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Globalization of Chinese Food, The
by: Wu, David Y.H. and Cheung, Sydney C.H., editors
University of hawaii Press 2002, Hardbound
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(3) page(s): 21 nad 22
This phenomenal volume of essays by different folk is a fascinating read. In it are changes, variations, and innovations in Chinese food. No matter where you live or travel, understanding changes in Chinese food, as viewed in this volume, need your attention. Through classic theories and early writings every chapter editor, the authors, and the introductiob by Sidney Mintz, explore the impact of globalization. Through China's cuisine, a food eaten by more than one-quarter of the world's population, they detail specifics and major changes. The book explores them through an Asian microcosm and the changing Chinese food scene. It is a scene no doubt duplicated with some twists in almost all countries world-wide.
Read this book and travel through time on a Chinese stomach. In it, take note that rare is the city or town without a Chinese restaurant. For example, though not discussed, as its globalization is limited to Asian perspectives, New York City has many more than a thousand Chinese restaurants, its suburbs many hundreds more, and all of them impact or are being impacted by the changes this book addresses. Because rare is the place without a Chinese restaurant, this book helps understand what they are, their impact on the social scene, and who those that never leave Asia are serving.
Many of the papers had their genesis at the 5th Symposium on Chinese Dietary Culture in 1997 held at the University of Hong Kong. Four are from that conference, the others from a Food and Ethnography workshop held the following year at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Together, they make a great addition to our understanding of how fast, also why, when, and where Chinese food is changing, but not always in ways many think.
In the Foreword by Sidney Mintz called 'Food for Thought' one is alerted in 'the read within' to who eats, where, and why vis-a-vis sea cucumber, bird's nests, and domesticated animals. Read how they transform humankind and understand the importance of studying eating and the Chinese. Professor Mintz eloquently discourses on universals and specifics. He espouses on differences by religion, taboo, dairy use, even the Han cuisine food phenomena. He understands the need for comparisons of Asian and Western cuisines as ways to develop a theoretical grasp of food ethnography. This is a wonderful way to begin this read.
That and the introduction braid the works of the nine authors, including those of the editors, in this three part book. They are titled: Sources of the Globe, Chinese Food and Food for Chinese, and Globalization: Cuisine, Lifeways and Social Tastes. Without a single recipe, each of the eleven chapters and the two items that precede them, are a lucky thirteen for tasting facts and fancies about Chinese food. You see food in Qing and earlier dynasties, learn of it in Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, Japan's Yokohama, and elsewhere. In this read, savor inventions and transformations of Chinese food.
You may wish, as I did, read this book before visiting Singapore, Peru, or Timbucktoo. The chapter on Food Culture and Overseas Trade by Dai Yifeng provides perfect background for travel anywhere. Sacred Food from the Ancestors by Mahamed Yusoff Ismael improves needed understandings about the Middle East and Arabic foods. Improvising Chinese Cuisine Overseas enhances a trip to Hawaii. The chapter called Development of Ethnic Cuisine in Beijing by Zhuang Kongshao is a must before going to go China's capital or her southwestern provinces. Read about Beijing and learn why ethnic restaurants along one street show many culinary sides of China most know not.
Cantonese Cuisine in Taiwan and Taiwanese Cuisine in Hong Kong by David Y.H. Wu offers clues about dimsum/yumcha as regional food. In it, see the various roles of these foods. Food and Cuisine in a Changing Society by Sidney C.H. Cheung opens up Hong Kong and reveals things about Hakka, nouvelle Cantonese foods, even the Chinese buffet. Food Consumption, Food Perception and the Search for a Macanese Identity by Louis Augustin-Jean demarcate Chinese and restaurant food in Macau. These are just some of the whys for reading this book before traveling abroad. There are more, you will understand them after reading just a few of its pages.
Heunggongyan Forever by Siumi Maria Tam looks at Immigrant life and Hong Kong style in Australia; it shows continuity and discontinuity of Chinese food on that continent. Chinese Dietary Culture in Indonesian Urban Society by Mely G. Tan exposes the Chinese there since Dutch colonization and it looks at food home and away from home, also health and vegetarian Chinese foods in that part of the world. The Invention of Delicacy, a chapter by Sidney C.H. Cheung, looks at Cantonese food in Yokohama, Japan. This nearby Chinatown suburb-cum-city outside of Tokyo chapter raises questions and discusses why the Hong Kong Chinese are at the suburb's roots.
Chinese Food in the Philippines by Doreen G. Fernandez takes a different view by looking at foods indigenous and those transformed. Her list of Filipino names for Chinese food needs to be in the pocket of everyone traveling there or reading about food from this country. It is also an item needed in translation when exploring Chinese food in any country of the world.
A personal thanks to every author and those who sponsored this ninth volume in the 'Anthropology of Asia' series. Every word about every country in their field work is worth reading and rereading to gain better concepts of globalization in Asia. Perhaps Wu, Cheung, and the book's sponsors need to consider that question, have a meeting in the United States, and spawn a globalized perspective in one or more countries in the western world about the Americas next.