Was ice cream invented in China: Myth or Fact?

January 29, 2014

While researching topics about China, I kept running into claims that ice cream was invented in China, and Marco Polo brought the recipe back to Italy.

To discover the facts, I did some virtual sleuthing and discovered that immigrants arriving in Ellis Island were treated to a bowl of ice cream upon arrival.

I wonder if the Chinese arriving at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay got to eat ice cream. Considering the way the Chinese were treated then—probably not.

Ice Cream History and Folklore says, “Most books are full of myths about the history of ice cream. According to popular accounts, Marco Polo (1254-1324) saw ice cream being made during his trip to China, and on his return introduced it to Italy.”

In fact, “During China’s Tang Dynasty  (618-907 A.D.) something vaguely on the order of ice cream was made from cow, goat and buffalo milk, flavored with camphor and thickened with flour.” (The History of Ice Cream)

More details came from Wonderquest: “The first concoction resembling ice cream was made in China during the Tang period…. Ice-cream makers … heated buffalo, cow, and goat milk together then fermented the brew to form yogurt. They thickened the yogurt with flour and flavored it with camphor (an insect repellant, of all things). Refrigerating first, they served the confection to the king.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The Power of Ginseng

November 13, 2013

My wife often cooks with ginseng. She slices the ginseng thin and it goes into the wok with what she is cooking—tofu, cabbage, edamame, Bok Choy, etc.  Ginseng is a dried root that the Chinese believed possesses magical powers because it’s shaped sort of like a little person.

The Chinese also use Ginseng as a powerful herbal medicine.

At one time, modern scientists rejected these claims, but recent research shows it does help the body resist illness and heal damage caused by stress by stimulating the immune system.

Because I only eat ginseng with food my wife cooks, I’ve never taken the herb for its healing properties but I love what it does for flavor.

Records in China show that ginseng was used as an herbal medicine over 3,000 years ago and in cooking as far back as 5,000 years. Chinese emperors valued ginseng enough to pay for the herb with its weight in gold.  In America, ginseng was also used by several North American Indian nations. Source: Ancient Ginseng History

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


“Peking to Paris” – more than a book review: a journey

May 6, 2013

This is the real life story of Dina and Bernard Bennett driving in a road rally from Beijing to Paris in 2007—starting in Beijing, China to the desert sands of Mongolia, braving the potholes of Russia to reach Eastern Europe and eventually Paris, France with endless break downs and repairs to keep an almost 70-year-old car running.

The closest books I can compare this reading experience with is Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia” and Tom Carter’s “China: Portrait of a People“.

The big difference is that Theroux rode the rails, and Carter walked for most of two years across China. In Peking to Paris, Dina and her husband drove a 1940 Cadillac-LaSalle 52 Coupe that Dina named Roxanne.

On page 79, Dina says, “China is full of surprises.” Then she dives into a description of a café that specializes in Mongolian hotpot. She says, “Behind me is a full wall of shelves and bins stuffed with vegetables, fish, poultry, pork, lamb and beef.  I count four sections, each easily five feet wide, divided by eight shelves reaching the ceiling. Every shelf is crammed with ingredient bins …”

With this description, Bennett shows us that China is an eating culture.  Food is important to the Chinese—very important.

In another chapter, she discovers that the Chinese and Americans have more in common than she had thought when they stay the night at a rustic Chinese dude ranch where urban Chinese come to rough it on vacations spending time with Mongolian herders.

In China, the ride seemed smooth and easy, but once they cross the border into Mongolia, a band of boys exercising their democratic freedoms throw rocks at the car and shatter the driver’s side windshield.

However, when they were still in an undemocratic China ruled by one party, the CCP, no one threw rocks at them. Instead, while driving down remote country roads police officers in fancy dress uniforms wearing white gloves waited at intersections to guide them in the right direction.

A few hundreds yard into Mongolia, the paved roads they had enjoyed in China suddenly end and the rest of the trek across this landlocked country is mostly on dirt and sand taking a heavy toll on the mechanical health of the LaSalle. Then they reach Russia’s paved roads where the challenge becomes avoiding horse-trough sized potholes capable of swallowing cars whole.

Because of this experience from Peking to Paris, Dina and Bernard are bitten by the travel bug and they have now completed more than a dozen road trips all over the world—after you read this memoir, you may want to follow them by visiting  the author’s Blog at Dina Bennett.net

I’m planning to.

Oh, and lest I forget, I was contacted by Dina’s publicist and agreed to accept a complementary uncorrected proof, which I read in record time. I have never met or talked to Dina and her husband online or in person.

