I think we all know about writer's block. I do not consider myself a writer by any stretch of the imagination, but it is something I am trying to cultivate. I am trying to gain some confidence around words, sentences and the expression of ideas on paper.
However, I am an avid reader and I jumped at the chance to read a novel that incorporates food into the mix. I think its great to read a book that inspires you to get back into the kitchen and enjoy the preparation and excitement of food.
The novel sent to me was "Georgia's Kitchen" by Jenny Nelson. I can say that this was a quick read. I did not particularly feel inspired by it, but it wasn't a complete let down. It was sort of an "eat, Pray, Love sort of book. I'd love to have a quote or maybe a page in the novel bookmarked, but it did not inspire or provoke thought. It was a simple chic lit book that was easy to read. If you enjoy chic lit books this might be a nice summer read for you up at the cabin or on a rainy day. If you want something a bit more meaty for a book club - this might not be it. In fact, a lot of the books I have read this year have been so-so.
However, I did read "The Last Chinese Chef" by Nicole Mones. I must say I absolutely loved this book. Yes, it had the romance and sex component as well as a whole lot of Asia (deep sigh). I have this "thing" for Asia, Asians and Asian cuisine. Actually, the reason I wanted to pick this book up is because although I love Asia and much of the food; Korea, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai - you name it. Chinese food has always been a struggle for me, even when I traveled to Beijing. I want to love it, but I am almost always disappointed. The dishes are slimy and too oily and usually salty. So the goal with reading this book was to see if the novel could teach me about what I had so clearly been looking for with Chinese cuisine - the Art of it, the Tradition and the Respect that food and meals have on the people. Something that we Americans' loose sight of much of the time.
This novel did not disappoint. Nicole Mones is an outstanding writer. It doesn't hurt that she has spent years working and traveling through China either. She writes beautifully and does a wonderful job at creating real characters that you can relate to and believe in within an exotic, but familiar world. Not only are the characters endearing - the novel is inspirational. At least I thought so and it wasn't just about the food, but how food in China brings people together, its expressive nature and how cooking teaches life lessons.
"The most important thing is to preserve civilization. As men we are the sum of our forebears, the great thinkers, great masters, great chefs. We who know the secrets of food must pass them on, for our attainment in food is not less than our attainment in philosophy, or art; indeed, the three things cannot be separated. These are the things that make us Chinese."
"He was wiser than any alchemist. His dishes brought him all the glory under heaven. And he did it just as easily from coarse simple food as from rare delicacies. He often said that the best food was simple and homey; it reminded us of when we were young, or felt loved, or were lit up with believing in something."
"In this humble book I have tried to give the facts about the cuisine of the Chinese imperial palace. It was a place of tragic beauty. Of everything I learned there, one thing stands out. Food was always to be shared. When my master sent out his untouched dishes...he would only send them as complete meals for eight people in stacked lacquerware. Never any other way. The high point of every meal was never the food itself, he taught us, but always the act of sharing it."
This novel makes you want to try your hand at Chinese cuisine or at the very least share a simple meal with others. It certainly did for me. In fact - I dragged (ha he loves it!) my husband down the Rainbow Restaurant on Eat Street in Minneapolis. I chose Rainbow because I know that they have a gluten-free menu and it makes the choices a lot easier for me. Also, the whole dining experience is less stressful if I do not have to ask a ton of questions or make lots of dietary requests. Try it sometime and let me know what you order.
Although, the "The Last Chinese Chef" was wonderful. I've been looking for more books to quench my desire. Do you have any recommendations? Help get me out of this dry spell.