As a cook, all things cooking related excite me. Pots. Pans. Knives, big sharp ones. Baking paper. Cupcake papers. Spoons. It’s a slightly narrow focus, I know, as all passions worth being passionate about are. I probably bore people silly with food talk when they say something off-hand like:
‘We went to that new restauarant on Xiangyang Lu last night’, expecting me to reply ‘That’s nice, who with?’ instead of twenty questions along these lines:
‘How did the interior look?’
‘What did you order first?’
‘How was the fish cooked?’
‘Do you think they were black beans or fermented soy beans?’
‘What did you eat after that?’
‘Did they flash-fry it first, then braise it?’
‘Do you remember the Chinese name for that dish?’
‘Was that the soup with the pieces of spongy stuff in it? You know that’s pig’s skin, right?’
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…..It’s a wonder I have any friends at all, but luckily they’re mostly as interested in food as I am. Luckily.
To each their own, I say – some people are motorcycle buffs, some are modern art fiends, others, like all of us, are into cooking – which brings me to the aprons.
Excitingly, Chinese aprons come in two seasonal varieties: a long-sleeved smock variety, for winter cooking, and a sleeveless style with either a halter-neck strap, or two over the shoulder straps, pinafore style, for warm weather. I can get as excited about a chirpy spotty red apron as I can about a springform pan or a really nice set of steamer baskets. Tragic, isn’t it?
Now that spring is on its way the apron shops are full of colourful spring aprons, all around 10 yuan ($1.60) each. Just like the ones hanging in the picture, you can buy them at any of the ubiquitous bucket and mop shops in Shanghai, along with the 2 yuan (30 cent) elasticised sleeve covers I love, plus all your blocked plumbing needs (plungers, pipe thingies, draino – unblocking blocked plumbing is a major DIY business here in Shanghai, where the pipes seem to be about the width of a pipe cleaner).
The aprons come in every imaginable cheerful colour, and almost all are decorated with a cute picture of Xi Yang Yang, the small woolly star of the mega-watt kids’ cartoon, ‘Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf’. You’ll have never heard of it but it’s very big in China, and it gives me a kick to think of all the millions of small woolly faces smiling out from all the millions of aprons hanging on kitchen hooks all over China. Happy cooking!