January 9, 2010

CHINA: Grandma's famous dumplings, peasant Picassos and games

. SHANGHAI, China / The Shanghai Daily / Features / Culture / January 9, 2010 By Tan Weiyun Li Juguan makes eyebrow-shaped dumplings in her small family-style bistro as a group of journalists look on. Li Juguan is a farm wife celebrity cook, using a huge old wood-fired stove and oven to turn out country cooking for visitors, some who travel all the way from downtown Shanghai for Grandma Li's cooking. Li and her neighbors will become World Expo attractions starting this May, but they're open for business now in ancient Zhonghua Village in Langxia Town, Jinshan District. Next door to Li, in another spacious farmhouse, Chen Meihua shows visitors all the old-time games and pastimes, like spinning tops, kicking shuttlecocks, tossing sandbags -- and transplanting rice seedlings (for those who actually want to do something useful). Nearby in a third cottage is Yan Junjie's farmhouse and studios where he turns out Jinshan farmers' paintings, famed for their vibrant colors and quaint scenes of country life. He is one of the district's "peasant Picassos" who will be showcased at the six-month Expo. These three farmers are among the first batch of "World Expo Shanghai Farm Houses" where visitors can spend the day, sleep over, savor country cooking, enjoy rural pastimes and appreciate folk culture, like paper-cutting, weaving, and, of course, peasant painting. They have official accreditation to accommodate visitors from home and abroad. These quaint farmhouses are among the first batch of 19 which were renovated in 2007 by the local government and the Shanghai Jinjiang International Travel Service Co Ltd. Makeover for each cottage cost around 300,000 yuan (US$38,760). Each has a new look with an ancient-looking facade and truly modern interior. The air-conditioned living rooms are comfortable and contain television sets. The small bedrooms have clean white sheets on the bed. There's a standard bathroom, with commode, hand basin and shower. One night's stay in the little rooms runs 80-150 yuan per night. Each cottage has its own vegetable patch or small garden in the front yard where cabbages, eggplant, squash, grapes, bamboo (for the earthen stove), and other organic vegetables are grown. [rc] Read more Copyright © 2001-2010 Shanghai Daily Publishing House