Saturday, December 01, 2007

Best of 2007: The Last Chinese Chef

It's the end of the year, and it's time to reflect on the best books of 2007. Several of our staff members have made their selections - feel free to tell us your favorite book published in 2007 by clicking on the comments link below. We'll start with Laura's choice.

The Last Chinese Chef
By Nicole Mones

Widowed American food writer Maggie McElroy is stunned when she learns of a paternity suit filed in China against her late husband’s estate so she decides to travel to Beijing in search of the truth. When requesting a leave of absence from her job, her editor counters with an assignment to profile rising culinary star Sam Liang, a Chinese-American.

The story follows Maggie as she delicately wades through the Chinese way of approaching the child’s grandparents, and Sam as he prepares for a prestigious cooking competition.

Recently Sam has been working on a translation of “The Last Chinese Chef” written by his grandfather, the late great chef Liang Wei. Through excerpts of this work Mones explores the history, philosophy and pageantry of Chinese food and the great impact that the Cultural Revolution had upon it. Sam is aided in both the translation and preparation for the competition by his “uncles” - a loving though exacting bunch of cooks and diners.

Mones is a beautiful writer. She moves effortlessly back and forth through time giving the story great depth. Her description of the food preparation and the flavors the dishes impart will make your mouth water. It’s a very satisfying read and the only book ever excerpted in Gourmet magazine.

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