Wednesday, July 15, 2009

China on my Mind!
The Last Chinese Chef The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is another book in very recent memory that I could not put down and could not bear to part with. Funny enough, all of these recent books have to do with Asian cultures, for lack of better term. This one does have to do with the culture of food and sharing in China. It has to do with *China*. That alone would have been enough. But no, Nicole Mones takes a very engrossing and straightforward human story and goes on to explain in detail the importance of the family web and tragic past and sad present, and the hope of renewal, all that while giving the tiniest details of Beijing hutongs, Lake Huohai, the Beihai park, all these details I loved taking in when I was there... The language part and all the little phrases interspersed though the English text made me so happy and dying to travel back. (Enough of that, I wrote a whole review of the language thing in my blurb on the "Sea of Poppies".) So, the food! I will never forget the day when I had to take a cab to the hotel on my lunch break for something I forgot, instead of joining the rest of my study group for lunch, and my venerable professor, Dr. Wang, having written out the address of his clinic for the cab driver, turned around and said, "How are you going to make sure you eat lunch!!!???" I had to assure him, with the help of our translator, that I had oatmeal and snacks in my room, and fruit, and tea, and finally, that there were plenty of places around our hutong to take a quick lunch. He just shook his head and admonished me to make sure I ate before lecture! The scenes of the uncles and father Liang admonishing the main character Maggie to eat made me both laugh and tear. This book amazingly sums my feeling about Beijing and the gravitational pull of Planet China:

"... It's very mind-altering. I've decided China makes me high....It's like a drug. And if it turns out to be *your* drug, you will never want to leave." For better or not, I did have to leave, but I know that when I'm sad for Beijing, I will come back to re-read!

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