Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 20 – The Cookie Empress (Lexie COMSTOCK, Founder, Strictly Cookies)

Oscar Fuchs
Lexie Comstock is the Founder of Strictly Cookies. I thought I knew all about her when we sat down for our conversation. But I was amazed to hear ...
Oscar Fuchs

Lexie Comstock is the Founder of Strictly Cookies. I thought I knew all about her when we sat down for our conversation. But I was amazed to hear what she had been through in the early days of setting up her cookie empire.

Original Date of Release: 04 Feb 2020.

Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 20 – The Cookie Empress (Lexie COMSTOCK, Founder, Strictly Cookies)


LC: What you're supposed to do is: take your little baggie home; dump the poop down the toilet; wash out the bag; and then recycle the bag.

OF: Oh.

LC: Yeah.


OF: Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. I'm your host, Oscar Fuchs.

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! This is a special recording for me, I mentioned in the interview that I've known Lexie for three and a half years. So I went into this recording having a very good idea about how it would go. But actually it went completely differently. I wasn't expecting the story that she shared, maybe other people who know Lexie may also get a surprise.

I should say that I normally record these intros just before releasing each episode. But I'd planned on being away at the time this is going out, so I'm pre-recording this on January 23rd. Normally, I guess a week or two doesn't matter here or there, but as I record today we've got an impeachment trial starting in the US, we've got a Brexit bill going through parliament in the UK, and the whole city of Wuhan has just been put on lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak. Whatever I'm saying right now will be at best obsolete, and at worst, insensitive, by the time you're hearing this, so all I'll say is that this is truly a nice episode, and I hope that it'll bring you some necessary cheer.

[Part 1]

OF: I'm here with Lexie Comstock. Lexie is the Founder of Strictly Cookies here in Shanghai.

LC: Hello, Oscar. Welcome to my home.

OF: Yeah, so this is a funny one fo me, because usually I invite people to the studio or actually to my home. But this is the first time, in the whole season, that I'm going to someone's house. LC: How does it feel? Unsettling?

OF: It is unsettling.

LC: Mario is watching you from the corner.

OF: Yes. So who is Mario?

LC: Mario is my - I think eight year old - dog that I got in Shanghai. He is a fantastic little pup. A lot of people… a lot of my friends know him very well, because they are kind enough to take care of him when I go on various travels or work trips.

OF: And he's super well behaved.

LC: He's amazing. And I unfortunately can take no credit for that. When I adopted him, he just was weirdly well behaved, and I don't understand it. He's a street dog, but the Shanghai streets, I guess, were kind to him.

OF: And it's crazily quiet here. Like, I'm surprised at how insulated you are from the noise outside.

LC: Well, one of the reasons for that is because they do construction in the evenings. And by evenings, I mean 10pm-4am. So right now we're fine.

OF: OK, let's start the conversation by, first of all, talking about the object. So what object did you bring?

LC: Sure. So I have this cut-out of the box that my first mixer came in. And as you can see, it's actually a pretty cool design. It's almost like a stencil drawing of a mixer. And the font is really cool. I don't know, I love the whole the whole look of it. And that was obviously a really big step for me to buy a mixer, because without it Strictly Cookies would not have started. And yeah, I don't know, I framed it right after I upgraded to a much larger mixer. And actually, it's making me a little sentimental looking at it, and thinking about that time. But I ended up trading it with someone who was moving back to the States. And she had run a pie company here and had a really big industrial-sized mixer that we actually still use. So it was, like, an amazing trade. I don't know, I think it's pretty cool. What do you think?

OF: I like it. It has some kind of, like, retro feel to it. And it's modern. But maybe that's because modern is retro now

LC: Totally.

OF: We've gone into a little bit about what you do. So you mentioned Strictly Cookies, so what is that?

LC: Yeah, so Strictly Cookies is an American-style soft and chewy cookie company that I founded in 2010, right after moving to Shanghai. So I had originally come to Shanghai for a marketing job at a Chinese firm, because I had studied Chinese - and China generally - in college, and came over for that job. But then after a few months, got a little bit bored and restless, and really genuinely missed cookies from the States. I don't know, how long have you been in Shanghai?

