China Elevator Stories

The Chinese Grandmother Who Didn't Allow Me To Eat Raw Cucumber Salad

I visit a little restaurant in a mountain village near Chongqing.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


In June 2012, I visit a little restaurant located in a mountain village a few hours from Chongqing. The restaurant’s plain white walls are decorated with a single print portraying Mao Zedong in the center, surrounded by other CCP leaders of the era. Although the village is a domestic tourist destination in China, the restaurant is frequented only by locals.

Most of the things in the restaurant are made of plastic, as is common in restaurants in China. You’d sit on plastic chairs, eat out of plastic bowls, and at the end of the meal, you would reach for the plastic napkin holder.

I had been hiking the whole day through a nearby valley, the Wulong Tiansheng Three Bridges Unesco World Heritage Site, without having had a decent meal for lunch, so after finishing my bowl of noodles, I still feel hungry. I reach for the menu again and study the dishes.

The Chinese grandmother who didn't allow me to eat raw cucumber salad

While I’m going through the menu, the Chinese grandma who is a part of the restaurant staff starts talking to me in the local dialect. She’s very curious as to why I traveled to their little village on my own. All the other tourists arrive in large groups, like swarms of bees. I explain to her I like traveling on my own.

A little while later, her son comes back home from work. Upon seeing her talk to me, he tells her that she shouldn’t try so hard as I wouldn’t understand her local dialect. She tells him that we are able to communicate just fine.

Sometimes you don’t need to understand every single word to understand what people are trying to communicate. I have met people who have traveled around the remotest areas of China, who were not able to speak a single word of Chinese, but who could still communicate with locals.

All the while, the grandma’s daughter-in-law – the owner of the restaurant – is nowhere to be seen. When she comes back, I order Sichuan-style cucumber salad. As she turns around to go into the kitchen and prepare the meal, the grandmother is fast to tell her that she can’t prepare cucumber salad for me. After all, in her opinion, raw cucumbers are not healthy to eat.

In the end, I am served cucumber-with-century-egg-soup instead, which is also very delicious.

Has anybody ever told you that raw cucumbers are not healthy?

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