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Every Grain of Rice: A Taste of Our Chinese Childhood in America Hardcover – May 26, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; 1 edition (May 26, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609601024
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609601020
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There's something of a warning for all readers in this book: blend too well with the American melting pot and you may lose the way things tasted when you were a child. Such was almost the case with Ellen Blonder and Annabel Low, who grew up together in Chinese families in California.

"For all the time we spent helping in the kitchen while we were growing up," Blonder writes, "we missed the next step of mastering the recipes on our own; we lost our connection to the old ways of cooking. We can teach our daughters how to deal with corporations, but we couldn't pass down the simplest technique for dealing with taro root."

While compiling a collection of favorite family recipes meant as a wedding gift, Blonder and Low realized there was a deep hole in their heritage: when push came to shove, they really didn't know how their parents had prepared a lot of their favorite foods. Fortunately for their families and any other families that open and use this book, their rediscovery developed into a gem of a book.

Blonder's illustrations alone are worth the price of the book. The reminiscences open up a chapter of American immigrant history too often hidden, and the recipes and careful instructions for assembling the dishes bring the special foods of a particular village in China to anyone's table.

There may well be better Chinese cookbooks on the market, but Every Grain of Rice is special for the implied invitation to sit down and eat with the two authors, their families, and all their ancestors stretching back in time to the place where the recipes were originally developed. Invitations like that don't show up every day. The experience may turn readers back to their own favorite foods, and their own heritage, and encourage them to save what they can while the information is still available. That, in and of itself, is a very special sauce to add to any dish. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

Low and Blonder, aunt and niece born within 16 days of each other, offer glimpses of their Chinese-American childhood in California in this utterly charming and strikingly illustrated (by Blonder) cookbook. Recipes are for home-style foods but are sometimes complex, like the one for Savory Jeng, a glutinous rice mixture cooked in carefully folded bamboo leaves. Both Green Loofah Squash with Prawns and Long Beans with Ground Pork in Lettuce Packets make use of more exotic vegetables. Chinese New Year's Cake with mashed yams and brown sugar is described as being similar to "a soft caramel." More familiar Chinese-American favorites like Fried Rice and Vegetarian Chow Mein are not neglected either. Even stronger than the recipes are the anecdotes provided by both authors, which are personal without being too sentimental: Low remembers her imposing and impressive father, Low Hop Joe, proprietor of the Hong Kong Cafe in Sacramento, and Blonder reflects on the Chinese tradition of never accepting a compliment. This book is both appetizing and engaging.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
5 star
88%
4 star
8%
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See all 24 customer reviews
The illustrations are beautiful.
Amazon Customer
This is a book of Chinese recipes and stories about the childhoods and families of Annabel and Ellen (her niece that she grew up with).
Lisa Cline (maiensch@flash.net)
Taste like the stuff my grandfather used to cook.
Joe Cool

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Julie S. Higginbotham on October 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As the Caucasian parent of children adopted from Asia, I'm always interested in cookbooks that offer a healthy dose of cultural ed along with the recipes. This one does both things beautifully -- I have enjoyed the stories and the pictures very much. I have also made dozens of the included recipes, always with excellent results. (Living in an urban center with easy access to Chinese ingredients helps, but the difficulty level of many of these dishes is not as high as with some other Asian cookbooks I own, and should not be too scary even for beginning cooks.)
The ultimate endorsement has to come from Chinese-American friends at the weekend school I attend with one of my kids. After having some of them over for a Lunar New Year party and serving the soy sauce chicken, steamed whole fish, and several other dishes from the book, I have gained a small reputation at the school as "that white woman who can cook Chinese food." The following year I made the steamed New Year's Cake (nian gao, in Mandarin) and took it to weekend school. Two of the faculty actually asked me for the recipe. I vow that one day soon I'm going to get the bamboo leaves out of my freezer, gird my loins, and cook up a batch of those time-consuming Jeng. Authors Ellen and Annabel have convinced me that the results might just be worth the effort.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Edelman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must have thirty or forty books on Chinese cooking, and most are full of the kinds of restaurant dishes and banquet dishes that aren't terribly representative of what Chinese families actually eat when they dine together. This book is different. It's full of what you might call Chinese comfort food- the food the authors grew up eating, and that reminds them of home. A lot of it is the kind of food most Westerners never get to taste unless they're lucky enough to be the guest of Chinese hosts- food like winter melon soup, or humble food like jook.
Add to that the beautiful watercolors and the authors' stories of growing up together (and eating together) and you have an absolute treasure of a book. No matter how many Chinese cookbooks you may own, you need this one.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Great stories, wonderful food!
This book is not meant to be an all-encompassing guide to Chinese cooking or a "dazzle the guests" dinner party menu book. It's about comfort food.
I own a shelf full of Chinese cooking books, but none contain some of the simple recipes I found in this book. The recipes are for the sort of everyday dishes that Grandmom made during our infrequent visits when I was little. Since she rarely used recipes, the knowledge died with her. What a pleasure it was to find some of her dishes in this book!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brenda J. Lanza on February 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Delicious Chinese recipes interwoven with Ellen's and Annabel's stories about their Chinese American life and beautifully illustrated by Ellen's watercolors. I have tried the siu mei, oyster beef and broccoli, pan fried prawns with ketchup sauce, chicken in foil, and the almond cookies. They were all doable and crowd-pleasers.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
As an Irish American woman married to a Chinese American man, I found the stories delightful and the recipes helpful. I too have spent time in the kitchen with my in-laws watching them cook, wondering how they arrive at such wonderfully delicious flavors. I am glad to own a book that will help me duplicate such flavors and help my children learn how to cook chinese food.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful gift, to give or to receive. It is not only a cookbook of authentic Chinese flavors, but a story of growing up Chinese-American in California. The recipes are familiar from my own childhood growing up in New York City. The ingredients described are even illustrated in Ellen Blonder's beautiful watercolor miniatures; to the novitiate, one could walk into a Chinese market, book in hand, and actually find the correct ingredients.
These are the recipes for everyday and holiday dishes that were passed on mother to daughter. To have them presented in this fashion makes them available to a whole generation that, like Annabel and Ellen, missed the opportunity to learn from their mothers and grandmothers. They make available to a much wider audience the flavor of "real" Chinese cooking. I recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn good Chinese cooking, and anyone who loves good Chinese food.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a joyful, thoughtful, and respectful approach to food as part and parcel of one's family life. The recipes I've found to be not super-easy, but yet very doable -- not fancy restaurant cooking, but delicious at-home Chinese cooking at its best. Try the siu mai (a type of dim sum) recipe -- it's fantastic.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I have long ago moved out of my parents house and never learned to cook the way my mom did. This book brought back great memories of sitting around watching my mom cook - wheter it was just for a family meal, or for a special occasion. After reading the stories and drooling over the pictures, I had to get a copy for my sister. This book is not your ordinary cookbook - it's more a walk down memory lane. So if you want some Chinese resturant dishes - don't buy this. But if you want to see receipes and stories of growing up in a Chinese family in the States, this is a great book.
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