Sunday, February 28, 2010

Heart & soul

I recently caught an interesting programme on the Chinese language TV station, a locally produced series called Hometown Flavours. Every week, it features a local television actor or actress, and explores a home-cooked dish particular to that person's dialect group. It looks at how it is cooked in Singapore with maybe a short sequence shot at a hawker stall or restaurant that sellls the dish, then cuts to China where the actor tastes it in a local restaurant and talks about the difference. Then he is sent to the market to get the ingredients and must cook the dish with a local family.

In the episode I watched was a scene where a Hakka actress is in a China market getting ingredients for lei cha (literally, thunder tea -- it is herbs, peanuts and sesame seeds ground into a paste which is turned into a "tea" with hot water. That is poured over a bowl of cooked rice topped with spoonfuls of different diced vegetables, peanuts and beans. You stir it up into a sort porridge of leftovers, that's what it essentially is.) Anyway, at the China market, the actress was peppering the stallholder with questions of what sort of vegetables to buy and how much to get. From off camera, you could hear the stallholder's wife scolding him. So the actress went over to Mrs Boss and tried to engage her conversation, and Mrs Boss just snapped back: "Why should I waste my time talking to you even if you are filming? You just talk and you don't buy anything."

And this is why I don't buy Chinese. No customer relations and no PR, and absolutely no heart, whether it is a market stall or a milk powder producer or pet food manufacturer, it's always just the cold hardnosed bottom line.

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