You call yourself a “Chinese-style housewife.” What does this mean?
Housewives are rare in China. I was born in the 1970s and, among my classmates, I was one of only five percent to become a homemaker. Of my older sister’s classmates, none became housewives. Without income, insurance, a social life, identity or status, Chinese housewives must strive more than their Western counterparts. And when almost all your friends are working, your job is to figure out how to spend your days alone.
Why the blog?
I cooked food for my boyfriend—now husband—after we moved in together, but my friends did not believe this because I rarely cooked for them. To prove myself as a legitimate chef, I began writing a blog about my daily cooking. I am also a little chubby, so I call myself “Pang” (胖, fat) Xingr, but relatively speaking I am still attractive. This led to the name of my food blog: “Private Cooking with a Relatively Beautiful Woman” (《相对美女私房菜》).
How did you learn to cook?
I never formally studied. My father, who is not a good cook but a rather good eater, was a significant influence. He analyzes every dish he is served. So I absorbed informal lessons on Chinese cooking methods, such as “gouqian” (勾芡, thickening a sauce with starch), “liu” (溜, sautéing with sauces), “bao” (爆, stir-frying quickly) and so on.
Where did you find the connection between cooking and relationships?
Once, when I was preparing potatoes, it occurred to me that women and potatoes are rather similar. I shared this thought, along with the recipe, on the blog. After one of my friends read the posting, he encouraged me to continue writing this way. “There are a lot of people who cook better than you do,” he told me, “but few can write food stories as well as you. Your writing is unique.” So I kept going.
Women are like potatoes?
Potatoes taste differently depending on the chef and preparation, like a woman’s personality molds to the kind of man she meets. Each woman’s demeanor and style is unique. Like a potato, a woman can be—metaphorically—fried, steamed, boiled and baked with other vegetables or meat. And men are like noodles. Noodles encompass a whole gamut of styles, including Chinese noodles, Japanese noodles and Italian noodles. The noodles can be fried or hand-pulled, or cooked with different condiments. Within each type of noodle, there are many subtypes. Yet, no matter how a chef maneuvers the noodle, it is still a noodle at its core. Noodles do not change. Noodles are noodles and men are men.
Many come to your blog for advice. What’s the strangest problem you’ve come across?
One girl wanted to have a baby—a beautiful, smart baby. But she was having trouble finding a “qualified” husband. The men she knew were not handsome or intelligent enough to father this dream baby. So, she came up with a plan: find a foreigner to get her pregnant, but not marry him. She asked me how to convince her parents that this was a good idea.
How did you reply?
I told her the truth: not every mixed child is pretty and smart. My suggestion for her was to find a foreigner to fall in love with, and then have a baby. If the child does not turn out as expected, she won’t care—at least she will have love. I also offered some recipes to prove my point… Chinese noodles with mushrooms and sliced meat, which is as good as Italian Spaghetti Bolognese.
So what does your husband say about your cooking?
“Delicious!” That is all he says.
There is a proverb: “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I would disagree. A man will not love you because you are a talented cook, although he might love you more. A housekeeper, a chef, or eating out at restaurants are all easy substitutes. The true way to a man’s heart is to possess some irreplaceable quality. Only with this special gift can you forget about your competitors and their cooking skills!
What are your worries then?
If your rival can write poems or offer a good job to your husband, then you have a real problem. Take fried garlic shoots as an example. You can fry them either with mushrooms or preserved pork, and either way is delicious. The only irreplaceable ingredient is the soy sauce. The sauce is what ties the garlic shoots to the rice. When it comes to couples, if they cannot separate, it is because they have an unspoken bond or mutual interest. A reader summed this up quite well: “My mother told me that making love is more effective than making a dish.”
Interview conducted and translated
by Zhao Lei (赵蕾)
Additional writing by Qi Zhai (翟琦)
Find Pang Xingr’s blog at
For something a little different, read about the Street Cleaner Blogger.