#Food Porn: Do You #Photograph Your Food?

Another BCU student Summer taking food photos in my dining room

Another BCU student Summer taking food photos in my dining room

About six years ago, I invited a few BCU students to our home and I made a number of mouth-watering dishes, as usual with a strong Sichuan flavour, hot and spicy. I remember a Malaysian Chinese student Susana who took pictures of each dish and then posted them on her Facebook.

They looked absolutely fabulous, I had to say. I was proud that my home cooking was rated so highly that they were put on-line for the whole world to see. That was a time when my own photographing was still mostly on shooting Greek or Spanish beaches, churches or temples, landmarks of tourist attractions and group pictures of friends and family before or after their dining. Holiday snaps used to be developed and stored in albums – that time is gone.

Food photos by Susana

Food photos by Susana

They look tempting, don't they?

They look tempting, don’t they?

Then I had my first smart phone with an inbuilt camera that changed everything. No more messing about with taking out this and upload that, and a few straight forward clicks away your photos can be everywhere, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it – who knows what else in being created by nerds all over the globe?! How easy it has become to shoot everything our eyes reach and our heart desires!

Fresh seafood from Fujian

Fresh seafood from Fujian

Back in 2011 I went on a research trip to Fujian, where some of my main characters in Land of Hope came from. My generous hosts took me to a number of fab restaurants treating me with delicious local delights. I remember taking photos as the dishes were spread in front of me, like the one below. One of my hosts exclaimed: “I’ve never seen anyone photographing the food they eat before!”

His comments embarrassed me so I stopped what I was doing and concentrated on enjoying the food instead. I bet as I write this, he is probably taking photos of his food with his iPhone6 somewhere in China, and nobody would bat an eyelid.

In fact every time I go out, especially in China, I see many people doing the same, snapping away as the food arrives on the table. Before they are consumed, they have to be recorded, on camera, and instantly shared on one of the many social media platforms!

No WeChat ?

No WeChat ?

Last weekend, I was invited by two of BCU’s visiting academics to their apartment near the Edgbaston Reservoir. It was kind of goodbye before they return to China. Look, everyone’s phone was aimed at the dishes before they were consumed!

How many phones can you spot? 8 phones were directed at the food that day :)

How many phones can you spot? 8 phones were directed at the food :)

On Wednesday evening, I was invited to dine with our BCUIC colleagues and a group of Chinese university teachers and agents. What do you see from the picture below? I hasten to add that the food was sublime – does it taste better by sharing with our loved ones afar?

Everyone on our table was looking at their phones sharing food photos on WeChat

Everyone on our table was looking at their phones sharing food photos on WeChat

Is this another reflection of Chinese people’s obsession with food? Not only do we spend a lot of time preparing food, talking about it, dreaming about it, sharing it with friends and family, but also we obsessively photograph it and post it before we are allowed to touch it with our chopsticks, or fork and knife. One day, will our friends on the other side of the world smell and taste the food just as we do here?

Interesting thought, don’t you think? Perhaps computer geniuses are already making headway towards that direction now. Who knows what the future will bring? After all, food not only gives satisfaction to our very basic needs of survival but also leads to enjoyment of finer things in life! It’s an art form and my fellow countrymen and women definitely make it so.

I could not help myself!

I could not help myself!

Oh, one girl looked up and spotted me :)

Oh, one girl looked up and spotted me :)

My husband is not too thrilled whenever I stop him from his instant gratification of the food he has ordered. Neither is he when I stop outside many neighbours’ front gardens to take pictures of their flowers every time we are out walking. Should I blame this OCD behaviour on the the invention of iPhones?

Yummy food to take home, by phone :)

Yummy food to take home, by phone :)

Are you someone who would eat whatever is in front of you without spending too much time on its presentation and contents, or are you a foodie plus simultaneous photographer who prolongs the meal time without a care in the world?

Whatever you are, here is some food for thought. Whether you like food porn or not, enjoy every moment!

Shooting flowers have become my second nature :)

Shooting flowers has become my second nature :)

Posted in China & East Asia, Food & Cuisine, Social Media & Photography, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#Anniversaries and #Gifts

The happiest day in our lives

The happiest day in our lives

What do you buy for a man who has everything?

It’s July and another anniversary is here. Every year I have some trouble deciding what to buy for the man I married some years ago. Normally buying gifts is never an issue for me – I love spending money on my loved ones and friends, and I am constantly on the look out for possible gifts whenever I go shopping, which is, on a weekly basis.

Shopaholic, Moi?