OF: I was just thinking about that as I'm looking at you, because you were one of the first people I met actually when I came…

LC: Yeah.

OF: …and it was about three and a half years ago.

LC: Yeah, so I'm coming on nine years in Shanghai. And back then, there were really only a few coffee shops, the baking scene was relatively non-existent., and I could not find a good cookie. And I love cookies. Cookie was actually my first word, which is a fact that my mom reminded me of, I think a year after I started the company, she was like "Oh, that's so weird. Like, that was your first word." And I had forgotten about that. So the company was birthed out of a true need for cookies. And back then regulations were a bit looser than they are now. And so, I was able to start very slowly and organically and kind of grow as the demand grew. Whereas now it's very strictly regulated. If you want to do food in China, there are a lot of rules about what licences you need if you're going to sell to cafes and restaurants. But I was very lucky that that really changed in a way that worked with the growth of our company. So I was able to join forces with other people who were doing food businesses in China. So it wasn't a huge up-front cost, which was great. And then, in 2013, we opened our first shop, that we actually are still in that shop today.

OF: It makes me think about the other entrepreneurs that I've met, and especially in the restaurant and food industry, it feels like now there's a lot more barriers to just organically do something like you did.

LC: Totally. You have to go in with much more of a plan now. I think back then, you had a lot of the risks that you have today. But you could, kind of like, test things out before you fully committed to it. Whereas I feel like now, there's less room for that. And I think that that is normal in any sort of developing country, like, you need to do more regulations. And I actually am very happy with how the government has done food regulation, because obviously, safety is enormously important. So that's actually been cool. And I've… you know, I've had actually really nice interactions with the Chinese equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration. I really enjoy talking to them, because they're like "Yeah, this is confusing. We're, like, updating these things. But this is what you have to do". And it seems like they want you to follow them. They're not trying to trap you or anything, they just, like, want to help, which is great.

OF: So when I think about your business, it's really hard to scale, right? How do you expand your business here from Shanghai to elsewhere?

LC: Yeah, I mean, I think China has such a strong logistics operation thing going on. So instead of saying "OK, we're going to go in cold, and open in Chengdu, and wherever," like, we say, "OK, first let's build up our Taobao business, and see where people are buying from, and kind of test the market that way". And I think expanding that way for us makes a lot of sense. Because I think you're right, it would be way too hard, especially if you don't have a tonne of money behind you, just to go in and like drop into these cities. And things change so rapidly that I think we've really benefited from just the research side of things, like through shipping.

OF: And, then, I'm just looking at this object, your cardboard cut-out there, and it's making me think about those early days.

LC: Yeah.

OF: Those are always exciting. I think back to when I was first setting up my company, and you're doing it out of your kitchen, or whatever it is. Talk to me about what were the real highlights, and I guess, what would the lowlights. Were there any, like, real failures at the beginning as well?

OF: Oh, yeah. So, it's like, they're both sprinkled in there the whole time. When you're running your own business, you're never sitting back and saying "Wow, I've done such a good job". You have maybe, like, five moments throughout your entire career of that. And then you get distracted by something else. And so the real highlights for me have been these small moments. I remember one in particular, when it was really early on, it was within the first two years, and I was looking out the window and thinking "This is so cool that this is my job. And this is awesome that I've created this product". I love cookies so much. Creatively, I love cookies, because it's a very simple base. You know, it's a very simple dessert, everyone can understand it. Like, it's not a complicated thing that's, like, really highbrow. But you can be so creative within the combinations. I don't know, I think that that's what life is all about, like kind of, having a simple base to things, but then spicing things up. And so it's really been like a pure joy, to be able to spend even some of my time creating something that I hope that other people enjoy as much as I do. Those are the really cool moments. Obviously low-lights are… firing people sucks. And that's no fun. I mean, we've had every issue you can think of. We've had supply chain issues, we've had ingredient mishaps, we've had employees stealing, we've had you know, anything you can think about. You can't dwell on those low-lights, you just have to learn from them. I think I'm good at dealing with tricky situations because of this business. Probably the hardest would be when one of my employees was stealing from me, just because that was a real betrayal. And I was really young, I was 24. And, you know, I'd really come to consider him his family, especially because he had been with me since the beginning. And so that just felt really bad. But I realised that it was just about, like, he saw an opportunity to make money. And it was just as simple… it was as black and white is that, it wasn't anything more. And I think we can sometimes make it kind of about us, and make it like "Oh, this is like, you know, this is a reflection of me". And obviously it was a reflection of me as, like, a leader of a company, because he was able to exploit that. But the fact of the matter was: he saw an opening to steal money; he did; end of story.

