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.