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Swallowing Clouds Paperback – March, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Wonton, which transliterates in Chinese as "swallowing clouds," gives title to this delightful mix of Chinese etymology, cooking, and culture. Zee, also author of An Old Man's Toy: Gravity at Work and Play ( LJ 3/1/89), invites the reader to learn written Chinese through food characters. He explains the pictorial origin of characters for fire, water, and others as they reappear in dozens of dishes. Playfully retold folk stories, such as the ten sayings of the fist drinking game, add verbal spice. Compared with James McCawley's The Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters (Univ. of Chicago Pr. 1984), with its list of word equivalents, Zee's book coaxes with the lively example, humor, and repetition of a good teacher. Recommended for people who enjoy Chinese food, as well as those who want a taste of the Chinese language.
-Elizabeth A. Teo, Moraine Valley Community Coll. Lib., Palos Hills, Ill.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"...Zee steps outside his specialty to write about his true loves--Chinese cooking, language, and culture." -- Kirkus Reviews

"A truly delightful literary compendium of wit, wisdom, and how-to. . . ." -- Newsday

"Charming. . . a study of the very nature of Chinese culture." -- Anne Tyler, Washington Post Book World

"The most delightful food book of the year. . . a happy blending of instruction and amusement. . ." -- Minneapolis Star-Tribune
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press; 1st University of Washington Press Pbk. Ed edition (March 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295981911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295981918
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,852,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
before picking up Swallowing Clouds the Chinese language seemed to me to be completely impenetrable. now, thanks to Swallowing Clouds and the insights it provides, i am frequently able to recognize characters wherever i go, but most notably on the menus in Chinese restaurants. needless to say, my dining companions are always interested in the little insights i can tell them about their meals that i learned from Swallowing Clouds. This book is utterly delightful, engaging and fun--it's one of my favourites, and it's near impossible to put down. it's perfect for anyone who's ever picked up a Chinese menu and scratched their head at what intially appears to be a complex and intimidating language.
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Format: Paperback
A. Zee has written a very intelligent book on the finer aspects of Chinese cuisine explained with easy to understand Chinese names, their gastronomic connections and the cultural implications. Zee beautifully intertwined food with history, poetry and language. He has spiced his topics with true life stories like a famous Chinese poet eating the poisonous Fugu (puffer fish) and proclaiming it was worthwhile dying for. Truly an inspirational and accomplished work, cerebral and delightful. A must for all who love Chinese food.
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Format: Hardcover
I first read Swallowing Clouds 12 years ago and it started me on the endlessly fascinating hobby of learning to read Chinese characters. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Chinese culture, cuisine, and history. Dr. Zee's effortlessly entertaining, yet thoroughly knowledgeable, style will entrance the neophyte as well as the seasoned scholar.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like to be able to speak Chinese but even the thought of studying it intimidates the pants off you? You might be pleasantly surprised once you read ten pages into Swallowing Clouds. A. Zee is a wonderfully patient, fun teacher. You won't learn Chinese simply be reading this book but you might just get hooked enough to want to learn more. So this book is a great starting point. You will learn some very interesting stuff about Chinese food and culture.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some time ago, a scholar entered a his favorite bookstore. The owner asked if he could help find what the scholar was looking for. "I want your best book on Chinese cuisine. I also need a Chinese cookbook, and readable books about both ancient and modern Chinese culture. I need a Chinese language book, a book of Chinese folk tales, and one on the history of China. Oh, and throw in a novel so engaging that I won't be able to put it down. And finally I would like to learn a little Chinese, at least so I can read menus, without doing any work!" The bookstore owner placed an unassuming volume in the scholar's hand, saying "Here it is. Swallowing Clouds."

Amazingly all of these things are to be found in this book. Well, it is not a real cookbook, but its "few recipes" are augmented by descriptions of ingredients and cooking methods for specific dishes, entrancingly woven throughout the narrative. You will not look at Chinese characters on a menu, or Chinese restaurants and food, in the same way after being enlightened by this wonderful book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Firstly I should say I'm a native English speaker proficient in Chinese language and a good knowledge of food. I re-read this book every few years and always learn something new. Those who don't read Chinese characters sadly can't appreciate the pictographic explanations the author weaves throughout, but his anecdotes about family, food, and Chinese culture will be appreciated by anyone with more than a passing interest in Chinese culture or food. I've bought multiple used copies of this book (which is sadly out of print) to give to my friends and highly recommend the book.
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