Fieldwork notes, March 2011:
"Ideogram, phonetic transcription and stylised drawing: Xue Kong’s list of the ingredients needed to make Huo guo is, to me, a rudimentary illustrated dictionary, essential to link signifiers and meanings, and to make sense of the mishmash of Mandarin Chinese, Wenzhounese dialect and biodiversity.
Huo guo, literally “fire pot”, is translatable into English as “hot pot”. It is a very popular, but not typically Wenzhounese cooking technique. It is characterised by a strong convivial aspect: a broth which boils in a pot in the middle of the table; everyone cooks his own meal in the “fire pot” choosing raw ingredients from serving dishes, immersing them in the boiling broth and then fishing them out with a perforated spoon. It makes for slow eating and a long social occasion".
"The Rosetta Stone and xian gu cài [...] 小白菜, the little cabbage is therefore different from the Chinese cabbage 白菜. [...] I can’t translate a lot of vegetable names - the use of dialects complicates things making it difficult to find them on the web. I consult my Rosetta Stone. The second vegetable drawn by Xue Kong is clearly the one I saw in the vegetable garden - and which is everywhere on the market stalls - but its translation is not xiao bai cài (as suggested by Google), but xian gu cài, whose corresponding character is 香菇 - the same for “mushroom” - followed by 菜, “vegetable”. After a discussion with Chinese (but not Wenzhounese) friends, we reached the conclusion that 香菇菜could be translated as mushroom-vegetable; this combination (mushroom + vegetable), rather frequent in Wenzhounese cooking, could have given the vegetable its name".