The first time I went to America, I couldn’t understand why, whenever I checked into a hotel, the first thing the bell boy told me was where I could find ice. He might point out an ice dispenser in the lift lobby, or tell me which number I could call to have some ice sent over. Ice, it seemed, was the number-one preoccupation of American hotel guests, whatever the season. As a Chinese convert, though, the first thing I want to see when I check into a hotel room is hot water and the means to make tea. In the old days in China, every hotel or guesthouse would provide tealeaves and lidded mugs, and a fuwuyuan would bring you a thermos filled with hot water as soon as you arrived – one of those lovely, old-fashioned thermoses with floral patterns that evoke the style of pre-war Shanghai. Fresh supplies of hot water could be obtained from a service room on every floor where a giant steel samovar simmered away, day and night. These days, you’re more likely to be faced with an electric kettle, but the tea-making facilities are non-negotiable. A cup of tea always has to be part of the welcome, whether you are arriving at someone’s home or office, or checking into a hotel. Continue reading…
Bizarrely, I spent this Chinese New Year’s Eve teaching cookery in Houston, and then eating Tex-Mex! (Molten cheese with tortilla chips; a San Antonio ‘puffy taco’ stuffed with smoked chicken; a great platter piled with a tamale, a couple of enchiladas, refried beans and rice – all very tasty, but incredibly rich and heavy! Could have done with a salad or some stir-fried greens. The highlight, for me, was one of the sides, the scrumptious refried beans cooked in lard.) On New Year’s Day I travelled back to Washington DC, where I was staying with friends. So no Chinese food at all – not even a fish!
Anyway, since it’s the Year of the Snake, I thought I’d post some pictures of snake delicacies from a visit to Fujian a few years ago.
The US edition of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, is out today, published, like the American editions of all my books, by W.W.Norton. It’s the same book as the UK edition, but with Americanised measurements and so on, and a different cover.
I hope it will help American readers discover the joys of Chinese home cooking, especially vegetables!
Recently I went with the head chef of Barshu, Zhang Xiaozhong, to give some presentations at the Worlds of Flavour conference at the Culinary Institute of America (generally known, amusingly, as the CIA). As we were driving back to San Francisco after the event, I asked Chef Zhang about his plans for the Chinese New Year, and he replied with this wistful little poem about the life of the chef, slaving away over a hot stove while everyone else celebrates with their families:
他人家中聚 Other people gather in their homes
我望锅中油 I gaze at the oil in the wok
妙手烹万物 Using my subtle hands to cook ten thousand
厨房度春秋 Working in the kitchen as the seasons pass
Arrived in Shanghai to warm and sunny weather! I had a simple vegetarian lunch at a Buddhist monastery (Shanghai wontons stuffed with shepherd’s purse, green pak choy and mushrooms; ‘Arhat’s noodles’ with cloud ears, bamboo shoot and another kind of mushrooms). Dinner was fine Spanish jamon, cut from an entire leg of ham that had been smuggled into the country in a container, with home-made Spanish tortilla, tomato bread and red wine. Well, Shanghai is a melting pot, isn’t it?
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The knife clinic, held last Thursday, was great fun. Delicious canapes by Daylesford Organic, great demos by Marianne Lumb and Corin Mellor. And I did a bit of Chinese chopping, including spring onion ‘fish-eyes’, ‘flowers’ and ‘horse ears’, ‘ox-tongue’ slices made from Asian radish, and ‘eyebrows’ and ‘phoenix tails’ cut from pig’s kidneys.
Illustration on left by Sebastian Wilkinson
Sometimes I just have to draw, like today (although it’s the first time in ages). More than anything, I like drawing faces, and so, when like today I am working at home alone, I have little choice but to draw myself in the mirror. So here it is, another quick self-portrait to add to the hundreds I’ve produced since I was about seventeen!
I don’t know why, but it’s put me in a really good mood.
我的博客一般是用英语写的，可是我觉得我真应该把这篇小文章翻译成汉语啊！我写的是关于一位美国记者作家最新发表的著作，即麦克尔·波兰（Michael Pollan）的《捍卫食物》（In Defence of Food）和《杂食者的困境》（The Omnivore’s Dilemma），这两本书在美国和欧洲有很大的影响。他基本的观点 如下：最近几十年，营养学发展了很多，可结果是人们现在一点也不知到怎么吃了，脑子里填满了各种营养信息，太混乱，而且常常是自相矛盾的。营养学家也犯了一些严重的错误（譬如说，以前告诉我们动物脂肪对人体很危险，应该用人工食品代替， 而且过了几十年，发现了这些人工食品本身也是非常危险的。）
麦克尔·波兰的建议是：“要吃事物，但不要太多，而且最好多吃植物。”（’Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’）
This is not about food, but it’s such a striking story that I had to post it…
I was chatting to a friend who works in the Chinese restaurant industry here in London, and she was lamenting a change in the UK immigration laws which means that foreign students will no longer be allowed to work part-time while they live here.
Anyway, she said, large numbers of Chinese students and young people had decided to leave the UK for Canada, because of Britain’s ‘CCTV culture’. ‘They just have the feeling that they are being watched all the time, and it’s no longer fun to be here. And first the authorities asked for fingerprints, now irises, and they want to take everybody’s DNA and keep it for six years!’
When people from China want to leave the UK because of the decline in civil liberties, you know you’re in trouble…