Ven­dors in ih the Food d Mar­ketk


Special Focus - - Contents - Wan Xiaoy­an万晓岩

There is a bean sprout ven­dor who grows in a most nat­u­ral way in nine clay vats in his yard, such as us­ing well wa­ter in­stead of tap wa­ter. He cer­ti­fies that his soy­beans are lo­cally grown and non-GMO, and that he uses no ar­ti­fi­cial fer­til­iz­ers of any kind. He also ro­tates the har­vest of the nine vats, and only when the sprouts are fully grown does he take one to mar­ket, where they sell at three times the cost of nor­mal soy­bean sprouts. Re­gard­less of the time spent, the mo­ment they sell out he packs it up and re­turns home, re­fus­ing to any more un­til the next vat is ready. This way not only do his soy­beans sell very well, but his un­com­pro­mis­ing in­tegrity also gar­ners him praise.

Only God knows when his bean sprouts will be fully grown. Some­times he shows up at the mar­ket for days on end, and there are long stretches when no one sees hide or hair of him. There are even some peo­ple who wait for him at the mar­ket but leave empty handed. It is his soy­beans that de­ter­mine when he will make an ap­pear­ance. Though it is just a com­mon veg­etable, it has be­come some­thing of great value that, like pan­ning for gold, can only be got­ten by chance not by choice. I went to the mar­ket one week­end and hap­pened to see him sell­ing


没人知道他的豆芽啥时出缸,有时连续几天出摊,有时好几天不见人影,有人专门在菜场等他,却 等不着。他出摊完全看豆芽的生长,把家常的豆芽硬是搞成了可遇而不可求的奢侈品。一个周末,我在菜场赶上了一缸,买了两斤,中午炒了,赶紧尝一筷子,果然味道鲜美。


他每一次清缸、泡豆、汲水都井然有序,一个人熟练、执着地做 这件并不复杂、技术不算高难的事情。他只是安静地做,从容地做,不焦躁、不奸诈,心明如镜,在月华如水的夜里,与九座宫殿的精灵心心相印。我常想,那生长的欣喜,是何等令人愉悦;人的心底,该是何等安然满足。


his soy­bean sprouts, so I bought one kilo of them for lunch. By the time the dish was ready I was chop­ping at the bit to try them and found that they were in­deed tasty.

Although his soy­bean sprouts have be­come a hot com­mod­ity, he re­fuses to ex­pand. He only watches over his nine vats like they are nine scrolls con­tain­ing the pre­cious Bud­dhist canon. When peo­ple ask him why, he an­swers, “I can only look after nine vats at most. If more than that, I won’t be able to han­dle it.” Some peo­ple say, “Why don’t you hire an as­sis­tant?” He says, “No. My bean sprouts will feel un­com­fort­able if it’s a stranger tak­ing care of them.”

Even if grow­ing soy­beans is not a kind of rocket sci­ence, it does take in­cred­i­ble fo­cus. When he cleans the vat, soaks and drains his crops, he al­ways fol­lows a strict reg­i­men and com­pletes ev­ery step with pro­fi­ciency and con­sis­tency.

By na­ture, he is calm, pa­tient and hon­est, and his mind is as clear as a bell. Work­ing over the vats on a moon­lit night, it is like his mind is in com­plete syn­chro­niza­tion with the light, the wind and na­ture it­self. I of­ten think what an amaz­ing feel­ing it must be to feel the joy of growth, and how peace­ful and sat­is­fied he must be.

Con­trast this with a mid­dleaged woman who sells as­sorted sea­sonal veg­eta­bles when­ever they are avail­able di­rectly from a farm truck. She is al­ways the quick­est to pick newly grown crops. As her stocks con­sist of only choice qual­ity cus­tomers can pick which­ever ones they like with­out fear of in­con­sis­tent qual­ity. Some­times she sees a cus­tomer sneak­ing a few more veg­eta­bles than what she/ he has paid for, but she never says any­thing about it, but just wraps them up and hands them over to the cus­tomer with a big smile. And the hon­est cus­tomers, who nei­ther bar­gain nor sneak more than they have paid for, re­ceive a few ex­tra as a free gift. She sells dif­fer­ent things ev­ery other day, for ex­am­ple, when a truck of

kid­ney beans are sold out one day, she may sell wa­ter melon the next day. On a psy­cho­log­i­cal level, she un­der­stands peo­ple’s de­sire to get more than they pay for, and let it work for her sale.

In my home­town, there is a tra­di­tional pick­led veg­etable dish called lump pick­les. It is dark green, and looks ugly and re­pel­lent to the unini­ti­ated, but it is a fa­vorite of those from the area, as it re­minds them of home. There is a sweet gen­tle­manly ven­dor sell­ing lump pick­les, who has an in­tel­lec­tual flair. As he sells his prod­uct, he wears a clean mask and a pair of plas­tic gloves. The cloth cov­er­ing the pickle jar and his apron are snowwhite, and the metal­lic cart and stain­less-steel jar lid are pol­ished to a glis­ten­ing shine. Even the boxes of the high­est qual­ity, all of which are so spot­lessly clean that elicit re­spect from the cus­tomers who might won­der if he is sell­ing pick­les, or show­ing his achieve­ments in food safety re­search. As for his glossy pick­les, no one would doubt if they are pol­luted by flies or other in­sects, or if there are any ad­di­tives or ex­cess ni­trites in­side.

There is an­other ven­dor— a butcher cou­ple. The hus­band is ag­gres­sive and the wife shrewish. The two are like lo­cal despots, with a stall set up so close to the mid­dle of the road as if they wish to stop traf­fic and force cus­tomers to buy from them. When they sell meat, they wave a cold and shiny cleaver around, hack­ing away ma­ni­a­cally like ex­e­cu­tion­ers. At the end of the day, cus­tomers detour around them to keep their dis­tance.

As hu­man be­ings we are al­ways com­par­ing things, whether it is be­tween peo­ple or prod­ucts, noth­ing wants to be com­pared to death.

( From Prose , May 2018. Trans­la­tion: Zhu Yaguang) 偷加几棵菜,她看到了,也不言语,笑眯眯地把货包好放到人家手上。老老实实、不偷不拿不讲价的,她主动给你秤旺点。她隔一两天就会换货,今日刚清空了一车新鲜的芸豆,明天就换成了最甜的西瓜。她的功夫在心理层面,出手就打人贪心的要害。





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