Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Book combines love of family and food with a respect for tradition and history," says Kelowna Capital News

Gung Hey Fat Choy
However you spell it in English, Jan. 29 is the first day of the Chinese New Year, so Happy New Year.

On the lunar calendar used by the Chinese, it is the year 4704, and it's the year of the dog. People born in dog years are believed to be loyal, kind and generous. As part of the celebrations, which are a highlight of the year, children are given "lucky money" in little red envelopes, and, naturally, food plays a big part in the celebrations, which go on for 15 days, until the full moon brightens the night sky on February 13.

With food in mind, consider picking up a good book on Chinese cooking. A new book called Chow, published by Whitecap, is one worth considering, simply for a few excellent recipes and the stories.
Written by Janice Wong, this nicely illustrated book combines her love of family and food with a respect for tradition and history.

In stories accompanied by recipes, it tells of two Chinese families' history in Canada from the last century to this, and at the same time, the rise in popularity of the family Chinese café in small towns across the prairies and in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo.

The book's title, "Chow," has a double meaning: both Cantonese for "to stir-fry" and a Western colloquialism for "food" and "eating," she explains. The subtitle From China to Canada: Memories of Food and Family is an apt description. The recipes are predominantly those of her dad, who was the cook at the Lotus café the family opened in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in the mid-1950s.

She says the recipes are Cantonese, village-style food, and says this was the first wave of Asian food to hit North America, in the early part of the 1900s. "My dad introduced several generations of adventurous Canadian diners to 'standard' Chinese fare, albeit a version modified for a tentative western palate: fried rice, egg fu yong and tomato beef stir-fries," she writes in the book's preface.

Inside, there are some excellent recipes for Chinese food, and lots of instruction about how to cook without being chained to a recipe, a concept I heartily approve.

Although it's 190 pages long, don't expect all that many Chinese recipes, as there are also lots of delightfully written tales of family life and history as well.

-Jude Steeves, Kelowna Capital News, January 29, 2006

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