The Food Changes in Wenchong Village, on the Edge of a City Undergoing Modern Development
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Since China’s reform and opening up 40 years ago, the social landscape has changed dramatically. Villages around the edges of major cities have paid the price of rapid development to be in line with the rest of the world, causing some irreversible effects. This research uses a qualitative methodology, autoethnography, to explore the food changes in Wenchong village, near Guangzhou, over the past 40 years. Autoethnography is the integration of personal life experiences into biographical or ethnographic writing, and provides an insider’s perspective. A reflective framework was used to analyse my personal experiences through a gastronomic lens. In this research, I share my personal food stories of growing up in Wenchong village, where arable land has been used for factories and warehouses, farmers are now urban residents, and food self-sufficiency is now dependent on external supplies. The changes I explore are in relation to the local food landscape, which now has a wider and novel range of foods, as well as to the village population and land usage, and the globalised supply of goods: food bought from supermarkets instead of local markets, cooking methods and living space changes that have limited traditional food production, and the impacts of change on traditional festivals. Four significant themes emerged in this research: social connections, taste, culture, and identity. These themes indicate that the inevitable urbanisation is unravelling the village’s food culture, traditions, and community, and has greatly weakened the people’s connection to the land. These food stories are a reflection of my emotional link to my family, my village, and my sense of cultural belonging. Thus, my research not only contributes to understanding the food changes in my village, but also how I have come to understand the significance of food and food activities in bringing communities together. Through this research, I hope to encourage some reflections on the effects of social development on traditional Chinese food culture and cultural beliefs, as well as provide some possible directions for future gastronomic research.