Meet the Chinese family who eat a work of art for breakfast every day
Father’s colourful dishes including images of animals, flowers and cartoon characters draw an online following
Every morning, at about 6.30, Wang Chendong posts pictures on his social media account of the intricate breakfast he just made.
The colourful meal Wang prepares for his wife and 12-year-old daughter usually contains dishes made with wheat flour, coarse cereals, vegetables, fruit, eggs, plus porridge or soybean milk as he wants his family to eat nutritiously.
He started cooking breakfast daily five years ago, when his daughter began to attend primary school.
He began to upload appealing pictures of his creations to WeChat, a smartphone-based social media app, three years ago.
Wang, a 35-year-old technician at a printing factory in Jiangyin in Jiangsu province, said that before his daughter, Wang Mengjie, started school, he was so busy with his job that he had little time to spend with her. So he began thinking of ways to “make compensations” for the girl.
“When my daughter began to go to primary school five years ago, I realised it was important for her to have a proper breakfast,” Wang said. “Before that, it was my mother or my wife who made breakfast for us. So I proposed to shoulder that duty since I hope to demonstrate my responsibility as a father, although I had never cooked a meal and had zero cooking knowledge at that time.”
To perform this duty well, Wang bought kitchen wares like frying pans, books on nutrition and also joined online cooking chat groups.
He said he was satisfied as he made breakfast “better and better” over the years and said “it was not difficult at all to prepare a beautiful and healthy breakfast”.
His breakfasts often included cartoon images of animals and flowers so they will be interesting for Mengjie, Wang said. He sometimes has dishes represent themes, such as the World Cup, Dragon Boat Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day and the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.
“I never thought of evading this task for a day or two,” Wang said of the breakfast routine. “It’s because insisting on doing it every day has become my habit. As times goes by, this habit has become my hobby.
“Seeing my breakfast works that are in magnificent colours and in vivid images be displayed nicely on the table, I feel a sense of achievement.”
Wang gets up at 5.10am every day. After doing some exercises, he starts preparing breakfast at 5.30. One hour later, when his wife and daughter awaken, Wang’s carefully prepared meal is on the table.
The family sit down to eat together and finish the meal in about 15 minutes. Wang then washes the bowls and tidies up the table before leaving for work at 7.15.
He said he remembered when one of his earliest breakfast works – miniatures of Snow White and the seven dwarfs, made from wheat flour – was presented to his daughter five years ago, she was “surprised and thrilled”.
Now Mengjie was used to what her father prepared, Wang said.
“My daughter is shy and rarely says words like ‘thank you, father’ to me,” Wang said. “But I know she often shows what her breakfast looked like that day to her classmates.”
His wife, Li Yingying, appreciates that Wang prepares breakfast for her and her daughter. “It’s a good thing,” she said.
Li is a Shandong native, and like most residents from northern China, she enjoys dishes made from wheat flour. Wang said he listened to his wife’s suggestions and make progress accordingly.
“When they are eating my breakfast, I will observe which dish they like and which they don’t,” he said. “Them eating happily is the biggest reward for me.”
The family sometimes discusses what they would like to eat the next morning, and what images they would like to see displayed on their food. Mengjie also helps her father prepare.
He said he had received inquiries from internet users asking about tips for making dishes in various shapes. “I will share my know-how with them; there’s no secret to keep,” he said.
“Practice makes perfect and during the first few years. I also endured failures and dishes didn’t look so beautiful,” said Wang, adding that he hadn’t studied drawing previously, either.
Wang said he did not consider preparing breakfast a burden; instead, he loved it.
The daily routine had brought benefits for himself and his family, he said.
“For me, my health has improved and my stomach problem disappeared thanks to eating a regular and healthy breakfast,” he said. “It’s also a good way for my family to communicate among ourselves.
“I believe what I have been doing will set a positive example for my daughter.”