 

The LaSalle in the above video is not the one that Dina and Bernard drove in the 2007 rally from Beijing to Paris, but the video gives you an idea of the car they drove 7,800 miles across China to Mongolia, then Russia to Eastern Europe and eventually Paris, France—thirty-five grueling days.

It has been some time since I read a book that I wanted to wake up early in the morning to read and eagerly waited to read before I slept. For me, reading Peking to Paris was an adventure, and I highly recommend it.

Discover Country Driving with Peter Hessler

 

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Delights of Tofu

December 24, 2012

China was making tofu from soybeans more than two thousand years ago. But mention it to most Americans and it is “yuk” time.  American prejudices for tofu are so strong, most will not taste a morsel.  Horror fills faces and complexions turn green.

That’s why we never mention to the beefy McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, cancer and heart attack  generations that eat at our house as guests that the ice cream we serve is made from tofu or the chocolate pie is made from tofu or that …

They never know the difference. We reveal the truth after they eat.

When we are in China, I get up early to go the the nearest market that makes fresh soy juice and I buy it without sugar or sweetener added. There is no comparison. It’s warm. It’s fresh. It’s China. It’s different from the genetically altered, American, factory-farmed soy juice sold in American markets. That stuff is “yuk” and I don’t touch it.

There are thousands of foods that humans eat. Most Americans eat about a half dozen. Maybe soy and tofu is the secret explaining why there are more than 1.3 billion Chinese.

And, if you are curious enough to overcome your prejudices, visit one or all of these Websites and Blogs to learn more:

Tofu

tofu and soymilk

Tofu or Not Tofu

History of Tofu

Gluten-Free and Sugar-Free Ginger-Baked Tofu with Agave-Peanut Sauce

The Chinese invented tofu, but some Americans are reinventing it. I was introduced to Chocolate Tofu Pie at Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa, California. Then I figured out how to make it at home by experimenting.

Ingredients:

  • Two 10-ounce containers of soft or silken organic tofu
  • Two four-ounce packages of baker’s, unsweetened chocolate—but use only six of the ounces. This chocolate has no milk or sweeteners added.  Use six ounces of the eight.
  • One bag of malt-sweetened chocolate bits. There are no dairy or refined sugars in this chocolate. Use half of this bag. If you skip this ingredient, add more of the baker’s, unsweetened chocolate.
  • Agave nectar. This low absorbing sweetener is absorbed into the body slowly.
  • One package of readymade whole-wheat piecrust (recommended for fiber).
  • Use one tablespoon of arrowroot for a thickener

Directions:

  • Mix the tofu in a blender with the arrowroot or another natural thickener.
  • Heat the chocolate in a pan (double boiler hopefully) until melted and pour into blended tofu and mix.
  • Add the Agave nectar.
  • Taste to make sure it is sweet enough and that the bitterness from the baker’s chocolate is gone. Add more Agave if desired. Our daughter enjoys this step the most, since she is the taster.
  • Blend until it is all one smooth color.
  • Pour equally into the pie pans.
  • Put pies in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Let pies cool after cooking; put in refrigerator after they are cool.
  • The pies will be ready the next day.

Note: I usually shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for the ingredients used in the tofu chocolate pie.

Discover China’s Noodle Culture

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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“For All the Tea in China” – a book review

October 23, 2012

If you are interested in a real-life collision between the West and China early in the 19th century, then I highly recommend Sarah Rose’s nonfiction work. You will discover that the British Empire and its merchants were successful, because they were more ruthless and devious than anyone else on Earth.

You may be interested in the list of wars that involved the Kingdom of Great Britain from 1701 – 2011. Be prepared for shock and a dropped jaw. The price of an empire is blood, lots of spilled blood.

At its greatest extent, the British Empire was known as the largest in history, and it covered more than thirteen-million square miles (20,921,472 square kilometers), which is about a quarter of the Earth’s total land area, and she controlled more than 500 million people—a quarter of the world’s population.

The English language, which the British Empire spread, is the second most-widely spoken language in the world today—in reality, the standard language of the world.

What financed the brutal expansion of this empire?  According to For All the Tea in China, drugs paid for the empire.  The British Empire was a thief and the largest drug cartel in human history.

Sarah Rose wrote a fascinating story of Robert Fortune (1812 – 1880) and one of, if not the largest, acts of corporate espionage and theft in history. This nonfiction book is about how the British stole tea plants and the method of producing tea from China and successfully transplanted this industry in India.

For example, if you drink Darjeeling Tea from India, you are drinking a product that was stolen from China by Robert Fortune in the early half of the 19th century.

But there is much more to this story than the theft of tea from the country that may have invented it almost five thousand years ago. In fact, China is considered to have the earliest records of tea drinking, with recorded tea use in its history dating back to the first millennium BCE.

