A Golden Pig Year On The Menu

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Sichuan, China

A Golden Pig Year On The Menu Reviews

WarrenRodwell WarrenRo…
50 reviews
Nov 02, 2007
There’s more than a mere twinkle in the eye of contented newly-weds Vincenzo and Tippawan Montenero because the Chinese Year of the Pig commenced with Vince having placed a golden ring on his lovely wife’s hand for a second time within just a few months. The first time was in Tippi’s hometown of Khon Khaen in Thailand; the next in a small, beautiful old Romanic church just outside of Parma, a culinary mecca in northern Italy. After honeymooning in both the Dolomite Alps (bordering Austria) and Venice, the city of dreams, Italian engineer Vince brought his bride back to Sichuan with aspirations of starting a family in 2007, and ultimately residing in Chengdu.

With an internationally recognized Master’s degree in mechanical engineering to his credit, Vincenzo took over as manager of a European factory producing glass insulators in Zigong, at the beginning of July 2005. The city of Zigong, situated in the southern part of the Sichuan basin between Chengdu and Chongqing, is known as the “Hometown of Dinosaurs” due to abundant discoveries of rich fossil vertebrates, especially the Jurassic fossil dinosaurs, in the region. A place of scenic beauty at provincial level, Zigong has won world fame for the Three Rarities (the dinosaurs, salt history and lantern gathering). Nevertheless on weekends, our featured couple often craves the vibrancy of Chengdu.

When moving to another place or culture, there can be emotional highs and lows. Sometimes, all the new surroundings and circumstances seem nice. At other times, ugly. For the truly versatile spirit, this personal rollercoaster is interesting and challenging because everything is difficult. According to Mr Montenero, nothing is easy. In a place with just a handful of foreigners, social isolation can be excruciating at times. During the week, Vince is the only outsider among two hundred and forty workers. Manufacturing to date has exclusively been for the Chinese domestic market. However, increased capacity over the past year brings plans to export to India and south-east Asia.

Due to her big exotic eyes and darker skin, Tippi Montenero is often assumed to be either Chinese or from India. But to put the record straight, most of the inhabitants of the Isaan region of north-east Thailand are descendants of neighbouring country Laos. This makes them Thai by citizenship and Lao by ethnicity. Of course, over the last five thousand years, India migration has characterized the anthroposcopy of various Indo-China groups. In modern day Sichuan, Tippi is occupied with cooking, shopping, exercising at the gym, and making the marriage home beautiful so that the man in her life can relax after nine hours at work. Tippi is most happy when her strong handsome husband is by her side.

Italian cuisine is usually fairly simple, but the most important thing is to have the highest quality ingredients possible. Mealtime is not rushed. Consistent with all things, Italians have a reputation for enjoying their food, and the social interaction that is such a part of sharing a good meal. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), headquartered in the Montenero ancestral hometown of Parma, provides the European Commission, the European parliament and member states with a sound scientific basis on which to base legislation and policies related to food and feed safety. The flavour of Parma is quite mild, delicate and sweet. In spicy, pungent Sichuan food, compound flavors are most common.

The Italian word “spaghetti” is used to describe long, thin, solid rods of pasta with a circular cross section. Parma is the greatest Italian producer of pasta in the world. It is not known whether Marco Polo (1254-1324) brought pasta back from China to Italy, but it appears that both the Chinese and the Italians have been familiar with pasta-type products for about two thousand years. Vincenzo Montenero likes Chinese noodles with minced meat. For five days of each week, he eats Sichuan meals at the Zigong ceramics’ factory restaurant. Whenever in Chengdu, he shops at Metro for pasta, tuna, meat and a wide range of grape wine. This allows him to cook in his own traditional way for a change.

Prior to accepting his current employment position, Vince received a lot of job offers in Shanghai. But even without knowing the exact reason why, he selected Sichuan and the capital city which he now visits frequently. Back in 1993, Vince and his father, a university professor of chemistry, toured most parts of China, with the exception of Chengdu and Guilin. There have been many changes in Shanghai that have already happened. Chengdu is in the process of change, and the foreigners here want to be part of it. Foreigners in Shanghai want to live the high life; the job; the business. Take the money and run. Chengdu is different. People are more relaxed and it does not need to catch up.

Mr Montenero speaks perfect Greek as well as Italian and English. He refreshes his French and Spanish skills through business dealings. There are similarities between Greek and Chengdu people. When the former finish work, they just want to go out and play backgammon and drink frappe coffee. In Chengdu, it is mahjong and tea instead. Apparently in France, Sichuan is regarded as a tourist destination along with Xi’an and so on. Although not the classic China for the western mind, fascinating Chengdu is a veritable hotpot with a little bit of everything such as the old, new, country, city, culture, industry, universities and technology. It is a pleasure to get lost in Chengdu.

Belonging to a big city makes residents more open-minded. It is easier for an outsider to find people to talk with, and not feel like some rare species such as the giant panda. With time permitting and plenty of fine restaurants (Brazilian, Chinese, Korean, Tex-Mex, Tibetan, etc) to choose from, Vincenzo & Tippi Montenero jump at the opportunity to attend business functions hosted by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Chengdu. They feel comfortable in this city, and accept that being in this part of the world is for the purpose of career advancement. The freshly married pair can imagine having children in Chengdu soon. If so, 2007 could well be a golden pig year for them all.


Expatriate writer Warren Rodwell has been in China since 2002, and teaches university postgraduates in Chengdu. Many of his feature stories, reviews & photographs have been published online or in hardcopy media form. Warren also narrates documentaries and administers various websites as part of his efforts to promote Chengdu & Sichuan culture(s) more globally.

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