Archive for December, 2009

Greed and biodiversity

Posted by Fuchsia on December 28, 2009
Environment, Unusual delicacies / 12 Comments
Slow-cooked bear's paw with duck wings (from an old Chinese cookery book)

Slow-cooked bear paw with duck wings - image from an old Chinese cookery book

The Chinese penchant for eating endangered species is in the news again. Today the BBC ran a report by Moscow correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes about the poaching of Asiatic black bears in northeastern Russia. The culprits? Suppliers of bear’s paws and gall bladders to China, where the paws are an ancient delicacy, and the gall is prized for its medicinal properties. And last week, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that a man in Yunnan Province had been jailed for 12 years for killing, and then eating, a rare and endangered Indochinese tiger (in this case, the man at least claimed that it had been shot accidentally, after dark.)

Bear’s paw is one rare Chinese delicacy that I have never been offered, thank goodness. If in the future I do see one on a dinner table, rest assured that I will restrain my curiosity and refuse it. And yet I can’t help wondering if eating such things, gross and unconscionable though it may be, is any worse than driving a car, travelling by plane, using consumer goods whose manufacture and disposal causes catastrophic pollution, or eating a lot of factory-farmed meat. It’s much easier to make a moral point by refusing bear’s paw (particularly if it’s not part of your own culture) than it is to address seriously the impact of our consumerist lifestyles on the planet and its biodiversity, isn’t it?


A very lovely mention in the Guardian today!

Posted by Fuchsia on December 23, 2009
Books / 7 Comments

I was one of the food-writers invited by the Guardian to choose ‘The Best Food Books of the Decade’… and when they published the list today I discovered that the other panellists had put my first book, Sichuan Cookery (published in the US as Land of Plenty) in the Top Ten! What an honour.

China’s artisanal foods

Camellia oil, hot off the press

Camellia oil, hot off the press

There’s an article of mine in the Financial Times Weekend today, about the dilemmas facing China’s artisanal food producers.

The picture on the right was taken at the camellia oil press described in the article, just after I’d tasted the oil.



Posted by Fuchsia on December 16, 2009
Environment / 5 Comments

As the Copenhagen summit goes on, deciding all our futures, I’ve been thinking about what it takes to motivate democratically-elected leaders to take steps that may bring what seems like immediate hardship, in order to avert longer-term disaster. Continue reading…

Relative values

Posted by Fuchsia on December 14, 2009
Chinese cuisine, Chinese restaurants / 22 Comments

A quote from a Chinese-American friend in Hong Kong: ‘It infuriates me that people always think that Chinese food should be cheap – it’s racist, it’s ignorant. They don’t understand that Chinese cooking techniques are just as complex as those used in French cuisine. I have sent friends in San Francisco to really good Chinese restaurants – and these are people who know about food – and they have complained that “it’s so expensive”. Even in Hong Kong, you find some Hong Kong Chinese people who are willing to spend a lot on French food, but not on Chinese food.’ Continue reading…

Why I write

Posted by Fuchsia on December 14, 2009
Interviews, Writing / 2 Comments

New listing on the That’s Shanghai website, as part of a series of Q&As with China-focused writers.



Posted by Fuchsia on December 10, 2009
Chinese food culture, Events, Singapore / 14 Comments
At the wine and food congress

At the wine and food congress

I was in Singapore, for the first time, in October, as a panellist at the International Congress of Chinese Cuisine and Wine (ICCCW). I’ll be writing more about the trip later, but I just wanted to mention a small but thought-provoking incident. A young Singaporean Chinese woman came up to me during one of the conference dinners and complimented me on my use of chopsticks, saying that she was unable to use them so proficiently herself. ‘My parents never taught me how to eat with chopsticks,’ she said, ‘because they didn’t feel it was important these days. Actually this is common among my generation. Now some of the local clan associations are so concerned about this that they are running classes for the younger generation in how to use chopsticks, as well as language classes in various Chinese dialects.’ Continue reading…

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Feeding the Buddha

Posted by Fuchsia on December 08, 2009
Cooking, People / 3 Comments

My old friend Volker, who readers of ‘Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper’ may remember as my original partner-in-crime at the Sichuan cooking school, came to stay at the weekend. I hadn’t seen him for over three years, mainly because until two weeks ago, he was on a Tibetan Buddhist retreat at the Lerab Ling Temple in the South of France, which lasted, in traditional Tibetan fashion, for three years, three months and three days. As you can imagine, we spent the weekend spinning a lovely web of memories of Chengdu, discussing Buddhist philosophy, and eating. Continue reading…


A pheasant for the pot

Posted by Fuchsia on December 03, 2009
Cooking / 5 Comments

On Saturday, to my amazement, I actually shot my first pheasant. A friend had invited me to go on a shoot in the Essex countryside, something I’d longed to do ever since, as a teenager, I persuaded my mother to buy me a brace of pheasants to pluck, draw and cook. Rain had been forecast, but it turned out to be a glorious day: bright, cold and blue-skied. So we spent the day tramping around the countryside, through ploughed fields and meadows, and a small wood, and then standing around with our guns, waiting for the birds to fly up out of the bushes. I hadn’t been near a gun since I messed around with an air rifle in my parents’ garden, many years ago, and was a bit nervous. But it was exciting, and difficult. Somehow, towards the end of the day, when the clouds were smudgy and the trees spidery against the declining light, I managed to hit one, and it fell. Continue reading…