The New York Times published an article about China’s annual winter cabbage hoarding on December 11, joining what seems to have become a seasonal trend in China media coverage.
Every November, farmers deliver tons of cabbage into Chinese cities for state-sanctioned vending. These are bought mainly by older residents who traditionally stockpile the vegetable over the winter season. This is described as a throwback to paltry winters in the ’50s and ’60s “especially after Mao Zedong’s disastrous attempt to industrialize the nation during the Great Leap Forward, when state-rationed turnips, leeks and cabbage sustained millions.”
The article ends heartwarmingly, when describing the reasons behind the tradition.
“…Ms. Yang, the retired math teacher, said the cabbage hoarding was more than just about food.
“It’s about nostalgia for a simpler time, perhaps one that these old people romanticize,” she said, tying cabbage heads to her bike rack. “When my father sees cabbage piled on our 16th-floor balcony, he smiles and knows everything is going to be O.K.”
Cabbage seems to have become a seasonal staple for China coverage in the winter; it was mentioned in the Telegraph in 2012, China Daily in 2011 and 2004 and People’s Daily in 2011. The Los Angeles Times published a feature on the phenomenon in 2003. Additionally, state media seems to report annually on price fluctuations of the vegetable.
A common theme of the English language articles is the prediction of the slow demise of this nostalgic tradition. However, 10 years after the LA Times reported “But it’s not like it used to be,” it seems that people are still buying kilos of cabbage. (According to this video we published in May, real pandemonium ensues if it is given away for free…)
If you are wondering how many dishes can be made with the leafy green, China Daily has the answer: a lot.
“Chinese cabbage in sour sauce. Cabbage soup. Cabbage and bean curd soup. Steamed cabbage. Cabbage with dried shrimp. Cabbage salad. Cabbage with mustard. Pickled cabbage. And on special days, dumplings of cabbage and minced pork.”
Our food editor Ben Cost highly recommends cabbage with bacon, because bacon.
By Maea Lenei Buhre