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Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper


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About the Author

Fuchsia Dunlop is the author of Land of Fish and Rice, among other books. She has won four James Beard awards for her writing and lives in London.


Gourmet and Saveur magazine writer Dunlop (Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook) first traveled to China in 1992, unprepared for the "gastronomical assaults" that ensued. From then on, because it would be rude to leave food untouched on her plate, she vowed to eat whatever food she was offered--whether it was mixed vegetables or frog casserole and stir-fried snake--though to do so was often risky. With provocative chapter titles such as "Only Barbarians Eat Salad," "The Hungry Dead," and "Chanel and Chickens' Feet," this book does not disappoint. Readers are taken on a culinary journey throughout the various regions and provinces of China and are treated to recipes at the end of each chapter. Back home in England, Dunlop finds herself hesitant to eat a caterpillar that made its way into her steamed vegetables. Dare she cross that cultural boundary of eating an insect in the Western world? Dunlop's latest is a fascinating look at Chinese food and customs. Recommended for all libraries.--Nicole Mitchell, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Birmingham Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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
Destined, I think, to become a classic of travel writing.--Paul Levy

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