However, first, I want to dispel a misconception I discovered from a two-star Amazon reader review that said, “I was a little skeptical about her comment in the notes ‘As this is a work of popular history, not a scholarly undertaking, I have avoided the use of footnotes and tried to steer clear of mentioning sources in the body of the text. Nevertheless, this is a work of nonfiction …’ “

That unfair review left off the rest of Sarah Rose’s quote that said, “Nevertheless, this is a work of nonfiction, and anything in quotes comes from a letter, memoir, newspaper or other contemporaneous sources.

“I have relied heavily on Robert Fortune’s four memoires (listed at the end of this post), his letters to the East India Company and other company documents housed in the British Library. Over five hundred books and documents were consulted in putting this project together.” (pg. 251, hardcover)

On page 227 of the hardcover, Rose wrote, “By the time the Chinese realized that Fortune had stolen an inestimable treasure from them, it was many years too late to remediate their loss. His theft helped spread tea to a wider world at lower prices.”

In addition, “Tea likewise revolutionized Britain’s capital and banking systems and influenced the rapid growth of trade networks in the Far East. It was instrumental in extending the reach of British colonialism as the empire expanded to include countries such as Burma, Ceylon, East Africa and others where tea could be grown …”

On page 178, we discover, “It was through drug-based commercial enterprises such as the tea and opium trade that Britain became the greatest of all hegemonic empires. The British campaign to sell opium in China was tremendously profitable. … Britain’s all-conquering naval fleet was able to be constantly improved with newly minted capital from the sugar, tea and opium trades. Without opium, the India trade would not have flourished and without India, Britain’s post-Napoleonic global ascendency could well have collapsed.”

However, these few quotes do not do justice to Robert Fortune’s adventure in China. He successfully passed himself off as a citizen of the Qing Empire dressed in mandarin robes. He even had a queue, a braid of hair worn hanging down behind the head, sewn to his scalp and had his head shaved to match the style of the time.

“He eventfully became proficient enough with speaking Mandarin that he was able to adopt the local dress and move among the populous largely unnoticed. By shaving his head and adopting a ponytail, this rather gruff Scotsman was able to effectively blend in. So well in fact, that he was able to enter the forbidden city of Souchow (now Wuhsien) unchallenged.” Source: Planet Explorers.com

Besides being nonfiction loaded with facts, this book was also an adventure and/or spy thriller based on a real person and his mission of intrigue—if caught, he would have been executed. To pull off the biggest heist of all time, Fortune traveled to areas of China that no foreigner had ever visited before, and his only companions were Chinese that he had bribed to work for him.

Today, tea is the most popular drink in the world in terms of consumption. Its consumption equals all other manufactured drinks in the world – including coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and alcohol – put together. In fact, China is still the leading tea producer in the world: in 2010 China produced 1,467,467 tons (32.5%) compared to second place India at 991,180 tons (21.9%). Third place went to Kenya at 399,000 tons (8.83%).

In addition, consumption of tea in 2010 grew at a faster rate than global production. In the United States alone in 2011, the US tea industry gross revenue through all foodservice and retail outlets was greater than $27-billion (and twelve countries consumed more tea than the US). For a comparison, ticket sales for the US domestic movie market were only $10.28-billion in 2011.

Tea is more popular than Hollywood.

Robert Fortune’s memoirs:

1. Three Years’ Wandering in the Northern Provinces of China, A Visit to the Tea, Silk, and Cotton Countries, with an account of the Agriculture and Horticulture of the Chinese, New Plants, etc., London: John Murray  (1847)

2. A Journey To The Tea Countries Of China; Including Sung-Lo And The Bohea Hills; With A Short Notice Of The East India Company’s Tea Plantations In The Himalaya Mountains. With Map And Illustrations, London: John Murray  (1853)

3. Two visits to the tea countries of China and the British tea plantations in the Himalaya: with a narrative of adventures, and a full description of the culture of the tea plant, the agriculture, horticulture, and botany of China, London: John Murray (1853)

4. A Residence Among the Chinese; Inland, On the Coast and at Sea; being a Narrative of Scenes and Adventures During a Third Visit to China from 1853 to 1856, including Notices of Many Natural Productions and Works of Art, the Culture of Silk, &c, London: John Murray (1857)

5. Yedo and Peking; A Narrative of a Journey to the Capitals of Japan and China, with Notices of the Natural Productions, Agriculture, Horticulture and Trade of those Countries and Other Things Met with By the Way, London: John Murray  (1863)

Discover The Tea Horse Road or learn about The Magic of Puer Tea

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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