TW Drama: Flavor of Life 含笑食堂

Sssshhtt, shooting in progress. (flickr/settv)
Sssshhtt, shooting in progress. (flickr/settv)

I thought my days of watching Taiwanese drama TV series were over, but apparently not..

I’ve been enjoying the company of newly made Taiwanese pals over the past few weeks. A great way to improve my conversational Chinese you may think, but not at all! To my agony, the language of discussion often switches to the Taiwanese dialect, and if the sounds of it have become all too familiar to my ears, I’m always left in a what-the-heck-is-going-on state. By now, I’ve picked up some words, but the Taiwanese dialect still remains quite a mystery to me.

Prior to moving here, I had been warned by a few Taiwanese raised abroad, that the Taiwanese dialect was the lingua franca in the southern part of the island, but that I still should be fine getting by in Mandarin. A comment which I considered a bit exaggerated at the time, and still feel that way, though I am indeed surprised at how much people communicate in Taiwanese, even a little shocked to see teenagers use it amongst themselves, but admirative to see these younger generations embracing it. On some days, I even hear more Taiwanese than Mandarin. As a reminder, when the KMT took over Taiwan after 1945, schools strictly forbade the use of the Taiwanese dialect. Mainlanders who came along with the KMT took over teaching positions, resulting in a surreal situation for students, then faced with professors speaking a heavy-accented Chinese from wherever part of China they originated, and which the young minds could often not comprehend. Fortunately, times have changed, and the Taiwanese dialect is back!

So in an effort to acquaint myself with the language, I decided to go back to my good old Taiwanese TV drama series method and find one integrally in Taiwanese. After checking out a few series, bingo! I land on Flavor of Life  含笑食堂, a TV series with a storyline that doesn’t sound too wacky (in comparison to others), and involving Taiwanese food skype_smirk.


Basically, the plot is about a farming family living in the bucolic Yilan countryside, three generations living under one roof (三代同堂), and what a roof! We’re not talking about some crumbly courtyard-three-buildings type 三合院, but a superb two-floors house with a contemporary design and a harmonious interior design that screams fengshui. As it turns out, the house is a real bed & breakfast in Yilan, a fact I wasn’t aware of when I called in for a reservation. Sadly, my request got turned down, but for anyone interested, you can check out Red Forest 紅樹林, it’s truly a dream house.

I digress, back to the plot. The story starts with the mother working in a real estate agency in Taipei, the daughter giving dance lessons part-time, and the grand-mother taking care of the family farm in Yilan. They each have their own (expected) personal drama, but find themselves all reunited to bring back the amnesic grand-father home and his memory as well. The mother decides to revive her father’s old small restaurant and hires a young handsome chef who will find a mentor in the grand-father. Some drama develops with the opening of the restaurant, and more drama ensues with other characters… as long as you don’t look too much into the details,the whole show isn’t too bad too watch.  Each episodes has its share of glorious food scenes, and showcases touristy spots in Yilan. If I hadn’t already planned a getaway there, this TV show would have surely convinced me to do so!

Three cups chicken 三杯雞 (icook/含笑食堂)
Three cups chicken 三杯雞 (icook/含笑食堂)

To have a peak at some of the dishes featured, the production team has even thoughtfully created an iCook 愛料理 list, including recipes. Now, wouldn’t it be great if all other TV shows or movies followed suit? More information about the TV series can also be found on their official facebook fan page and photo shots on flickr.

Has my Taiwanese improved from watching Flavor of Life 含笑食堂? Sure, slightly, but a second viewing may be in order to better grasp the subleties of the dialect. For anyone with an interest in the Taiwanese dialect, food, and planning to visit Yilan, you won’t be better served than with Flavor of Life 含笑食堂skype_thumbs_up.




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