I recently finished reading Hilary Spurling’s masterful biography of Pearl Buck, the daughter of American missionaries who grew up in China and became a novelist who introduced many in America to Chinese culture (and won the Nobel Prize for Literature). It was an utterly absorbing read. Among other things it was a sobering reminder of the appalling poverty of pre-revolutionary China, and the extraordinary achievements of the communists in their early days in power – it’s easy to let the horrors of the Anti-Rightist Movement, the post-Great Leap famine and the Culture Revolution obscure this. And the episodes in which Pearl and her family were threatened and turned on by people in a place that felt like home will resonate, at least distantly, with many foreigners who have lived in China. (Peter Hessler, in River Town – another wonderful China book - described a nasty little event in Fuling, his home for two years, when a crowd turned ugly just because he was a foreigner. And it reminded me of the time I was nearly lynched by a hostile crowd in Chengdu, my beloved Chengdu, just after the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.) Continue reading…
Archive for January, 2011
Chinese President Hu Jintao was honoured with a state banquet at the White House last night. Apparently he and his entourage had requested a ‘quintessentially American’ menu, and this is what they were given:
D’Anjou pear salad with farmstead goat cheese, fennel, black walnuts and white balsamic
Poached Maine lobster with orange-glazed carrots and black trumpet mushrooms
Dry-aged rib eye with buttermilk crisp onions, double stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach
Old-fashioned apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Continue reading…
You can hear me talking about the versatility of the Chinese kitchen cleaver (菜刀) in last week’s edition of The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4.
Using a cleaver is addictive, because it is so ruthlessly efficient. It is also a contagious habit, as my mother and certain of my friends (as well as some readers of my books?) would be able to tell you.
The photograph on the right is reproduced with kind permission of Martin Leeburn.