits and vegetables, Jinghong Market, Xishuangbanna The last of a three-part series from Walt Goodridge, aka the Xishuangbanna. Food in China is something that causes trepidation for many visitors, particularly those that have strict dietary requirements. A long-time vegan and proponent of healthy living, here Walt tells us how he's managed to remain in top notch form and positively enjoy being a vegan in China.>>> Before I left Saipan for China, people told me that it would be difficult to be vegetarian here. I have not found that to be the case. Beijing was full of vegetarian—even vegan—restaurants and a few health food stores, and Kunming had a few spots as well. I imagine what they meant was that if I ate at your average restaurant in China, that I wouldn't be able to guarantee that I wasn't eating some residual meat flavoring, sugar,salt, MSG or seasoning powder. However, since I don't eat out at "regular" restaurants, I haven't had that issue. As long as I have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and a kitchen (though at present I eat about a 50% raw food diet, and could increase that percentage if I had no kitchen), it's really pretty easy. There are a few things I'd like to try here in China, out of a newcomer's curiosity, but since I have no Chinese-speaking shopping partner at present, and since I can't read many Chinese characters to verify the ingredients, I generally stay out of supermarkets and stick to the basics. (Don't need an ingredient label for a tomato—-unless, of course, it's genetically modified.) I eat according to a simple philosophy: I only eat real food. Here are a few quotes from my book, The Ageless Adept, that may help to explain what food is, and what it isn't, and why I don't shop in supermarkets....
Just because something can be put in your mouth, chewed and swallowed does not make it food. Just because something is sold in a supermarket or restaurant does not make it food. Just because something tastes good, does not make it food. And finally, just because something is referred to as food by a great number of people, does not make it food. ...there’ll come a time when you see the average supermarket for what it is: a repository of ostensibly edible  products created for the sole purpose of making a sale; cans, boxes and plastic containers of altered, boiled, cured, dyed, denatured, engineered, fried, frozen, flavored, filtered, hulled, injected, modified, pasteurized,  preserved, supplemented and tainted objects that pass for food.
So, this is primarily where I do my shopping in Xishuangbanna. It's a big outdoor market on Mengle Da Dao Road (main thoroughfare, accessible by buses #2, #3 and #4). Jinghong map To the market! jinghong market, xishuangbanna Jinghong Market, Xishuangbanna Today's haul was pretty typical. I buy enough for a day or two and then, by the next day, I'll do it again. "Why not buy enough for a week?" you ask. Well, there are a couple of reasons:

1. I find that since I have no self-control when it comes to certain items (cashews for instance), I've learned throughout my life that if I buy two packs of cashews, I will eat two packs of cashews in one day! If I buy three, I will eat three. I find that no matter how much I have, I cannot stop enjoying the experience until it's completely done. This applies to Lara bars, blue corn chips, tamarinds and certain women.

2. I find that for other items, my tastes may change unexpectedly. I only eat one meal a day, and some days I may simply not eat for various reasons. If I commit to a week's worth of oranges today, there's a good chance that most of them will go bad. I find that I cannot commit to a particular taste for an extended period of time. This applies to many fruits, green vegetables, and also certain women. (Okay, I'm kidding, a'right?)


3. It gives me a compelling reason to get out of the house and meet people (even though, if I'm writing a book or site design/programming project, I've been known to sequester myself and fast for a few days to heighten my creativity and productivity.)

uits and vegetables, Jinghong Market, Xishuangbanna The following prices are in RMB and then US dollar. The exchange rate is RMB 6.8  =  USD 1.00 (Note: you'll often see Yuan or RMB used interchangeably)
Bus to town 2.00 0.29
Food (clockwise from top)
almonds 9.80 1.44
cashews 9.00 1.32
2 coconuts 10.00 1.47
qing zao (English?) 3.70 0.54
2 guavas 2.00 0.29
bok choy 1.00 0.15
soy beans 2.00 0.29
watermelon 5.70 0.83
tamarind 5.00 0.73
scallion 1.00 0.15
greens 1.00 0.15
mint 1.00 0.15
oranges 6.10 0.90
rice (red bag) 5.00 0.73
garlic 3.00 0.44
loofah (center) 1.00 0.15
bus back home 2.00 0.29
Total Transportation: RMB 4.00 USD 0.58
Total Food: RMB 66.30 USD 9.75
So, using my daily stash of food, here are a few of the cooked meals I might treat you to when you come to visit me in Xishuangbanna! Vegan food, Jinghong, xishuangbanna Vegan food, jinghong, xishuangbanna vegan food, jinghong, xishuangbanna MY FIRST SECRET TO HEALTH If I can't plant it and grow a new one, I don't eat it. So, a raw diet is the ideal. However, since I can't verify the growing methods and handling of all the vegetables I'm currently purchasing, I'm doing a bit more cooking and steaming and less "straight out of the ground" raw eating than I normally would, but the basic philosophy is the same:
  • I don't eat anything in cans, boxes, frozen, powdered or reconstituted.
  • No salt (did you know most commercial brands of table salt have dextrose (that's sugar) in them?
  • No sugar, no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no coffee, no alcohol, nothing processed.
  • Everything should be as close to its natural state as possible—just off the tree or out the ground.
  • If it wasn't in the Garden of Eden, it's not real food. (There were no KFCs in the Garden.)
  • If I can't put it in the ground and grow a new one, it's not live and natural (ever try to do that with a pizza?)
For me, that also means no milk, butter, eggs, cheese, chicken, all dead meats, no foods with artificial flavor, preservatives or color of any kind, no alcohol, sodas, fried foods, hybrid rice and wheat products, processed white flour, coffee and genetically modified foods, and, of course, I don't smoke, and except for a few desperate days in Kunming, I don't do air conditioning! MY OTHER SECRET TO HEALTH WHILE IN CHINA While we're on the topic of food and health, here's another secret I'll share with you:
"The challenge I am tasked with, Sasha, is how best to communicate the unique nature of what it is you do so that people really get it, but without it seeming unbelievable and outside of their paradigm of comfort." —email from me to Sasha
One of my greatest frustrations in life is not being able to communicate to friends and family some of the things I've discovered about health and wellness that have served me well over the years. I see my friends suffering from ailments and seeking conventional treatments, and I realize that many people are trapped in a paradigm of health based on faulty information, that is actually keeping them from enjoying life, really making a difference in the lives of those they love, and becoming truly prosperous. I don't tell people my age, but those who have a vague idea have asked me how it is that I look younger NOW than when I was in college. The way I've been able to stay healthy, reverse certain persistent and elusive health issues and even recover from bacterial infection while here in China is because I have a unique naturopath as my health advisor (he knew EXACTLY what type of supplement to tell me to find here). I didn't mention it previously in my blogging, but I might have had to cancel my trip when I was in Beijing were it not for him. His name is Sasha Poznyak, and he's a VERY knowledgeable and gifted fellow who moved to Saipan a few months ago. He knows things about the body and healing that most western practitioners are completely unaware of. I suggested to Sasha that others who travel could benefit from the unique nature of what it is he does, as he can do what he does with amazing accuracy remotely, via phonecalls, email and photos, and he agreed that I could mention him here. So, even if you're not traveling to distant lands, but simply want to address some issues that have been plaguing you for a while, you can VPN or proxy in China), or sign up confidentially for a 35-minute Holistic Health Consultation. You may discover things about your body and health and how to maintain both that may have eluded you for years. This is how I'm living! See you next time!
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