But buying gifts for John is hard. I’ve written about it before and here I repeat: this man has some rare qualities, one of which is that he does not care for material gains, especially gifts. If he likes something, he buys it himself. If he does not like something, even if it costs a fortune, he will either refuse taking it or giving it to someone who happens to be standing by. Many of his colleagues have witnessed this, and no exception for me. So What shall I give him to mark this special occasion?

So I looked up on-line and see what the experts suggest.IMG_5452 IMG_5451

Apparently according to tradition, each year you can get your partner different things on the anniversary. This year, depending on whether I am traditional or modern, it’s crystal or watches. There you go, you now know exactly how many years I have married this man.

No watches, John made it clear. Crystals? Possibly.

230420761 IMG_5455 IMG_5454

Failing that, we can always go out for a nice Italian meal, or Chinese :-).

Then in three months time, it will be his birthday. Again, what do you buy for a man who thinks he has everything and expects nothing from his wife? Perhaps smiles that I am always prepared to give :-).

Are you ever in a dilemma as to what gifts to buy for someone special? Any suggestions?

Fountains of Love

Fountains of Love

Sheffield Registry Office looked like a wedding cake, but it is no longer there. Fortunately the marriage is still intact :-)

Sheffield Registry Office looked like a wedding cake, but it’s no longer there. Fortunately the marriage is still intact :-)

41GFZ0hX08L

81nftrslKjL._SL1500_

Posted in Social Media & Photography, True Life Story, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contemplating the Meaning of Life

Life is a miracle, so live it well!

Life is a miracle, so live it well!

Have you ever thought of the meaning of your life?

I have, quite often actually. Maybe I have come to the age when each day moves faster towards that destination, therefore time has become even more precious as each moment passes, never to return.

Maybe I am just more reflective than some of my peers. Even when I was much younger, I contemplated my life: would it be something I would be proud of? Would I make my parents proud of me? Would I be able to make a contribution to Society? Would anyone miss me when I am gone?

Many people probably never think about their life and how the way they live may have an impact on others. Not me. I may not have lived a perfect life so far and far from it, yet I often try to see myself from another’s point of view, examining my actions and what kind of image I present to the people around me.

The truth is is: I like what I see, especially what I have become at this stage in my life. Honestly I do not mind being a friend to myself.

10885546_10155195929565361_5915932990324483101_n IMG_2955

I was a shy child and I was never talkative, finding it easy to be absorbed in another world than that of my own. There was a lot of chaos and instability in my childhood years but the hobby of reading kept me sane and gave me hope. There was life beyond the every day strife and struggle.photo-2

I read somewhere that people born in the Spring are usually optimistic and positive-minded, because after they were born, the days get longer and warmer and summer was just around the corner. I am an April baby and that may have explained my personality – see below one of my many test results from the social media which says how wonderful I am :-).

That's me alright :-)

That’s me alright :-)

Last Friday, I received an unexpected request from a postgraduate student from University of Warwick who asked if she could interview me for her dissertation. She wanted to speak with Chinese expats in the UK. I agreed and the next thing I knew, she was coming to see me in the very afternoon, with a classmate of hers.

During the weekend, she sent me an email thanking me: “It’s really admiring for us to hear you talking about your stories, and you may not have noticed that that confidence in you makes you shine.”

I am pleased that I am able to contribute to her studies, even in a tiny way.

10658921_899428013424455_4884409054281652866_o IMG_2958

I grew up worshipping heroes, those who gave their lives for others, those who made huge sacrifices to achieve the greater good. I believed in them. I’ve learnt that there is something bigger and grander than ourselves from an early age. Although I have had my disappointments over the years, my faith in heroes and goodness in people never diminished – there is shift, no doubt, from admiring grand, sometimes unattainable greatness to more down-to-earth, simple yet charitable actions that I can see and feel.

Personally I’ve come a long way, from a malnourished baby who nearly died at birth, to a mature woman I am today, travelling thousands of miles from a place many people have never heard of in Southwestern China to the second largest city in the UK.

CICapRIUEAARobJ photo-14

I have learnt many valuable lessons in my life that I tried to share them. Due to my love for writing and stories, a simple hobby of diary writing grew to a more sustaining efforts of noting down what has happened in my journey through life, a journey that took me from the East to the West, a journey that saw me growing up under The Same Moon, going through Trials of Life and finally finding my feet firmly on the Land of Hope.

Trilogy Cover

Has my life been dramatic and exciting? Has it been worthwhile? Have I been through ups and downs yet coming out the other side smiling?

