A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family

Overview

"Starting with charred fried rice and ending with flaky pineapple tarts, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan takes us along on a personal journey that most can only fantasize about--an exploration of family history and culture through a mastery of home-cooked dishes. Tan's delectable education through the landscape of Singaporean cuisine teaches us that food is the tie that binds."
--Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

After growing up in the most food-obsessed city in the ...

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A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family

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Overview

"Starting with charred fried rice and ending with flaky pineapple tarts, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan takes us along on a personal journey that most can only fantasize about--an exploration of family history and culture through a mastery of home-cooked dishes. Tan's delectable education through the landscape of Singaporean cuisine teaches us that food is the tie that binds."
--Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

After growing up in the most food-obsessed city in the world, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan left home and family at eighteen for America--proof of the rebelliousness of daughters born in the Year of the Tiger. But as a thirtysomething fashion writer in New York, she felt the Singaporean dishes that defined her childhood beginning to call her back. Was it too late to learn the secrets of her grandmothers' and aunties' kitchens, as well as the tumultuous family history that had kept them hidden before In her quest to recreate the dishes of her native Singapore by cooking with her family, Tan learned not only cherished recipes but long-buried stories of past generations.

A Tiger in the Kitchen, which includes ten authentic recipes for Singaporean classics such as pineapple tarts and Teochew braised duck, is the charming, beautifully written story of a Chinese-Singaporean ex-pat who learns to infuse her New York lifestyle with the rich lessons of the Singaporean kitchen, ultimately reconnecting with her family and herself.

Reading Group Guide available online and included in the eBook.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Tan embraced the rebelliousness associated with the Year of the Tiger, leaving her native Singapore first to study and then to work in the United States—not as a lawyer as her father had hoped but as a journalist. A desire to reconnect with her family and culture led her on a yearlong project to learn to cook the food of her childhood, commuting between her homeland and her chosen home, taking "lessons" in Singaporean cooking from her aunts. In this humorous and heartfelt memoir, she charts her progress with a deft hand, whether focusing on cooking, negotiating family dynamics, or what she thinks of herself. Tan, who also maintains a blog of the same name (www.atigerinthekitchen.com), includes ten recipes. VERDICT Those wishing to school themselves in the dishes of Singapore are better off with a cookbook, but this warm, witty chronicle of growing up and finding one's place between cultures will be widely enjoyed. Recommended.—Courtney Greene, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Kirkus Reviews

One woman's quest to reconnect with her family by way of traditional Singaporean food.

Tan's debut memoir explores the connection between taste buds and memory. After her parents' unexpected divorce—as well as falling victim to a brutal restructuring at Wall Street Journal—the author took advantage of her newfound freedom to return home to Singapore, dedicating a year to culinary adventure. She hoped to reacquaint herself with both her family's recipes and her family itself. Written in the tradition of two classic but different memoirs, Maxine Hong Kingston'sThe Woman Warrior (1976) and Julie Powell'sJulie & Julia (2005), the book is a recipe in itself—a dash of conjuring the ancient stories of one's past, a sprinkling of culinary narrative. The result is a literary treat filled with Singaporean tradition, including the surprisingly significant role food plays in the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts and the Moon Festival, among others. Tan argues that stories themselves are a kind of sustenance, and that the oral tradition, like food, begins in the mouth and ends in the stomach. She notes that her journey to Singapore was an attempt to "retrace [her] grandmother's footsteps in the kitchen," yet she retraces the steps of other relatives as well, including aunts and her mother—all of whom yield information far beyond the recipes. "Cooking wasn't a science; it wasn't meant to be perfect," she writes. "It was simply a way to feed the people you loved." As readers meet these loved ones, the narrative becomes all the more engaging. For Tan, cooking functions as a moderator between family members, allowing her to serve all their stories in the proper portions.

A delightful take on the relationship between food, family and tradition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401341282
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 2/8/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 547,434
  • Product dimensions: 5.04 (w) x 7.88 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is a New York-based writer who has covered fashion, retail and home design (and written the occasional food story) for the Wall Street Journal. Before that she was the senior fashion writer for In Style magazine and senior arts, entertainment and fashion writer for the Baltimore Sun. Born and raised in Singapore, she crossed the ocean for college in the U.S. after realizing that a) she wanted to be a journalist and b) if she was going to be as mouthy in her work as she was in real life, she'd better not do it in Singapore.
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 1, 2011

    Lovely book!

    This is an inspiring, funny, and hunger-inducing memoir about a young woman who goes back to her Singaporean roots and begs her Aunties to teach her to cook. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, a feisty, intelligent, and rebellious Chinese girl, grew up with more freedom and independence then most young Chinese women. She left Singapore for college in the US at age 18 and was quickly westernized in her views and beliefs. At 30 years old she finds herself jobless in New York, increasingly out of touch with her Chinese family, and wishing she knew how to cook, a skill she scorned as a child despite growing up with a host of Aunties who were especially skilled. She begins making trips home to learn the dishes of her childhood and, naturally, learns a whole lot more in the process.

    Lovely book! To start with the food descriptions are fantastic. I can just smell the thick pineapple jam simmering and the braised duck sizzling in the wok. The writing is clean and fresh, not an imitation of one the many popular food writers, but uniquely her own. Her various family members are portrayed with love and humor. Cheryl talks about the highs and lows of learning how to create delicious food with such honesty and clarity that I kept finding myself nodding along. I remember so well what it feels like to slave all weekend over a project that ultimately fails or to whip up a miracle that people can't stop eating. A Tiger in the Kitchen is a charming book that anyone who takes pleasure in cooking will appreciate.

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    Posted March 28, 2011

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