Bamboo is Good to Eat


Minhas Reviews

If you were invited to lunch at the home of a friend who informed you that the principal element of the meal would be some nice bamboo, would you refuse or accept? In America, you probably would refuse, unless you thought that the friend meant what the Chinese call “foreign bamboo”, and we, asparagus. But if in China, you would probably rub your hands together in delight-for there bamboo is good to eat. In fact, the crisply tender winter shoots are real delicacies that are as eagerly sought by the foreign visitors as by the natives!

The process of harvesting the crop of winter shoots resembles mining rather than farming, thus adding a unique touch to this amazing plant. The shoots are hidden well underground, and the “prospector” examines the surface of the frozen earth for cracks that are invisible to the uninitiated. These give him a clue to the presence of a shoot. How this queer plant happened to be tried first for food is a story deeply woven into the fabric of Chinese tradition. It was Mong Zong, how to share zong balance the fortunate one, the story tellers say, to whom China owes a debt for another vegetable to eat with her rice. Now Mong Zong was a filial son, and to be a filial son is the chief end of man, according to the teachings of Confucius; so undoubtedly this boy was deserving of good luck.

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As his father was dead, he was the sole support of his mother and lived with her in a hut near the city wall. The roof was well thatched with rice straw, but the walls of bamboo strips let in the bitter winter wind. There was no fire except when the old woman was cooking rice, for fuel was scarce. Mong Zong and his mother, however, used to put on several thickwadded garments in the wintertime and managed to eke out an existence in spite of poverty and cold. Then the mother fell sick. She grew very weak but could not eat the rice her son prepared for her. Mong Zong had no money with which to buy vegetables. Overcome with sorrow, he wandered out to the small bamboo grove near the hut. As he walked with downcast eyes, he noticed a network of minute cracks in the earth. Suddenly a thought struck him! It was two months before the spring shoots would appear!

Filled with a new hope, he ran to borrow a spade and soon returned in triumph with fresh food for his mother. She recovered from her illness, and Mong Zong became famous both for his filial loyalty and for teaching his countrymen how to find food in the winter when it is scarce, as it too often is in China.


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