Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Last Chinese Chef

I almost a little bit want to say I loved this book, but something is holding me back from using the word love.

It's not a book I would normally pick out myself, but a coworker loaned it to me and I've been trying not to purchase so many books lately, so I finally decided to give it a try. I've never been someone super fascinated by Chinese culture, but I did work for 2 and a half years in the offices for Wild Ginger, a fancy, well established Asian restaurant in Seattle that serves mostly upscale Chinese food. And tell you what, reading this book made me need to go back there real bad and eat black pepper scallops, tomato and tofu stir fry, shu mai, sea bass in fresh herbs, seven flavor beef and even some fragrant duck. But if we're being honest, it doesn't take much to induce a craving now that I'm 8 months pregnant and starving for just about anything that I hear mentioned in passing.

What finally got me to pick this book up and start it is when I noticed that Nicole Mones (the author) also wrote Lost in Translation. That movie was good, right? So I decided this book probably wouldn't suck either. And it didn't. It's about a woman named Maggie, a food magazine writer who was recently widowed. She receives notice that her late husband has a claim that has been filed against his estate in China, where he often did business. She travels to China to investigate the claim and also takes an assignment for the magazine while she's there to write about an up and coming Chinese chef, Sam Liang. Sam is half Chinese, half American. He was raised in the US and recently moved to China to continue his grandfather's legacy as the "last Chinese chef". I feel cheap stealing a quote from the back of the book, but Ruth Reichl (former NY Times food critic, Gourmet editor in chief, and author) says it so well:

"I don't think there's ever been anything quite like this. It's a love story, it's a mystery, and it's also the most thorough explanation of Chinese food that I've ever read in the English language."

The descriptions of the food are amazing, the characters are believable and likable, and the story is interesting. Something kept me from getting that I-can't-put-this-book-down feeling, but it's sill a really solid read; particularly good for a book club with foodies in it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The movie lost intranslation is not based onNicoles book. Totally different stories