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Recipes From the Garden Of Contentment

by: Yuan Mei

Great Barrington MA: Berkshire Publishing House 2019, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-161-472850

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(2) page(s): 25

Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy in Chinese called Suiyuan Shidan. This outstanding work, often referred to but rarely available except in Chinese, is its first bilingual edition. Edited by EN Anderson and J Riegal, translated from the original by Sean JS Chen with annotations, this volume begins with a five-page Foreword by Nicole Mones and includes details of when it was written.

Ten praises before its ten-page recipe-list is in the Table of Contents in order, more than three hundred items in three hundred and thirty-nine pages grouped as Essential Knowledge, Objectionables, Ocean Delicacies, Two Ways of Preparing, River Delicacies, Sacrificial Animals (Pork), Assorted Livestock, Winged Tribe (Birds), Water Tribe: Scaled Aquatic Creatures, Water Tribe: Scaleless Aquatic Creatures, Assorted Vegetable Dishes, Side Dishes, Appetizers, Rice and Congee, Tea and Jiu or Alcoholic Beverage sections.

Recipes are not complete in modern ways as some have no ingredient amounts, no small items either, making them as Yuan Mei did, is not possible. The recipes are after the above titled sections and before a sixteen-page Biography, a b/w drawing of Yuan Mei, a sixteen item Bibliography, fourteen other sections in a ‘Food in China’ section, and sixteen about traditional culinary and gastronomic treatises, and a seven-page two-column Glossary, a four-page Index of Names, and six more with a two-column Index of Ingredients and Terms, some in great detail.

The rear-cover supports this first bilingual edition of one of the world’s most famous books by this late 18th century poet, Yuan Mei. They are worth reading, item by item, word by word, as are the original recipes, many for exotic dishes that provide unique views of China’s culinary culture in his day. The rear cover touting three current luminaries, Darra Goldstein, Fuchsia Dunlop. and Ken Hom share his original lyricism and 18th century food culture with lively scholarship and unique perspectives about Chinese food. Do enjoy this culinary delight.

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