A lonely hotpot – 一个人的火锅 – English

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It was different to the places I’d eaten hotpot. Most of the empty parts of the place were occupied by a large oval-shaped table. Leaning against the wall were a sparse few tables for two. But you never saw anyone sit like this. Most people sat alone on high stools, reaching out to get the cooked food from their hotpot, only to gaze down at their cellphone. 想到回学校食堂肯定没有吃的了,又眼瞅着汹涌的人流潮水般的灌入地铁站,我干脆也占一张高脚凳。

I really love eating huoguo. During my undergraduate time in Nanchang, Didi, Vivi, Anli, Congying and I would always go out to eat huoguo.Nanchang has an old street, on either side of which are huoguo places. They all look pretty similar, bearing red signs and spicy-sounding names. The shopfronts aren’t big, and whichever you chose, there was never much space for the five of us. We would cram into some small space, sitting by the hot steam of a bright red hotpot.

As I understand it, huoguo requires a lot of people. It requires time – it can’t be rushed. It suits those times you have a few things you want to share with each other. Our faces growing indistinct in the hot steam, everyone talking about the happiness and worries of their life, the food in the hot pot bubbling away. By the time it was ready the happiness we had not yet finished describing would be all right, as would the distress – everything spontaneously coming to an end as five pairs of chopsticks impatiently plunged into the hotpot. You have to respect the heat of a Nanchang hotpot, slowly eroding the whole mouth, 南昌火锅的辣也不容小觑,它总是后发制人,慢慢侵蚀整个口腔,再长驱直入烧灼整个胃。Afterward we would all have red lips,the heat making us grimace, and unable to finish any of the things we’d not yet finished talking about. 这种时候,我总是举着一只销魂的鸡爪要瓶可乐,relying on one’s youth and never giving a thought to one’s health. Pouring the icy-cold Cola on our burning tongues, creating a single “ziiiii” sound, satisfying the high. Huoguo has nothing to do with health, and is no pleasure without its heat,and all the food piles up in one’s throat, 才能让食客领着吹气球一般鼓起的肚子,缴械投降。


I remember once we saw a woman order a table worth of dishes, and silently ate them alone. At that time we were naive university students, groups of good friends by our side, no need to worry about a living, spending everything for our own pleasure. We did not know anything about what being solitary meant, and the sight of a person eating hotpot alone seemed odd.

However, I’ve also become one of those who eats hotpot alone. On the other hand, this kind of scene no longer appears strange in the eyes of those around. In this bustling city where everyone yearns for something, there are many lonely strangers like myself. It’s natural then that there would be so many shops designed for a single customer to enjoy hotpot. I always used to want to add a bit of meat, but Didi really hated the taste of mutton, and every time she would veto my suggestion. At last, this time, no one opposed me, and I ordered a piece of fatty mutton, though I did not enjoy its delicious taste.

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Source : 南方周末

About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact julien@marcopoloproject.org