I've been reading Country Driving, the third of New Yorker writer Peter Hessler's books about the cultural and economic transformation of China at the turn of the millennium. It chronicles his road trips and experiences hanging out in a village outside Beijing, and I'm loving it so far. The writing is great, and the stories from his road trip along the Great Wall are priceless. But I was struck by a passage where he describes how the little village where he'd rented a getaway house gradually opened up as newly rich Chinese tourists started coming in search of the rural life that was rapidly disappearing. His landlords have opened up a little cafe/restaurant that has found itself a lucrative niche:
The new restaurant in the lower village didn't affect them much, because there were always nostalgic city customers who preferred a traditional rural meal, served in a real peasant home. At least that's what they said -- they probably would have felt differently if they were served a bowl of elm-bark noodles. In fact they usually ate rainbow trout that originally came from Swiss stock. In recent years the foreign breed was introduced to the big fish farms down in the valley, and it became the standard meal for weekend visitors: practically every rural family that opened a restaurant had a sign that said "Rainbow Trout".