For all the times that white people have poked fun at other culture’s cuisines, it’s fair to say that they deserve to have their taste palate dragged a little bit, which is what is currently happening on Chinese social media platforms. In recent weeks, “white people food” has been trending on social media apps like Xiaohongshu, which sees countless netizens posting photos of their pared-back meals— think crackers and some sort of cured meat, plain vegetables, and cheese sandwiches— and likening them to a form of self-torture.
The trend first originated after a Chinese woman posted a video of a European train passenger assembling her lunch, which consisted solely of a “bag of lettuce” and “slices of ham.” The meal’s simplicity caught the attention of other Chinese netizens, sparking a widespread discussion on the purported lack of flavor found in American-style gastronomy.
There’s a new trend in China where people make and eat spiceless “white people lunch”, as form of self torture.
And their commentary has me crying 😭 pic.twitter.com/aRfK3VStaD
— Del Walker (@TheCartelDel) June 13, 2023
Shortly after, a number of Chinese users decided to recreate their own version of Western lunches, dubbing them “báirén fàn,” which translates to “white people food.” One Chinese blogger offered a more scathing description, referring to these types of meals as the “lunch of suffering.”
Sharing his sentiment, another user on micro-blogging website, Weibo, shared a photo of a tray of crackers, cheese, and meat, and captioned it: “The point of the white people’s meal is to learn what it feels like to be dead, but I’ve taken two bites and it was so bad it made me realize how alive I am.” But perhaps our favorite comment is from the one guy who shared that “even my rabbit would kick away this food.”
However, not all Chinese people are against the idea of “white people food,” and some are even praising these types of minimal dishes for their simplicity and ease when it comes to preparation. For a lot of netizens, these pared-back meals are a refreshing departure from the labor-intensive task of preparing a traditional Chinese dish, which requires several ingredients, steps, and effort that is simply unsustainable for someone with long working hours. The espousal of “white people food” reflects a similar attitude towards the “lying flat” movement that took off in 2021, which encouraged people to take a break from relentless work amid increasing pressure to out-perform their colleagues as a way to fight back against China’s 996 working hour system, that requires employees to work from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., six days per week.
In addition to requiring less preparation, many Chinese people are touting these ultra-low calories meals for their health benefits— someone went as far to say that the lack of carbs helped him stay more focused during the day. But as one user so eloquently and existentially put it, “If such a meal is to extend life, what is the meaning of life?”