To savor: The Last Chinese Chef

May 24, 2010

By Jo Cooper

Two of my favorite things in life are good food and good books. A delicious novel about food? Now we’re talking.

Nicole Mones’ The Last Chinese Chef (Houghton Mifflin, 20087) is a love story about a recently widowed food writer who visits Beijing to settle a mysterious claim against her late husband’s estate. While in China, she works on a magazine profile of a rising young chef, whose ancestors include chefs dating back to the imperial palace.

Interwoven with the contemporary narrative are excerpts from the book of the same name published in 1925 by the young chef’s grandfather, himself a legendary chef. The book-within-the-book includes some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read about food and culture.

Apprentices have asked me, what is the most exalted peak of cuisine? Is it the freshest of ingredients, the most complex of flavors? Is it the rustic or the rare? It is none of these. The peak is neither eating nor cooking, but the giving and sharing of food. Great food should never be taken alone. What pleasure can a man take in fine cuisine unless he invites cherished friends, counts the days until the banquet, and composes an anticipatory poem for his letter of invitation?
~ Liang Wei, The Last Chinese Chef, published Peking 1925

A book to savor. And one of many delectable selections we’ll have in our Food As Medicine bookstore next month. All year we search for the very best of clinical nutrition, culinary books and food-related literature for our attendees. Our bookstore is a treasure trove.

Thank you for this gift, Rebecca!