OF: And how did that all play out then, how did you find out about it?

LC: I found out about it, because I had been talking to someone at a fair actually, about the price of butter. Because, you know, prices fluctuate. And I had noticed recently that the price of butter had gone up a bunch. And so I was talking to someone at a fair who also was in the dessert business. And I was like, "Yeah, like, ingredients, like, brutal" and he was like "Yeah, luckily butter has gone back down". And I was like "What?" And so I looked into it a little bit, and I… You know, you have these feelings that something just isn't right, but I really hadn't wanted that to be true. You're so paranoid like, you're like "OK, is it just this one person acting alone? Who else knows about it? Is he in cahoots with the company I'm buying from? Like, are they providing fake 发票 [fāpiào]?" So, like, because I was seeing the records, and I didn't understand. So I had my friend call from a different number in case they had my number, place an order for some of the ingredients - but not the exact ingredients we would order, because I didn't want it to be too obvious - so she ordered butter and chocolate and sugar maybe, and then I had them deliver it to a friend's office address. And they delivered it. And it was all different pricing. And cheaper, which didn't make any sense, because she ordered a bag of each, and we were ordering a tonne more. And so I was like "OK", so I brought my lawyer at the time and sat down with him. And it was really, really hard. And he was, like… he tried to deny it for a little bit. And I was… and I just looked at him. And I was like "No, I know. I know". And then he didn't really say anything. We were producing a lot of cookies at that point. So I really had to, like rip apart all of the way the business was running. I had to shoulder a lot on my own at that time. And that really forced me to just do all of those things. And, you know, it was actually a very exhilarating time, because I was like "Yeah, I clearly do love this business and this company, because this just really rattled me, but I'm still really excited about waking up and going to the factory". And also, it proved to me that I needed to just do things a little bit differently, and have a little more oversight.

OF: Wow. Well I had no idea that that's the story that we'd be going to today.

LC: Yeah.

OF: It makes me think actually, because it was your own business, it was very much your baby. Like this… When you say the word 'betrayal', I know exactly what you mean, like, this is not just a business betrayal, this would have been personal, right?

LC: It was so personal, especially… I genuinely loved him. Like, he was kind of like a father/uncle figure, especially being so far away. I don't know if it's crazy, but separate from that incident, he still was a very good friend to me in other ways. And, like, I will never speak to him again, but that doesn't ruin the nice things that he had done for me. Maybe it was to make me feel comfortable with him and trust him, who knows? But, like, I just prefer not to think of it that way. There's no point.

OF: Well, let's not dwell too much on that any more.

LC: And we'll end now.

OF: Yeah. So do you specifically make cookies for the China market, for example, or are you still selling to people who are more international?

LC: I don't know. I think just having lived here, I'm exposed to really cool flavours. And so I just have more fun with Chinese flavours, not because I'm like "Oh, here are these cookies for my Chinese customers" but more because I'm like "Oh, this is delicious, and really cool and interesting. And I love the idea of fusing this with a classic American cookie."

OF: So give me an example.

