Earth to Mouth

For all the times I went to buy groceries at Montreal’s Chinese supermarkets, it never once occurred to me that much of the food I was buying was in fact locally-produced. Then I saw Yung Chang’s short documentary, Earth to Mouth, which my friend Cedric screened last year in a fifth-floor room in Chinatown. In his disarmingly quiet way, Chang introduces us to Wing Fong Farm, just outside Toronto, which grows the produce sold and consumed in the city’s big Chinese malls and supermarkets. In a particularly inspired scene near the beginning of the film, the farm’s 73-year-old matriarch, Lau King Fai, introduces us to some of the produce she grows, like gai lan (best prepared with smashed ginger and stir-fried with wine and salt) and go lai choi (stir-fry with vinegar and serve with oyster sauce).

As you would expect from someone who made Up the Yangtze, which put a defiantly human face on a massive technological achievement, Yung Chang has made a film that is more about the people who run Wing Fong Farm than it is about the food they produce. We learn about Lau’s path from Changsha to Guangzhou, and then, late in life, to rural Ontario, where she slipped quietly into the role of a farmer after a lifetime spent in cities. She rises at dawn each day, putting in long hours overseeing the farm’s operations, but it is the six Mexican workers she and her son employ who do the real grunt work. Watching the interaction between the farm’s Chinese owners and their Mexican employees is one of the things that makes Earth to Mouth so fascinating: this is the ordinary, everyday face of globalization.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Monday September 01 2008at 10:09 am , filed under Canada, Environment, Food, Society and Culture, Video and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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