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Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China Paperback – August 24, 2009
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“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
Others have already reviewed the book in considerable detail, so I'll just add a few short tidbits that stood out for me in particular ...
* I absolutely adore Ms. Dunlop's adventerous spirit. Theodore Roosevelt's famous "man in the arena" speech somes readily to mind.
* I also admire, and heartily agree with, Ms. Dunlop's astute observations regarding certain silly and deeply ingrained western culinary biases ... such as a general dislike or aversion to rubbery textures, bone-in cuts, offal, bitter vegetables, etc. I also share her love for adventerous dining ... and her disapproval of those who conspicuously indulge in endangered species.
* I also deeply appreciate her efforts to not just share her culinary travels, but also her insights, immersive personal experiences, and the socio-political context of her travels ... it greatly helps to humanize the book for the reader. Disappointingly few authors succeed in that vein. Some successful examples (of fully immersive travel memoirs) are Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence", and Joseph Campbell's "Sake and Satori". Both are highly recommended - the latter in particular, for those who enjoy high-brow reading.
My one minor nit with this book are Ms. Dunlop's recipes ... she does a wonderful job in leading up to the recipes themselves in order to give full weight and background to her personal experience and attachment to each (something too few cookbook authors do in their headnotes). However, the recipes themselves are somewhat imprecise in places ...Read more ›
This easy reading book is more travel journal rather then cook book. You follow her step by step as she goes deeper and deeper into the culinary technique, aesthetic and philosophy that makes up Chinese cooking and eating. Besides her kitchen and dinner table encounters, the book also portrays the torrid pace of change that China has undergone this past decade. She covers the major differences between Occidental and Chinese ideas of good eats - freshness, texture/mouth-feel, the idea of what's edible. A very fun read - I finished this book in three nights.
Fuchsia Dunlop, 2008
As the title says, this is not a cookbook or precisely a book on or about food, but a memoir of Fuchsia Dunlop's time in China, with the emphasis on her culinary experiences and endeavors. It covers an eventful -- both for Dunlop and for China -- fifteen years, from her first visit in 1992 to one (hopefully not the last) in 2007. Originally a Chinese region specialist for the BBC, she applied for a fellowship to study in China, with an emphasis on minority cultures, was accepted, and in 1994 showed up at Sichuan University in Chengdu.
She rapidly became inebriated with the vital dining scene in Chengdu, and (to hear her tell it) largely abandoned the ostensible purpose of her studies. Fortunately for Dunlop and us, Sichuan had both a deserved reputation for being slow and casual (things were possible for a foreigner there that would not have been in more modern cities), and a rich and highly developed style of cookery. Far from being the simple blisteringly hot excess of chilis that it has the reputation for in the West, Sichuan cooking as practiced in Chengdu emphasizes a careful balance of flavors and ingredients, with hundreds of unique flavors and textures; no more a one-note anvil of chilis and the lip-numbing Sichuan peppercorn than Indian food is a single all purpose "curry powder" blend.
We have a few chapters devoted to her increasing love affair with Sichuan food and life, and her gradual accomodation to the variety of ingredients, from 'offal' to rabbit heads to insects.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a truly outstanding volume both for its insights into Chinese food inside China and the author's exceptional writing skills. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Neil A Marks
I have been cooking my way through Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop for about two years now. I finally decided to read her memoir, Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, to my great... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Cinnamintz
I never had any desire to go to China, but if anyone would make me change my mind, it would be Fuchsia Dunlop. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Beth Storrs
Read this for class and my classmates share my sentiments in how haughty Dunlop comes off as she conquers the gastronomy of China. Read morePublished 4 months ago by i88
This is an absolutely marvelous book. Highly recommend to anyone interested in food, period.Published 5 months ago by Janis Ian
I'm really enjoying this book, seeing how a westerner becomes acclimatized to the joys of Chinese food and culture. Read morePublished 10 months ago by CCM
Wonderfully well written but by the time I got to the end of this book I felt sick. The bizarre ingredients, the vast excesses in gourmandizing, the causal cruelty with which... Read morePublished 11 months ago by skd
Wonderful memoir from the best food writer currently writing.Published 12 months ago by S. Anderson