Friday, March 18, 2011

Why's the Salt Gone?

Last night I (Andrew) was teaching my adults about fads, like the hula hoop and tickle-me-elmo. I asked them about any recent fads in China, and one student answered: "Salt." I was really confused. "Salt?" I said. "Like, the little white powder?" Sure enough, there was a salt craze yesterday. Last night there was literally NO SALT to be bought in ALL of China. Imagine that. Imagine a country as big as the United States, with 4 times the population, and NO salt. Phone lines were down for hours with lines jammed due to the heavy traffic of 600 million people calling the other 600 million people to see if they had salt in their city. One of my students went to the supermarket around noon and the salt was already wiped out.

Why this sudden halophilimania? Well, Japan has a reactor that's about to go nuclear, and China is Japan's next door neighbor. The logic goes: the nuclear plant will explode, thus contaminating the sea water; the ocean is where we get salt, thus salt will be contaminated by the nuclear waste; sea salt will forevermore be radioactive, so stock up now. Imagine green, glow-in-the-dark salt... There's also a rumor that the iodine protects against nuclear radiation. This resulted in millions of Chinese going to their local supermarket and buying 100 kg of salt each. They then turn around and sell it for eight times as much!

The joke's on them, though. According to the Chinese government, only 20% of salt in China comes from the ocean, and there's tons of salt in storage by the government monopoly. Not only that, with the way the currents run, it's apparently impossible for nuclear pollution in Japan to contaminate Chinese waters. What is more, iodine apparently doesn't do anything to counteract cancer, so the salt scare has been for nothing.

So the moral of the story is: The next time you hear an apocalyptic rumor, take it with a grain of salt.

For more info, check out this article in the LA Times.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wonderland Cafe

There aren't many western restaurants in town, but by far my favorite is Wonderland Cafe. This cozy cafe is located just down the street from us, and it has a delicious menu that includes prime rib and foie gras. I haven't tried the more gourmet food yet, as I usually go there for the cheaper lunch and coffee. What I love about this place isn't the excellent cuisine, but the amazing atmosphere. Sweet song birds serenade diners, and the lovely stone walls and comfy couches make it difficult to leave this place.

The attention to detail is something I really admire in a restaurant, and it's a rare feature to find in China. See the little kitty paw prints?

As can be expected, the downside is the expensive prices, but we still manage to spend a couple hours here sipping hot drinks and reading about every two weeks or so. I plan to spend more time there when Andrew leaves.

We were introduced to another restaurant in town which has cheaper coffee and good pizza, Pizza Fan House, but it's farther away from our place and the ambiance isn't as great. Yet it did have this interesting sign: