Shark's Fin And Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop
Around the World: 59 of 52 books
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are books about the food of a place, and there are books about culinary adventures. Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper is more of a food ethnography, as the reader experiences the specific food cultures of China along with Fuchsia. She morphs from being scared of gelatinous texture to thinking more like a Chinese person than an English person in regard to food.
"Texture is the last frontier for Westerners learning to appreciate Chinese food. Cross it, and you're really inside. But the way there is a wild journey that will bring you face to face with your own worst prejudices...."The majority of the book focuses on food from the Sichuan Province, as she spent many years there, first as a student and then just as an expatriate. Other chapters dabble in other regions and their cuisines, serving as a reminder of what a variety of people groups and heritages various parts of China encompasses.
This is a journey I could never take, largely because I do not eat meat, but even more so because this was a journey that spanned fifteen years. This is not a tourist encounter with "weird food" that lasts only two weeks. This is an adulthood-long dive into the layers and history of Chinese food. Her background as a journalist, and growing up in an international-student-friendly home, both contributed to her ability to take on this type of adventure.
This book made me HUNGRY. I ordered dan-dan noodles locally, knowing they don't even come close to the version she was describing that she purchased from a street vendor. I ended up making scallion pancakes (flatcakes) with dipping sauce, which according to her, would probably most likely be made in a northern region where the "wheat-eaters" live.