Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
During Phase 0, we were in the process of selecting inquiry projects that intigued us and pursue the ones that would stay interest us for the whole month we were there. Now in Phase 1 the objective is "Posing Real Question" which means posing a research question like in science. The inquiry project in many ways are like science experiments, start by exploring topics or ideas, and pretty soon a purpose/research question will begin to surface. The purpose/research question is really important in both science and the inquiry project because all the research and data collected will be based off of this topic and a simple error could be a set back or mess up the whole project.
Before we began our journey, I did not really know much about the topic I was studying. I knew that Local Food Products/Cuisine of Xizhou was tremendously different from the Food Products/ Cuisine of Shanghai or the Food Products/ Cuisine of Beiing or the Food Products/ Cuisine of Guangdong. I knew that in China, most provinces or cities had their own style of cooking, I also knew that Xizhou was in the rural area of China and the freshness of their food was absolutely amazing. Another thing I knew was that in Xizhou rice was seen more than wheat due to its climates. Like many other provinces/cities in the southern parts of China, yaks play a crucial role making milk which can be made in cheese and other meat and dairy products. I only knew very, very little about Food Products/ Cuisine of Xizhou before starting this project. I learned a bit about the background through the Lijiang China Alive trip in the spring of 2013. Yaks were very common there and produced cheese that was in many of their signature dishes. Cows were not seen very often in the southern parts of China, but yaks and horses were a common signt. I knew that food products/cuisine in cities were not as fresh as food products/cuisine in the country-side because in the cities pollution was spreading like wild fire and the farm lands were "ruined" by the air quality. In Xizhou, we are about 2000 feet above sea level far away from the polluted air and water. Most foods are grown and cooked fresh from the farm without harmful additives in the soil.
My goal from now until the end of my Microcampus journey is to focus on a specific food(s) that is both delicious and interesting to study. I could do this by knowing a variety of signature foods they have there. I will do this by trying new foods or asking some local people in the village what their favorite foods are and what foods are eaten during special traditions. I am extremely excited to start trying the foods they have in Xizhou and finding one that is both delicious and interesting to study about. Another way of approaching my goal e is to learn about some specific rice products, since the southern China mainly grows rice instead of wheat. Some rice products can include, rice noodles, rice wine, rice cakes, rice pudding, etc. I will probably do this by biking out to the farmland first and asking farmers about their rice crops if they have any, if they do not I would ask them when they grew rice, what type of temperature would be suitable for growing rice, and popular food products in Xizhou that are made from rice. Then I would look for some local rice product vendors and try some of the foods, after that I would start doing research on specific rice products.
In order to come up with ten questions about my topic, some additional background information is necessary to help build my knowledge about Local Food Products/Cuisine of Xizhou. The background research part of my inquiry project will be located in Phase 3.
So now that some background research about my topic is complete, I will begin to start coming up with ten questions. The ten questions I come up with will guide me along my research process and if I was ever "lost", I could refer back to some of these questions. Another purpose that the questions have is that when I am at Xizhou, I can choose to focus on one of my questions below and find out more about it.
Here are some possible questions that I could do. After coming up with the questions I made a prediction of what a possible answer can be, which is written below the question in italics.
My List of 10 Questions
Popular and Traditional Foods Questions
1. In Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine, what are the signature dish or dishes? Why? How is it made?
Some signature dishes include Guo Qiao Mi Xian. It is popular because it tastes good and provides tons of nutrition as well. It's made by steaming a big bowl of soup then putting some cooked rice noodles in the soup. After that a thin layer of oil is put in to preserve the heat, ingredients would be added in to enhance the flavor of the dish.
2. What are some foods eaten during festivals and holidays? Why?
Some foods eaten during holidays would be Er kuai. Er kuai is a simple snack eaten in Yunnan/Xizhou and we call it ricecakes. It is eaten during holidays because it is easy to make and delicious as well.
3. What are some foods that most vendors sell on the street in Xizhou?
Some snack foods that most vendors sell on the street in Xizhou are, Er kuai, Rubing, Rushan, etc.
4. In Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine, what role do yaks play? What are some yak food products?
Yaks provide dairy and meat products for Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine so they are pretty important. Some yak products include Rubing, Rushan, and Yak meat.
5. What are some foods that are made from rice? How is it made? What dishes include this type of rice product?
A food that is made from rice is Er kuai. Er kuai is a snack food in Yunnan/Xizhou and is made by combining rice with liquids and steaming it to become a ricecake.
6. What are some foods that most vendors sell on the street in Xizhou?
7. What are some commonly used ingredients?
8. Are there any rare delicacies that are only eaten during special times?
9. What are some dishes that include wan dou fen? How is it made?
10. What are some foods eaten during festivals and holidays? Why?
Xizhou/Yunnan Cuisine: Changing Over Time 6. How has the Xizhou/Yunnan cuisine changed over the last ten years?
I guess that more flavors have been introduced and more creations with food have also happened.
7. How do neighboring provinces and cities influence the cuisine of Yunnan/Xizhou?
Sichuan influences Xizhou cuisine because of their uses of spices.
8. How do different ethnic groups affect the cuisine of Xizhou?
The more ethnic groups in a province usually means more techniques and styles of cooking.
9. What spices are mainly used in Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine? Why?
Chili peppers are mainly used in Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine because of the Sichuan influences.
10. How have Muslim groups influence Xizhou/Yunnan cuisine?
Muslim people introduced new foods not involving pork, which can be a big change in cuisine.
While researching my topic by interviewing local contacts I developed a new set of questions and took out some, which can be found in phase 3 of my project.
When I was coming up with my list of questions, I realized that all my questions fall under two categories; Popular Foods and the History of Xizhou/Yunnan Cuisine. I figured that these were good topics because the History of Xizhou/Yunnan Cuisine is so diverse and there are lots to learn about. Popular/Traditional foods was another category that interested me because I could try many foods and find out which ones I liked the best. Additionally I would study a few that I liked and narrow down until I was set on one food to research. A question that I decided to remove was "What is usually found on the dining table of someone who lives in Yunnan/Xizhou?" because I realized that this question was quite broad and harder to research about.
Before I depart to Xizhou and begin digging deeper, I should probably know more about Xizhou's culture. Some aspects of their culture that I should learn about is the different ethnic groups that live in Xizhou, such as some of their traditions and agriculture. Knowing that will help and guide me to briefly answering some of the questions listed above. I am also going to see how weathers affect certain crops so that I can eliminate some foods with ingredients that are not in season. Another benefit from learning about the climate is that I would know what food was seasonal and study those foods rather than a food that is not. Learn more about my inquiry project in Phase 2, which is about finding resources that can help me with my project.