Informant (A) is a Chinese-American student at USC.
A: It’s like, I don’t even know how to explain it well, it’s like, not hot and cold, but some food just have like a hotter energy or colder energy, it’s like all of this [gestures to her lunch], but that’s yeet hay, and it’s like if you eat too much of it you break out, and bad things happen to you and you need to have a balance in your diet and literally my mom would be so horrified by how I eat.
I: Was there anything in particular that you remember? Like just any food that you remember that maybe your mom was like, oh—
A: Just like, in general, like I would be like, “Parents, I have a medical something” or “Please use Western medicine” and they’d be like, “No, you can fix your issue by not eating chips” like eat a fruit, the balance or whatever.
This conversation was recorded in-person over lunch. The concept of yeet hay was brought up as my informant noted her lunch wouldn’t be conducive with yeet hay.
Yeet hay (熱氣, zheng qi, lit. “hot air”) is a Chinese medicinal concept in relation to food and the body, drawing on ideas of homeopathic magic. As explained by my informant, eating foods with a certain type of energy would either raise or cool down the body’s internal energy/temperature, which in turn affects biological functions and conditions. The longstanding tradition of Chinese medicine is most likely what drives belief in the idea, as opposed to Western medicine which has sprung up only in the last couple hundred years. Of course, in my informant’s case, yeet hay seems to also be applied as a method to get children to eat healthier by using such a traditional/ancient belief as a method of persuasion.