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Why Common Knowlege Everyday Eating Customs in China Here in the West because of the popularity of Chinese restaurants we have some idea to a greater or lesser degree authentic of the sorts of food to be found in China and many people have mastered to a greater or lesser degree the use of chopsticks But the experience of eating at even the least Americanized Chinese restaurant scarcely resembles the experience of sharing an everyday family meal Eating at a restaurant both in the States and in China has more in common with attending a banquet which involves deliberate reversals and amplifications of everyday Chinese customs and habits Family Meals Though customs and the kinds of food eaten vary according to region it is most common for Chinese families to gather for three meals a day In some areas and at some times of the year laborers may have only two full meals a day but when possible they supplement these with up to three smaller ones often taken at tea houses There is not in general the strong association we have in the West between the type of food and the time of day it should be served say eggs for breakfast a sandwich for lunch pot roast for dinner The sorts of dishes served at the two or three main meals are pretty much the same The goal in planning however is to provide a number of dishes at each meal so that rather than experiencing difference by comparison between one meal and the next each meal includes in itself a satisfying array of elements The Stuff of the Meal The center of the Chinese meal is fan or grain So much so that the meal itself is called hsia fan a period of grain In the South and among urban families in other areas the fan may be rice or rice products but rice is expensive as is the
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