This is a China of great changes. People and food move faster than they did at any other time. No matter how quick their footstep, how uncontrollable their reunions and separations come, there’s always a taste that uses its own unique way to remind us on our tongue thrice a day: “Focus on where you are going tomorrow, but never forget where you came from yesterday.”
-A Bite of China 2, Episode 1: Footsteps
From the young man climbing over 40 feet for his brother, to a father who spends five years to learn to fish for his daughter, to the last of the dying occupation of wheat cutters, “A Bite of China 舌尖上的中国 2” continues to be the food series that brings you to tears with its superb story telling.
Episode one hit over 6 million views on Youku alone in one day (for comparison, episode one of Palace III has received 10 million views in ten days day). It has also partnered with Tmall to sell foods related to the show. Even the two very well-crafted and intense trailers for ep.2 have 1 million view.
The series, a rare weekly run on CCTV 1 and 9, can given a lesson to Hunan TV on what a good weekly show would look like.
Episode 1, Footsteps, traces the footsteps of people in search for food, family, and homes. The series begin with a suspenseful tale of Baima as we follow, with our hearts up to our throats, the young man on his journey climbing an 40 meter tree in a 3 hour journey to get honey for his brother. Watch the intense behind the scenes here, where the director swings on a rope of a nearby tree to capture the scene.
Continuing the journey of sweetness, the series follow a husband who promised her wife the “sweetest” job in the world – honey producing. In the chase of the footsteps of the flowers, the couple are on the road 11 months a year to insure the best honey. The story then quickly shifts from the sweetness of the honey to the Sichuanese road foods that the pair brought with them to remind them of home. Mouthwatering hot sausages and pickled goods culminate with cute banter shared over the wife making a delicious bowl of spicy douhua.
Their journey is paralleled with that of another – those of the professional wheat croppers called wheat guests, who must also leave their home, but this time in search of wheat. As modern machinery cuts the wheat and their jobs, our leads may be some of the last of the wheat guests. The are seen with the flour-based foods of Shanxi, including thick “belt noodles” homemade by a landowner.
While landbased food searches have almost become extinct, the sea remains one of the last place where humans are still necessary. Here we visit a fishing couple as they capture seafood. Elsewhere, a daughter returns home, and his father celebrates to fish for her favorites. It took him five years to learn this fishing, where he stands 10m away and catches the fish by hook an eighth of a second.
While one father rejoices in the return of his daughter, a daughter rejoices at the return of her parents. She is part of the 6 million stay-at-home children in China who remain in the village by themselves while their parents go to the city to work. They, too, catch fish as a family, and makes a special fish sauce whose fermentation takes the entirety of the parents’ stay – only half a month. As the first taste of the fish sauce brings joy to their taste buds, the family also realize it’s time for goodbye. Packed in the jar of homemade fish sauce is also a reminder of home and their children as the couple journeys to Guangdong for work.
The capitulating story is that of Cheng Shikun, who returns home to Fujian after having left 40 years ago for the United States. Although years have past, the taste of home lingers, and he returns with an honoring of ancestors and a feast for his family. As we see the mouthwatering food of his home, the scene shifts between all the characters of episode one as they move once more, whether to leave or to return home in search of food.
“The footsteps that take us throughout the journey of our lives, its beginning, and its destination, will always be where the taste of home is. That’s what the Chinese have believed for thousands of years – a simple belief, but one with power.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the series’ English tagline is “In Food We Trust.”