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The Food of China Paperback – September 10, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0300047394 ISBN-10: 0300047398

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 10, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300047398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300047394
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Jack on January 1, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Published in the late 1980s, The Food of China remains one of the key modern works on Chinese food history. This was the first book I read on Chinese food. That was a mistake, if only because the book is so dense with information that the reading experience was quite overwhelming at the time. So if you are a novice like I was, start with something lighter such as Francine Halvorsen's The Food and Cooking of China before taking the deep plunge with this more academic book. But E. N. Anderson remains on of the two or three authoritative references in my bookshelf that I know I will be reaching for many years to come.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Welch on January 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not a cookbook, nor is it one of those armchair cookbooks that have become so popular of late, but rather a somewhat scholarly journal through the story of food in China from the first known agriculture (millet, in the north, approx. 6500-6000 BCE) to the appearance of rice (in the Yangtze Delta approx. 5000 BCE) through the discoveries and cultivation of other important crops...as well as seafood, animals, and as the Chinese themselves say, anything and everything the Chinese have ever found edible. And not only does it cover the discovery and growth of food production in a manner that is virtually page-turning, but because it also links these stories into the most interesting details of Chinese culture and history, it is much more than just a book about food. Author Anderson has scoured ancient texts to extract references to food (and medicine), meals and agriculture in his research, and thus you learn of the food described by the Japanese monk Ennin who visited China in the 840's, and how tea was an exotic drink from the Indian-Burma border regions that probably was introduced to China by Buddhist monks, to name just two examples. Original and secondary sources are referred to in the text itself making additional reading and research tantalizingly easy. My only problem now is the list of about thirty books I want to read culled from this amazing volume. Anyone with a serious interest in China will enjoy reading this book -- and yes, it does close with some very good chapters that include a fascinating survey of "Dinner at the Ngs". (And if you're looking for a good cookbook, there's no better place to start than the recommended list of titles on page 274 at the end of the book.)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a dense book. I was reminded of a much more detailed and obtuse expansion on the China sections of "Guns, Germs, & Steel." It's all difficult to absorb, really, which makes the style sometimes seem a bit off - it's an informal-ish work written by a scholar, and so footnotes and the like are kept to a minimum, and the author frequently goes off on tangents. Really it's all disingenuous, the work is clearly not going to be read casually on the beach, the author should have just written the book in a more scholarly style.

I was particularly annoyed at his tangents. His recollections of meals in Hong Kong keep turning up like a bad penny. Maybe 25 years ago this was fascinating stuff, but now it's trite and feels forced into the work. He also uses these tangents to drop into unsubstantiated opinions, or even statements that are completely wrong. For instance, he goes off for a page or two about how Sweet & Sour Pork in the US is generally not authentic Cantonese food, how trite. He also claims it was a minor Cantonese dish (it isn't, it's an Eastern Chinese dish, one that to my mind tastes surprisingly like the US version). He also uses the opportunity to repeat the old wives' tale about glutamates giving "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome." (Double blind tests and common sense have long shown that it's psychosomatic.)

Really the book is full of these guffaws that demand more explanation - he also goes off about the efficiency of pre-Open Door Chinese socialism, makes an impassioned claim that the world needs to imitate Chinese agriculture, and constantly talks about the ancient superiority of Chinese civilization, although he never really explains the "why," besides that it had the third highest agricultural efficiency, behind Java and Japan.
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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful By DesignerBoy on September 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
After I read that Yangzhou fried rice comes from Yangzhou, I'm starting to believe everything in Wikipedia is true.
This was an invention in Hong Kong and despite if you travel to Yangzhou and it says it on the tourist material it is not true. I also question that Fujian has the best soups while if you travel to China most people will say the Cantonese have the best soups. You try and travel in China and ask anyone.
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