Hot Foods vs Cold Foods

Background: My informant, CL, grew up in Taiwan, and speaks Mandarin, Hakka, English, Japanese, and Cantonese. Interview conducted in English over FaceTime.

Me: “Aren’t hot foods and cold foods a thing in Taiwan?”

CL: “Yes. Chinese people don’t like cold foods or cold water, because we believe hot things give you more energy. Deep-fried things make you feel more energy. We drink hot water because we drink tea. During old time, there were lots of bacteria inside water, made you sick. So you had to brew water, make it hot, to not get sick.”

Me: “Is that why you don’t like iced water?”

CL: “Yes, ice water is too cold, make your throat hurt. Hot water is better.”

Me: “Are there any exceptions to mostly eating hot foods? Like what about during the summer?”

CL: “We have ice cream and cold foods too. Taiwan is a hot place. Appetizers are usually cold because it’s a light thing before the hot food. But hot food gives more energy–during the winter my grandma always made spicy food so we would sweat, warm up when it was cold.”

Analysis: I find the concept of energy transfer here to be lingeringly medicinal while also practical. Eating hot foods would naturally lower the risk of disease, if it was cooked, and I doubt that ice-cold drinks were particularly easy to come by in olden times either. But reinforcing a logical practice like that with the added belief that energy and healing (implicitly) could also go alongside that practice adds layers to the intentionality and history of practices like this and diet more broadly. It quite literally denotes an in-group of people who experience less illness because they eat hot foods, compared to those who don’t and run a greater risk of potential disease with uncooked foods.