LC: So, matcha marzipan is something that I think is really cool, because when I first arrived, I was like "I'm not going to just make, like, a green tea cookie and pander to the Chinese clients" because I think that that's offensive, just to be like "You're a Chinese, so you're gonna love this green tea cookie". But combining a marzipan element - so we make the marzipan in-house, and it actually cuts a lot of the bitterness of the matcha - and so that, to me, is like a really good combination. So that's been a really cool one. Also, we do a 杨梅 [yángméi] coconut cookie - I think the English word is bayberry - it's such a Chinese flavour and it's, you know, I think you can only really get them in June/July. There's so many cool potential flavours of cookies in China and, like, exploring lspicy elements and all that stuff has been super, super cool and really fun.

OF: I'm just thinking actually, we ran into each other in Chengdu, didn't we?

LC: Yeah

OF: And you know what?

LC: Yeah

OF: I'm gonna challenge you.

LC: I think I'm ahead of your challenge.

OF: You're gonna use Sichuan pepper?

LC: Yeah, duh,

OF: You've done it already?

LC: I've already done it, yeah.

OF: What's that one then?

LC: So OK, so this was actually really cool. So, social media is great. And I made an Instagram baking friend who's based in Paris, and she's a great baker and I actually went to go visit her in November. And we're working on this cookie that's combining a popular flavour in both China and in France - chestnut - and the lovely Sichuan pepper. So we've done a chestnut Sichuan pepper cookie. So you stay tuned for that.

OF: Are you going to give me a free one?

LC: I'll give you two.

OF: Yes. So what about the future then? So, if you think about where you've come in the last eight years, like if you project ahead into your crystal ball, like, what do you think's gonna happen next?

LC: I'm excited to expand, and not only in China, but outside of China. And I think doing it in creative ways is really important. So it's not necessarily like, oh, open a flagship store in New York or wherever. I don't know, I think with social media, you can expand into more interesting and - I hope - less expensive way.

OF: It's funny, just listening to that, when you're an American here in China, and now you're thinking about exporting outside of China…

LC: Yeah.

OF: It makes me ask the question, how would your business maybe be different if you've done this in America, do you think?

LC: It wouldn't have worked, in a way that now thinking about expanding to the US would. I think that being a little bit removed has allowed me to pick things up, try things out, especially flavour-wise, that's been really cool. So I don't think if we had started this eight, nine years ago, in the U.S. it would have worked in the same way. The U.S. is, like, such a saturated market with cookies. But I've been doing it for so long, that now it's more of just a sheer determination of, like, this will work and I will find a way to do it.

OF: And you're still small enough that you can adapt, you're nimble.

LC: Yeah.

OF: Good luck to you, Lexie.

LC: Thanks.

OF: And thank you so much for that conversation. I want someone out there to do a word-count, and see how many times we use the word 'cookie'.

LC: Yeah.

OF: We're gonna move on now to Part 2.

LC: Great.

[Part 2]

OF: Let's jump into Question 1. What is your favourite China related fact?

LC: So I recently have learned about this thing called 'Panda Diplomacy'. Apparently China owns most, if not all, of the pandas worldwide. And they kind of use them as like a bargaining tool. So you can see the strength of the relations between countries - and, like, your standing with China - based on the panda situation. I think that's so funny. And that these super sweet but dumb pandas are getting tossed around. I just think that's great. So that's definitely my favourite China fact. And at this very moment, China has - or Shanghai, at least - these very intense garbage rules. OK, did you read about what you're supposed to do with dog poop now?

OF: No.

LC: OK, so just to give everyone an update, so you're supposed to separate all of your trash into wet, dry, whatever. It's very intense, there are guards outside making sure that you've separated your trash correctly, you get fined if you don't do it - which again, cool, China, this is definitely moving in the right direction - but a little bit intense, kinda classic China style. But with dog poop, apparently, because that's a… you're supposed to separate, wet and dry, right? And so people were like "Well, what are we supposed to do when we pick up dog waste?" So what you're supposed to do: is take your little baggie home; dump the poop down the toilet; wash out the bag; and then recycle the bag.

OF: Oh.

LC: Yeah.

OF: Number 2, do you have a favourite word or phrase in Chinese?

