- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: WW Norton (March 25 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393066576
- ISBN-13: 978-0393066579
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 24.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 522 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #375,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Sharks Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet Sour Memoir Of Eating In China Hardcover – Mar 25 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Food writer Dunlop is better known in the U.K., where her comprehensive volumes on Sichuanese and Hunanese cuisine carved out her niche and eventually became contemporary classics. Turning to personal narrative through the backstory and consequences of her fascination with China, she produces an autobiographical food-and-travel classic of a narrowly focused but rarefied order. Dunlop's initial 1992 trip to Sichuan proved so enthralling that she later obtained a year's residential study scholarship in the provincial capital, Chengdu. There, her enrollment in the local Institute of Higher Cuisine, a professional chef's program, created a cultural exchange program of a specialized kind. The research for and success of her resulting cookbooks permitted Dunlop to return to China in a more experienced role as chef and writer; that led to this reflective memoir, which probes into the author's search for kitchens in the Forbidden City as well as the people and places of remote West China. One key to this supple and affectionate book is its time frame: by arriving in China in the middle of vast economic upheavals, Dunlop explored and experienced the country and its culture as it was transforming into a postcommunist communism. (Apr.)
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An insightful, entertaining, scrupulously reported exploration of China’s foodways and a swashbuckling memoir. . . . What makes it a distinguished contribution to the literature of gastronomy is its demonstration . . . that food is not a mere reflection of culture but a potent shaper of cultural identity. — Dawn Drzal (New York Times)
I didn’t realize what a self-satisfied, Western-hemisphere food snob I was until I read Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper. . . . This is not just a smart memoir about cross-cultural eating but one of the most engaging books of any kind I’ve read in years. — Celia Barbour (O, The Oprah Magazine)
Top Customer Reviews
Well, it is excellent.... that's about all I can say.
In truth the book won't appeal to an audience much beyond fairly hard-core 'foodies' but that seems to be an increasing segment of the population these days so I hope Ms Dunlop reaps the financial benefits she deserves from this book. She, herself, only describes this book as a memoir of 'eating in China' but it is a lot more than that... It is a thoroughly informative and entertaining look at one chef's experiences interspersed with some insightful observations about the food culture in the east and west, and the interplay between them....
A great read!
C John Thompson
Cookbooks by the same author are also fantastic.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com
For those that are cooks - I should add that a Chinese friend hand-carried some Sichuan Peppers from China which are so explosively different from the ones I purchased from chinese stores in Australia, US and Germany. To put it in context, crunching a single raw pepper of the authentic version is enough to leave the lips and tongue anaesthetised and tingling for 15 minutes. It is really worth to experiment with different peppers to look for ones with a kick.
What makes this book so readable, and persuasive, is Dunlop's ability to engage the reader with personal and intimate stories of regular people and homestyle cooking. As a speaker of Chinese she is able to share experiences with ordinary Chinese that would not be possible without a knowledge of the language. For example, she befriends the cook at the local noodle shop and eventually persuades him to give her the recipe for his famous dandan noodles, which she shares with the reader. I know I have said this before in other book reviews, but knowing Chinese really opens up all kinds of doors and allows one to experience a China that would not be possible if you did not know the language.
She correctly states on page 206, "Food has always been of exceptional importance in Chinese culture. It is not only the currency of medicine, but of religion and sacrifice, love and kinship, business relationships, bribery, and even, on occasion, espionage. `To the people, food is heaven,' goes the oft-repeated saying." Though the book focusses on Sichuan cuisine, she does give insight into China's other culinary traditions as well.
The book is engaging, entertaining, and very informative. It is obvious that she has done her homework and knows her stuff. She gets added credibility because she experiences all this first hand while she lived in China and on subsequent trips back after returning to the UK.
The reader comes away from this book fascinated with Chinese food, and really hungry. The food she describes in the real thing. This is a well written memoir and I highly recommend it.
While the writing about the food and delicacies were very appetizing (not for the faint of heart!), what I apprecated most about this book was the criticisms of the Chinese government, Chinese culture, and the change that China has been undergoing during the last couple of decades. Her criticisms are not harsh, but rather quite balanced.
The author clearly has a love-hate relationship with China, which I can relate to in many ways.
I truly admire her adventurous spirit and bravery, needless to say, she deserves a round of applause for her good work!