In December, I attended perhaps one of my more memorable parties of 2018, and more or less by accident.
Satkargone, a small Danu Tribe village, like many villages in Shan State grows rice, but they have also carved a niche out for themselves in the region growing flowers, and after the rice harvest, Garlic.
I arrived in Satkargone just after the rice harvest finished, and to get ready to plant their garlic, the young people in town would get together in the evenings around a fire to peel last year's garlic to put the cloves in the ground the following morning.
As any evening around a fire is, the conversation was carefree, a small handheld TV played Looney Tunes clips, the ground was covered in garlic stems and peels, and man, could these kids peel garlic. The town has been growing garlic for generations, beyond memory, their garlic is smaller, but a richer more fragrant flavour. The valleys around the town have been trying to replicate and grow their garlic strain for years but never seem to get the same result, leaving the Danu farmers in Satkargone a nice market… until recently.
Chinese grown garlic from a few hundred kilometres north is less fragrant but far larger, and often sells for cheaper as more of China's farms industrialise. In recent years it's been harder for these farmers to sell their products in markets next to this new competitor.
Ever since I've moved to Shanghai, my trips abroad have often revealed similar stories to me, as the country becomes a bigger economic player, globalisation often has 'made in China’ stamped on the bottom. For better or for worse, even little untouched areas like Satkargone are feeling the effects of this, so who knows how many more of these garlic peeling parties will be left. Will China's increasing production strength drown their little industry as it so often does, or will their unique garlic find a place in the region’s growing taste for quality ingredients?