LC: So I have a very… I'm very lucky, I have amazing neighbours, and I have really great 保安s [bǎo'ān]s, and I have a very strong relationship with them. And they always are asking me, no matter the time of day, no matter if I've just seen them, like, five minutes before… 吃饭了吗? [chīfànle ma?], which is like "Have you eaten"? And I just think that's so sweet. I'm like "Yeah, thank you for checking up on me, and making sure I'm staying well fed."

OF: If you left China, what would you miss the most, and what would you miss the least?

LC: I would miss 煎饼 [jiānbing]. It's a crispy crêpe sort of pancake situation that combines eggs and scallions and these crisp… almost like crispy wontons, is that how you would…?

OF: I know what that is.

LC: And there's this, like, bean curd in there, and you can put spices… it's just incredible. And it's very cheap. I could eat it twice a day.

OF: I recently - I think it must have been a month ago - I saw an article about how they had a 煎饼 [jiānbing] - I don't know what it was, like a - stall, in… I think it was in New York, some near the High Line.

LC: Yes. Expensive.

OF: Yeah, yeah. It was like 10 dollars.

LC: No, no, 15. And they do all this weird… I mean, OK as long as you're spreading the 煎饼 [jiānbing] word, I'm happy. But they put a tonne of stuff in it. It's like, dare I say, bastardising the 煎饼 [jiānbing]. But no, no, they're just innovating. It's fun. But it's really expensive.

OF: Yeah, yeah. Innovate all you want., but don't charge 15 dollars.

LC: Yeah, yeah.

OF: And then the thing that you'd miss the least?

LC: The thing I would miss the least is construction.

OF: Oh right.

LC: Like, I very much support all of the innovation that's going on, and all of the cool things that are happening in Shanghai, but there has just been a constant stream of construction, all around the area that I live in. And apparently it's going to be going on for the next two or three years. Yeah, it's just loud. And it happens in the middle of the night. And there was a point when, like, my apartment was shaking in the middle of the night and waking me up. Yeah. So I'm just very over the dirty roads, because I have a dog. So I walk him, he gets dirty, all this stuff. So I know that it's necessary, it happens in every city. But it's just been really hard to escape for me because I… it's day and night, you know?

OF: Is there anything that still surprises you about life in China?

LC: I would say again, just how quickly things move here. So this has been the constant from 2010 until now, things move and update so so quickly. And that is just, I think, so unique to China at this very moment. And anything from food safety laws, to traffic laws, to construction, to anything, it's such a fast moving place. And it's incredible, the pace.

OF: Where's your favourite place to go out, to drink or to eat or just to hang out?

LC: While it's no longer available to me, I would say in the past, it's been my friend Adam's apartment. So I think you came to a couple of his parties. But my friend Adam had this amazing apartment right on the corner of 复兴 [Fùxīng] and 乌鲁木齐 [Wūlǔmùqí]. And he made a New Year's Resolution one year to throw a theme party every month. And he just nailed it. And it was super open, like you could bring anyone, and there were various themes, like Chinese New Year, 80s prom, all this stuff. And people would dress up and… So party side, that was really fun to go out in. But also he had a great balcony. So you know, Sunday afternoons lounging on the balc'. That was pretty ideal.

OF: Whenever I walk past that crossing, I think about it.

LC: Yeah

OF: And I think I'm still in that WeChat group actually.

LC: Yeah, no, he keeps it alive.

OF: Yeah. So funny. What's the best or worst purchase you've made in China?

LC: Best purchase was definitely my inflatable bathtub.

OF: Stop right there.

LC: Yeah.

OF: Inflatable bathtub.

LC: Yeah.

OF: Explain.

LC: So… pretty self explanatory. It's this, like, circular, not-that-attractive, bathtub that you just use a little pump to inflate. I have a very small shower, I can show you. And unfortunately, that doesn't leave a lot of options for bathtubs. So I looked on Taobao - the best place in the world - and found this light blue inflatable bathtub, and so… Oh yeah, I just love it.

OF: What's your favourite WeChat sticker?

