I’m thrilled and amazed to be nominated in two categories this year! Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking is on the shortlist for international cookbooks, and my Lucky Peach article ‘Dick Soup’ (one of the pieces I’ve enjoyed writing most!) is shortlisted in the ‘Personal Essay’ section, alongside pieces by two fantastic writers, Elizabeth Gilbert and Gabrielle Hamilton. You can read the full shortlist here.
READING: I’ve been gripped by Anya von Bremzen’s memoir of eating in the USSR, ‘Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking’. The story of three generations of her family and a century of life in Russia (and other parts of the USSR), it’s darkly funny, richly informative and fascinating. The sweet-sour nostalgia for an era characterised by food queues, political doublespeak, black humour and deprivation reminds me a little of China, where some people still reminisce fondly about life under Maoism.
My new book, Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, is out today. Unlike my other cookery books, it’s not focused on one province, but is a collection of delicious everyday recipes, mainly from southern China. They’re for the kind of dishes I like to make most: simple, healthy and with an emphasis on vegetables. Although the book includes meat and fish dishes, I hope vegetarians will enjoy it too, because many of the recipes are either completely vegetarian, or can be adapted to be so. My favourite chapters are those on green leafy vegetables and noodles, which include some of the recipes I really can’t live without. And my favourite recipes include the twice-cooked Swiss chard, the kohlrabi salad and the sea bream in fish-fragrant sauce. The book also includes some favourites from my earlier books, including Gong Bao chicken from Sichuan, and variations such a vegetarian Mapo Tofu that I think is just as good as the traditional version.
Bloomsbury have done a fantastic job with the production, and the book is lavishly illustrated with photographs by Chris Terry – which I hope will help to encourage people who feel daunted by Chinese cooking to see that it can be as easy as knocking up a salad or a pasta dish for supper!
The book will be published by Norton in the United States next spring.
The Browser have just published an interview with me about five books on Chinese food.
My most recent book, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, is now out in paperback in the UK and worldwide! (The US paperback edition came out in 2009.) Look for it in bookshops, or on Amazon and other online booksellers. With a little notice (usually a couple of weeks), I’m happy to sign dedications and leave the signed books at Barshu restaurant.
And here is some kind of review of it, which from what I can make out with Google Translate looks pretty good.
Another review (viewed through Google translate!) is here – very favourable too!
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…
My first book, Sichuan Cookery (published in the US as Land of Plenty), was chosen by the Observer Food Monthly as one of the ten best cookbooks of all time! Crazy, but delightful!
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.