Saturday 5 October 2019

Li Ziqi Treads Lightly

Behind-the-scenes black & white photograph of Julia Child filming her cooking show
Julia Child at work in her kitchen

Modern cooking shows have become a tad artificial in my opinion - these days it's all flame-throwing, gadget-wielding, high intensity with thousands of kilowatt hours required to bang and crash out meals under the intense spotlight of judges. How did they get so overwrought and frantic in such a short lifetime of existence? They are variously billed as serious, fun or inspiring, or designed to "get you back" in the kitchen and cooking "honest food" (what's that when it's at home?). Frankly, all this energy is quite exhausting to watch.

Over in a quiet corner of YouTube there is the antidote to all this palaver and it's inhabited by a serene Chinese beauty of indeterminate age who seems to come from a part of the world where no one contemplates "leaving" their kitchen ... or far less even adding running water or electricity to it. Ten minutes in the company of Li Ziqi is like cooling your brain in rose-scented water, distilled apparently by her own skilled hand, no less.

Li Ziqi image from youtube account 李子柒
Li Ziqi at work in her kitchen

Her videos are utterly transfixing and almost impossible to believe, yet are very beautifully filmed, quiet demonstrations of one woman preparing classical Chinese dishes (and shoes and paper and furniture and wine and ...) in the most basic of a kitchen with minimal utensils and no fuss. It does help to have the knife skills of a Kung Fu master, a home-made Panda wood oven (you can find a delightful video of her building it, here!) and access to verdant fields in misty mountains to harvest ingredients as you go, and lots of time.

However, if you've never seen the visual poetry of Li Ziqi before, the preparation of a Chinese New Year dinner for two (plus Nonna) is a lovely introduction to marvel at a bona fide DIY-er treading lightly on the Earth.

ps: Thank you to the YouTube channel 李子柒 for the subtitles on these gorgeous videos!

[Dear Reader, if this seems curiously familiar, it is. This is a reposting of my thoughts last year about Li Ziqi. I took this post down after Xmas as it was attracting an inordinate amount of traffic and I became a bit alarmed by it. Who wants their blog to be on the first page of a Google search about a famous vlogger?!?! A few weeks ago she did a rare interview with people more comfortable with the Google spotlight so I feel it's safe to repost this into the vastly noisier commentary about this Youtube superstar.]


  1. Finally I got your Handsy email notification. When it comes to cooking and kitchen shows, GSL can't stand the heat although would surely enjoy one with your running commentary.

  2. What was once a tempting televisual treat has become yesterday's entertainment here, too. My commentary would, I fear, veer rather quickly into the Unqualified Opinion territory, GSL!

  3. Bookmarking to binge on later. What wonderful things the Internet brings.
    Julia Child was boss.

  4. I agree that people with a lot of time on their hands can do some very wonderful things. Trying to do my best to trad lightly but I fear that it will require a complete overhaul of my timetable to really achieve anything significant.

  5. I'm a late adopter of these things but I too, Taste of France, marvel at some things on the internet.

    Treading lightly is something I'm also trying to do in my own small way, Loree, and I'm a believer in the collective power of small gestures. Time and inclination do have to come together, along with some agreeable partners, however!

  6. I have never watched a cooking show of todays venue!Just seeing the ADS turns me off!
    I did watch Julia Childs as a kid when I was home sick...........and THE GALLOPING GOURMET!Do you remember him?YOU know her house was for sale recently in FRANCE!Julia Childs, I hope they kept the old kitchen intact!

  7. How did anyone decide that cooking is indeed a competitive sport? It's a Mad World! ... Galloping Gourmet? No, I don't think we had that one as our cooking shows were mostly home-grown in the Olden Days... The JC house is probably a museum piece, so no doubt has a mostly original kitchen. I'll have to Google! xx


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