Sunday, January 9, 2011

Five best books about how to cook & how to live

Jason Epstein, the author of Eating: A Memoir, was for many years the editorial director of Random House.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about how to cook, and how to live, including:
How to Cook and Eat in Chinese
by Buwei Yang Chao (1945)

I learned the basics of Chinese cooking from this book by Buwei Yang Chao, translated by her husband, Yuen Ren Chao. She was a doctor, he a distinguished comparative linguist; they moved to the U.S. in the late 1930s. The mostly Cantonese recipes are simple, authentic and easy to follow, but what makes "How to Cook and Eat in Chinese" especially interesting is its discussion of Chinese culinary terms—snacks, for instance, are called tien-hsien, meaning "dot hearts," or something to touch the heart, now transliterated as dim sum. The term ch'ao, "with its aspiration, low rising tone and all cannot be translated into English," we're told. "Roughly speaking ch'ao may be defined as big fire-shallow-fat-continual-stirring-quick-frying-of-cut-up-material-with-wet-seasoning. So we shall call it stir fry." We call it chow. The book was originally published in 1945; Random House published a paperback in 1963, which is now also out of print. Enterprising publishers take note.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Raymond Sokolov's five best list of books about food and cooking.

--Marshal Zeringue