LC: Ooh, you want me to show you, or explain it?

OF: Yeah, show it to me now.


OF: Oh, there it is.

LC: Isn't he cute?

OF: OK, explain what this is?

LC: Okay, so I'm not… Some people are very good at WeChat sticker language. You are one of them - yeah, you're pointing to yourself, I was going to give that to you anyway, but sure.

OF: Give me credit for my WeChat game. Come on.

LC: Mine is very bad, and very simple. Because it just takes so much time to be like… I don't know. So I like the ones that have been pre-loaded on my WeChat. And those are the little, like, bunnies? What are they? The little bunnies? And I find that the like, what would you even call that hand motion? Like a hula, almost.

OF: Yeah.

LC: It just applies in many situations. So I like the.. it's just, kind of, my fallback. I get genuine joy from using it. And it's super cute.

OF: Listen, I'll explain how you have many different stickers and make it work. You list them in order of what emotion you want to convey.

LC: Really?

OF: Yeah, so…

LC: How do you change their order?

OF: Oh, I'll teach you.

LC: I don't want to be taught. It's too much.

OF: What is your go-to song to sing at KTV?

LC: OK, so my go-to is Alanis Morissette, 'You Oughta Know'.

OF: Oh.

LC: It's just a great one. But I'm gonna say the best move I've ever pulled at KTV - and I love KTV, we actually haven't been together we should totally go.

OF: Why has that not happened?

LC: I don't know. But the best move that I ever did was, I went to a KTV with people I wasn't that close with. And so at, like, 2am everyone's pretty drunk. Like, people are singing their intense songs. And at 2am, I put on Enya's 'Only Time'. Like "Who can say?" And it was so funny, because everyone was like "Who is this girl? Like, what is she singing?" And I was taking it really seriously. And everyone's kind of drunk by that point. So like, half the people didn't remember, but the people who do were like "What is that?" So that was really fun.

OF: You're the weird one, aren't you?

LC: Yeah!

OF: And finally, what other China-related sources of information do you rely on?

LC: Ooh, do you ever get this email - I'm on this newsletter thing called - China Skinny?

OF: No.

LC: So they just talk about trends and China… I think it's like a market… Like, you learn about the market… But they just have really interesting insights. And I think it's actually the only newsletter that I consistently read, or if I don't have time to read it I'll save it and then and sit down with it. Yeah, so I actually… I genuinely think they're doing a great job.

OF: Nice. I'll check it out. Well, thank you so much, Lexie, that was a pleasure.

LC. Yeah, so fun.

OF: And before you leave, so out of everyone you know in the rest of China, who do you recommend that I interview next?

OF: Oh, very easy question for me to answer. My friend Jamie Barys who runs UnTour with her business partner, Kyle. They basically give you a really awesome tour of the best street food in Shanghai or Beijing. They also partner, I think, in various other cities across China. And as someone who loves food, and especially street food, it's… they just do a really good job. They give you… On the tours, they give you a tonne of really cool information about Shanghai, about the food you're eating. It's not only satisfying for your tummy, but also for your brain.

OF: Wow.

LC: Yeah.

OF: Is that their tagline?

LC: No.

OF: Do you know, I've heard of them because I met people who have been on that tour…

LC: Have you never been on that tour?

OF: Never done it.

LC: I've been on a bunch, and I would 100% go with you, it's so fun.

OF: All right, maybe that's what we'll do.

LC: Yeah, that'd be great. She's not gonna tell you this because she's so humble. But they're super legit. Like, they took Usher… heard of him?

OF: Heard of him.

LC: …took him on a tour. Yeah, they're great.

OF: Awesome, well thank you so much, I look forward to speaking with her.

LC: Yeah.

OF: And just, thank you for coming, Lexie.

LC: Thanks for having me. Bye.