Be Good & Do Good!

Be Good & Do Good!

Yes, yes and yes! Have I got any regrets? No.

How many of us can say that when they are lying on their deathbed, reflecting on their life? In my lifetime, I’ve encountered hundreds of thousands of people; I’ve interacted with thousands of people and I’ve had close contact with hundreds.

I have met very important people, professional and successful people; I have met many more ordinary folks, losers and even criminals, people from almost all walks of life. I’ve witnessed a wide range of human spectrum, from the great, the good, the beautiful, to the other extreme to evil, the suffering and ugliness. I see people lust after power, money and greed, losing their dignity and humanity along the way.

Where does it all end? Death and taxes, two sure things in life; and all creatures, big or small, all end up in one and only way.

The question, for me, has always been: to be or not to be!

yesiknowthat wettbewerb

Posted in Book Reviews & Excerpts, Reading & Writing, Social Media & Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joyful July: Hot #Summer #BBQ and #BCU #Fiesta

Cupcakes, anyone?

Cupcakes, anyone?

Only a week into the month, we already have had the hottest days on record on the very first day of July, climbing up to 36 degrees, unfamiliar to many Brits but we embraced it.

Quite by coincidence, Birmingham City University had its annual Summer Fiesta on the hottest day. The heat was raised a few degrees by a cauldron of fiery Mexican flavour: Burritos, Paellas,  fruit from tropical “trees” dipped in a massive hot chocolate fountain.

To burn off these extra calories, a live Salsa band was playing while a number of staff members shook their bodies on the dance floor. Naturally I was drawn into the energetic rhythm and beat – how could anyone help but move their body and shake their booty?

Chocolate fountain & Fruit Tree

Chocolate fountain & Fruit Tree

Mexican drinks and treats

Mexican drinks and treats

the Party was on!

the Party was on!

International Office Staff having fun

International Office Staff having fun

What a fabulous start of a hot summer month!

The fun did not end there, of course. On Saturday, the 4th of July, we hosted a BBQ at our suburban home. We had over 20 guests, from age 5 to age 85.

Summer BBQ 2015

Summer BBQ 2015

IMG_5190

This year we had a few old friends like Friederike and Colin Rice, as well as many new friends I only met this year. I was really glad that quite a few of BCU’s visiting academics were able to join us, despite cancellations of the train. It was great that they arrived early to help out, and of course, having Tao at home was handy too. He made his signature roast duck, chicken wings and spare ribs.

Freiderike, James, Jackie, Geoff and Colin

Freiderike, James, Jackie, Geoff and Colin

Tao watching the girls: Yan, Jie, Yuan and Qian

Tao watching the girls: Yan, Jie, Yuan and Qian

We had so much fun and these pictures speak for themselves, thanks to everyone who made this day really special.

BBQ chef John with Gabriel and Gisele, from Mexico

BBQ chef John with Gabriel and Gisele, from Mexico

Playing cards on our front yard

Playing cards on our front yard

Party Chef Lele and Helpers Peipei, Yuan and Yang

Party Chef Lele and Helpers Peipei, Yuan and Yang

Playing generous hostess has long been one of my favourite pastimes.

It may have been in my genes but it really took off after I arrived in the UK. Maybe because I was living on my own and craved for fun and company, maybe because I enjoy cooking and entertaining, I often invited people over no matter how cramped my accommodation had been, from student halls of Warwick, Glasgow and Leeds.

Once I had around 50 people, filled all the rooms and garden. I spent a day shopping and another day cooking. I cooked  so much food that I had leftovers for days afterwards.

Over the years, I’ve lost count how many friends, acquaintances and strangers I have fed, many of whom have long since disappeared from my life. Some of them, I hope, would remember that they had once been entertained by a Chinese girl/woman. In return, I have no doubt that my cooking skills have improved along the way.

These days my energy reserve is no longer the same as when I was younger and fitter. Hence I don’t do it as often nor as big a scale. Still, when I do, I enjoy it massively.

If we were in America, we would be drinking and celebrating the Independence Day, no doubt. Since we are in the UK, the former colonists who were kicked out, I’ll raise my glass for more simple reason:

May you all have a glorious summer and enjoy your life no matter what!

Playing frisbee to encourage better appetite :)

Playing frisbee to encourage better appetite :)

So did walking along the swan lake

So did walking along the swan lake

Tao playing guitar to entertain

Tao playing guitar to entertain

Posted in Food & Cuisine, Social Media & Photography, True Life Story, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment