Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China

by Fuchsia Dunlop
     
 

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“Destined, I think, to become a classic of travel writing.”—Paul Levy, The ObserverSee more details below

Overview

“Destined, I think, to become a classic of travel writing.”—Paul Levy, The Observer

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
An insightful, entertaining, scrupulously reported exploration of China’s foodways and a swashbuckling memoir. . . . What makes it a distinguished contribution to the literature of gastronomy is its demonstration . . . that food is not a mere reflection of culture but a potent shaper of cultural identity.— Dawn Drzal
Dawn Drzal - New York Times
“An insightful, entertaining, scrupulously reported exploration of China’s foodways and a swashbuckling memoir. . . . What makes it a distinguished contribution to the literature of gastronomy is its demonstration . . . that food is not a mere reflection of culture but a potent shaper of cultural identity.”
Celia Barbour - O
“I didn’t realize what a self-satisfied, Western-hemisphere food snob I was until I read Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper. . . . This is not just a smart memoir about cross-cultural eating but one of the most engaging books of any kind I’ve read in years.”
Dawn Drzal
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper is both an insightful, entertaining, scrupulously reported exploration of China's foodways and a swashbuckling memoir studded with recipes (not converted, alas, from metric measurements) . But what makes it a distinguished contribution to the literature of gastronomy is its demonstration, through one person's intense experience, that food is not a mere reflection of culture but a potent shaper of cultural identity.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Food writer Dunlop is better known in the U.K., where her comprehensive volumes on Sichuanese and Hunanese cuisine carved out her niche and eventually became contemporary classics. Turning to personal narrative through the backstory and consequences of her fascination with China, she produces an autobiographical food-and-travel classic of a narrowly focused but rarefied order. Dunlop's initial 1992 trip to Sichuan proved so enthralling that she later obtained a year's residential study scholarship in the provincial capital, Chengdu. There, her enrollment in the local Institute of Higher Cuisine, a professional chef's program, created a cultural exchange program of a specialized kind. The research for and success of her resulting cookbooks permitted Dunlop to return to China in a more experienced role as chef and writer; that led to this reflective memoir, which probes into the author's search for kitchens in the Forbidden City as well as the people and places of remote West China. One key to this supple and affectionate book is its time frame: by arriving in China in the middle of vast economic upheavals, Dunlop explored and experienced the country and its culture as it was transforming into a postcommunist communism. (Apr.)

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Library Journal

Gourmet and Saveur magazine writer Dunlop (Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook) first traveled to China in 1992, unprepared for the "gastronomical assaults" that ensued. From then on, because it would be rude to leave food untouched on her plate, she vowed to eat whatever food she was offered-whether it was mixed vegetables or frog casserole and stir-fried snake-though to do so was often risky. With provocative chapter titles such as "Only Barbarians Eat Salad," "The Hungry Dead," and "Chanel and Chickens' Feet," this book does not disappoint. Readers are taken on a culinary journey throughout the various regions and provinces of China and are treated to recipes at the end of each chapter. Back home in England, Dunlop finds herself hesitant to eat a caterpillar that made its way into her steamed vegetables. Dare she cross that cultural boundary of eating an insect in the Western world? Dunlop's latest is a fascinating look at Chinese food and customs. Recommended for all libraries.
—Nicole Mitchell

Kirkus Reviews
Freelance scribe, almost-professional chef, restaurant consultant and ardent Sinophile Dunlop ensures that you'll never again look at General Tso or his chicken in the same way. In this, her first non-cookbook, she examines the entire spectrum of Chinese food culture, from the mystery of MSG to the melding of food and politics to Chinese culinary schools. As was the case with Trevor Corson's terrific Japanese food treatise The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, From Samurai to Supermarket (2007), Dunlop successfully inserts herself into the narrative, discussing her methodology, her feelings and theories about China and, periodically, her love life. She's so slick about it that the technique enhances rather than detracts from her episodic story line. In a clever gimmick, each chapter concludes with a recipe, a menu, a glossary or some other sort of culinary tidbit; the recipe for Mu gua dun ji, chicken and papaya soup, looks particularly tasty. It's become trendy, if not tired, for a food writer or television personality to eat a seemingly repulsive dish, then rave about how shocked they were at its yumminess. Dunlop periodically takes this approach-for example, her encounters with caterpillar and with snake stir-fry-and while she doesn't add anything new to the formula, her enthusiasm and linguistic dexterity keep it engaging. That's the case throughout this charming, informative textbook/memoir/travelogue, one of the more noteworthy recent food studies. Readers definitely won't be hungry an hour after finishing this satisfying history from a witty Chinese food authority.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393332889
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
08/24/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
378,130
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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