Monday, December 29, 2008

Sequential Tart says: A scrumptious and warm book

I love food memoirs, and finding one about my local food culture delights me. The Chinese food scene in Canada is plentiful and vibrant, and although many people would assume that this is due to more recent influxes of immigrants, Janice Wong's book recounts her parents' early lives in Canada and the Chinese history that is often overlooked by Canadian scholars.
The book is filled with easy-to-follow recipes with suggestions for substitutions (probably not necessary if you live someplace with a thriving Chinatown, but handy for others) and explanations of the ingredients. But it would be a mistake to assume that the recipes are only Chinese village food; the desserts section has an extensive list of shortbread cookies, sponge cakes, and slices that will be familiar to most Westerners. Wong is very clear that the neighbourhood she grew up in was chock-a-block with immigrants of all ethnicity, and their foodways intermingled all the time.

The recipes, like fruit studded into a cake, are held together with a batter of stories and anecdotes about Wong's family, in particular her father Dennis. She writes with obvious affection about his tireless work in the diners and caf├ęs they owned, the food they ate as children, the way everything revolved around meals and the creativity and closeness they fostered.

In places you can tell that Wong did not write the book straight through — one essay or blurb will repeat information that's already been stated — but this is easily forgivable and, even if it adds nothing to the narrative, at least does not detract. It's a scrumptious and warm book, enriching both historically and gastronomically.

-Marissa Sammy, October 20, 2008,

TO PURCHASE A COPY OF CHOW, please visit your local bookseller or order online via this LINK.

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