OF: So this is the first time someone specifically mentioned pandas since Episode 10, in which Lori Li's favourite WeChat sticker was an angry panda. I want more panda chat. For example, did you know that the Chinese for panda is 熊猫 [xióngmāo], which literally means 'Bear Cat'. Yes, maybe you did know that. But try this, did you know that there was a scientific debate about whether the giant panda bear actually is a bear, or is it more like the red panda, which is a member of the racoon family? And yes maybe you had heard about 'Panda Diplomacy' before this episode, but did you know that it's been going on since 武则天 [Wǔzétiān] sent a couple of them to Japan in the year 685? People, get into it! I don't know why I'm shouting, I just like pandas OK?

Lexie's favourite word or phrase in Chinese was 吃饭了吗? [Chīfànle ma?], which literally means 'have you eaten'. But as Lexie also knows, it really just means 'hello'. I talked about this in more detail at the end of Episode 7 with Michael Zee from Symmetry Breakfast. The interesting thing I want to add this time is about the particle 了 [le] in 吃饭了吗? [Chīfànle ma?], so humour me here. Many people learning Chinese think that 了 [le] changes the sentence to the past tense. And in this case it's true, 吃饭吗? [Chīfàn ma?] means 'are you eating?' and 吃饭了吗? [Chīfànle ma?] means 'have you eaten?' But actually 了 [le] doesn't denote the past, it denotes a change of state. So when Lexie's neighbours are saying 吃饭了吗? [Chīfànle ma?], they're actually kinda asking "?Have you gone from the state of not-eating, to a state of having eaten"? Let me give you another example. So taking last week's episode with Stephane, I said that I've gained weight in Shanghai because I don't find it very easy to go running here. And I'm sure Lexie's cookies don't help either. So if I say 我胖 [Wǒ pàng] it means 'I'm fat'. But if I say 我胖了 [Wǒ pàngle], it doesn't mean 'I've fatted'. It means I've got fat, I've changed into the state of being fat, I'm fat OK?

Loads of photos to share from today, please check them out on the handle @mosaicofchina_* on Instagram or @mosaicofchina on Facebook and 微博 [Wēibó]. Or join the group on WeChat, just add me on my ID: mosaicofchina* and I'll add you to the group. There are photos of the three cookies that Lexie specifically mentioned in our chat: one of them is green tea and marzipan; the second one is 杨梅 [yángméi] and coconut; and the final one is sichuan pepper and chestnut. Apart from that, there's Lexie's favourite WeChat sticker, the hula-dancing rabbit; there are photos with her doggie Mario; there are some images of the Shanghai recycling rules, which are of course full-on. But actually, they're no worse than the rules I followed when living in Japan in 1999, or even Germany back in 1996, so maybe it's about time they caught up here. 1996, oh my word, I'm fat AND old. There are pictures of the delicious 煎饼 [jiānbing], the thing that Lexie would miss the most if she left China. A few photos from the costume parties that Lexie mentioned - Shout out to Adam's WeChat group. And yes I called it a costume party, to all the Americans out there, a Brit would call that a "fancy dress party", believe me, I do realise how stupid that sounds - And last but not least, I asked Lexie to send me a photo of her best purchase in China, the inflatable bath, and the thing she sent me qualifies as one of the best images I'm posting all season.

Mosaic of China is me, Oscar Fuchs, extra editing support from Milo de Prieto, artwork by Denny Newell, and China support from Alston Gong. See you again next week.

*Different WeChat and Instagram handles were mentioned in the original recording. These IDs are now obsolete, and the updated details have been substituted.

Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 20 – The Cookie Empress (Lexie COMSTOCK, Founder, Strictly Cookies)

Oscar Fuchs: Creator, Producer and Host of the Mosaic of China podcast

Oscar Fuchs was the Co-Founder and Managing Director of a global executive search firm dedicated to the Human Resources profession. He was born in the UK and has lived in Asia for 18 years, including 3 years in Hong Kong SAR, and 7 years in mainland China. In 2019 he sold his company, and launched Mosaic of China.

In China, the podcast can also be found at 苹果播客, 小宇宙 and 喜马拉雅.

Internationally, it can also be found at Apple, Spotify, and all other podcasting platforms.

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