Why ‘tiger lily soup’?


The South Chinese tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) might be extinct from the wild, but its legacy lives on in Chinese culture. Tigers as myth are embedded in the history, language, and cycle of time in the Chinese psyche. To North Americans, tigers as a symbol are part of the elite group of beautiful large
mammals known in the conservation fundraising field as ‘charismatic megafauna.’ You look at a photo of a baby tiger and write out a check for $25, no questions asked.


tiger lily

Tiger lilies are striking flowers. Unfortunately, people commonly misidentify other lilies as tiger lilies. Orange-colored lilies are not automatically tiger lilies! Tiger lilies look rather like weeds as their stalks grow throughout the spring, but by mid-to-late summer they explode with radiance.


tiger lily soup

Tiger lilies are a source of lily bulb, a Chinese herb called bai he (‘lily’). The Cantonese use it (along with other herbs-as-foods) in a number of lao huo tang, soups with subtle, earthy flavors and textures.  A classic one is ching bo leung.


Disney’s full-length animated feature Peter Pan features a character named Tiger Lily. While Disney’s portrayal of indigenous peoples is not the most problematic by far, it is iconic in that entire generations of Americans grew up watching Peter Pan. If your memory of it is hazy, or for a more
creative take on it by Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist Frank Waln, check out the remix What Made the Red Man Red. On a personal, nostalgic note, when I was in first grade there was a competition to name the next Peter Pan bus. My class proposed “Tiger Lily.” The winner was “Never, Never Land.”

All this is to say that this blog may explore the intersection of environment, culture, social justice and indigenous issues, and human health and well-being. Or I might just post some soup recipes.