Phase 2: Finding Helpful Resources
During the previous phase, Phase 1, I created some big questions that will help guide me through my research in XiZhou. In this phase, I will start finding helpful resources that might lead me to some interesting answers or even new questions.
Initially, the keywords on google that I used were "Yunnan foods" or "Local Yunnan cuisine". This gave me a broad selection of famous foods in Yunnan, but it was not specific enough. Then I started to research on a Chinese search engine called Baidu. I thought Chinese websites would provide better information because XiZhou is a Chinese village with Chinese foods. Since I am a fluent Chinese speaker, I was able to fully understand the information provided and successfully translate it into English. Furthermore, I found that looking at previous Microcampus alumni's work and research also helped a great deal with mine own. I know that the information I acquired from Baidu is valid because Baidu is a renowned search engine used by people all over China. In fact, many of the students and staff at SAS also uses this specific search engine sometimes. Baidu even has its own digital Chinese encyclopedia called 百度百科 (Baidu Baike), which is formatted like Wikipedia and provides a list of sources that were used for the information at the bottom of the page. Furthermore, I verified the information on Baidu's encyclopedia page by checking it with information on other sites.
While researching on the internet, I was not able to find many trustworthy experts to write to for more information. Therefore, I decided to take a look at the experts that previous Microcampus alumni wrote to. One expert that was contacted by many past students such as Jerry X. (R) and Mallory B. (P) was a blogger called Sara Naumann. She travels all over China and writes many blogs to record her experiences. She has traveled to Yunnan three times already and has written a spectacular guide for visitors that includes details about not only the food in Yunnan, but other aspects as well. I believe that Ms. Naumann would be the perfect expert to contact due to her many past experiences.
Here is the email that I sent:
Dear Ms. Naumann
My name is Chris and I am an eighth grader studying at Shanghai American School. I am attending a program this year called Microcampus. Me and 9 other students will be traveling to Yunnan, Xizhou where we will be staying for 28 days to study the local culture. For my project, I chose to study the local foods/cuisine of XiZhou. I would really appreciate it if you could read my work so far and provide me with some feedback to some of the inquiries that I have. Here is a link to all my work http://www.sasmicrocampus.org/students/about/9995
My 10 big questions:
1) What flavors do the locals enjoy the most?
2) What types of food do people eat during festivals and what types of food are "everyday" food?
3) What are some legends and beliefs behind the famous dishes in Xizhou?
4) Do festival foods have some kind of backstory, what are they and why?
5) How do the neighboring provinces influence the Xizhou cuisine?
6) Is seafood common in Xizhou?
7) How does the area that XiZHou is in affect the local food?
8) What are some of the most successful restaurants in Xizhou and why?
9) What is/are the most popular local food and why?
10) What food is difficult to make and what food is relatively easy to make?
Thank you so much for your time!
My expert has not replied yet as of this time.
Now, I have arrived in Xizhou and have been able to conduct small interviews in Yang Zhuo Ran called 3-to-5's. 3-to-5's, essentially, are interviews where we spend 3 to 5 minutes talking to 3 to 5 people in Yang Zhuo Ran. During our interview, we can ask about recommendations for people in Xizhou who can help us with our inquiry topic. Below are the people that Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, M. Song, and Mr. Chen recommend me to visit.
- Shops and stands all around Si Fang Jie
- Xizhou Baba shops at Si Fang Jie
- Staff at Yang Zhuo Ran
- Ceremony area across from Yang Zhuo Ran for food preparation
- Ms. Zhao (Old Town Snacks or 古镇小吃)
- The Golden Flower restaurant at Si Fang Jie
- Rice Factory
- Cheese Factory near Dong An Men
- Wet Market
- Shops near XiZhou Elementary and Middle School
- Chefs at the Linden Center
- Ms. Li and Ms. Yang at Yang Zhuo Ran
- Bai Xiang Yuan (left of Yang Zhuo Ran)
- The shops around Si Fang Jie
- Yuan Zi Kou
- Mo Shang (pass the Linden Center)
After I finished my 3-to-5's and organized the recommendations, I believe that I have more than enough contacts for me to interview. From the contacts that I am going interview, even more contacts might be recommended to me and I believe that what I have now should keep me busy for the coming weeks.
Furthermore, other sources that might be of use to me would be the books in the library at the Linden Centre. Books about local foods and restaurants, local food production, popular foods and flavors, Xizhou guides or even cookbooks would definitely aid me with my research.
In this phase, I managed to complete gathering my resources and contacts that would help me with my inquiry work. I will now be moving on to Phase 3 where I will be collecting and organizing all the information that I receive from my contacts.