Opinion / Blog

Over the top

By teamkrejados ( Updated: 2016-01-14 11:49

Over the top

Students in Wuhan, Hubei province, take a mock English test before the college entrance exam, June 3, 2013. [Photo/CFP]

Strangely enough, the Chinese don’t seem to be acquainted with the ‘Less is More’ philosophy. In itself that is a paradox, considering the relative simplicity of the typical home over here, especially the kitchen.

As you might know, the typical Chinese kitchen consists of: a wok and a pot, a round-head spatula (to better cook in a curved bottom wok), a meat cleaver, maybe a knife but definitely a cutting board, a ladle, a few sets of chopstick and a few bowls. There is some sort of heat source for cooking; usually a one burner device, either gas or electric.

Automatic rice steamers are ubiquitous but crock pots are a relative novelty. Other more recent additions include glassware, refrigerators, a two burner, in the counter cooking surface and dual sinks. Some of the more traditional kitchens do not even have a sink. Counter tops are also a fairly new innovation.

I’ve been in kitchens where food prep happens on the floor. In those kitchens, often you would find a rickety wooden table serves as the lone surface. Sometimes the dining room table is called into service and sometimes, vegetables are sorted outside, on the tarp-covered ground. I see that a lot in my community.

So, you can see why I'd be nonplussed about less actually being more in a setting where more seems to be better.

I made my first discovery of the ‘Less is More’ paradox when reviewing student compositions. I am an Oral English teacher, so normally I would not see anything the kids write. However, because of their many qualifying exams students have to take and their terror being commensurate to the importance of the exam they’re facing, I volunteered to look over and critique their writing.

A lot of their writing style is inane. Adjectives and adverbs liberally sprinkled throughout, sometimes two or three per sentence or noun/verb being described. Detail upon detail, to the point where I grew disinterested in the topic and greatly concerned with the effects of my teeth gnashing from frustration at all of these over the top descriptions. “Let’s get to the meat of things!” I would often mutter after crossing out the umpteenth adjective.

And then there is enumeration: “Firstly…; Secondly…; and my personal favorite – or antonym thereof: “Last but not least…”

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