Lucy's Reviews > Shark's Fin And Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China

Shark's Fin And Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop
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Apr 06, 10

Read in April, 2010

It has been a long time since I read a memoir that was this good, written by an English woman who truly immersed herself in Chinese culture and gastronomy for over a decade.

Here is her first encounter in the early nineties in Hong Kong with a food that challenged her very sensibilities:

"The preserved duck eggs were served as an hors d'oeuvre in a fashionable Hong Kong restaurant, sliced in half, with ginger-and-vinegar dip. It was my first trip to Asia, and I had rarely seen anything so revolting on a dinner table. They leered up at me like the eyeballs of some nightmarish monster, dark and threatening. Their albumens were a filthy, translucent brown, their yolks an oozy black, ringed with a layer of greenish, mouldy grey."

She ate them and didn't like them. Neither did I when I tried them. She went on to eat and eat in mainland China. She became enchanted with China and the food and then disenchanted with the politics and the over-consumption and then enchanted again with the food. It is like a grandmother, whose politics and morals you don't agree with, but who you can't help admiring and wanting to be around. China is a more ancient civilization.

Rarely have I read such a witty, honest and soulful memoir. It is not only about cross-cultural gastronomy, it is about a young woman's search for meaning.
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