In a departure from bread making, I wrote a story this week in the Washington Post about Fuchsia Dunlop, a cookbook author who focuses on Chinese cuisine. I've cooked from her books for years, read her memoir and felt she was ripe for an appreciation. The appearance of her latest work, Land of Fish and Rice, a wonderful cookbook about the cuisine of the lower Yangtze region, provided an opportunity to do the piece. Here's how the story begins:
Eight years ago, cookbook author Fuchsia Dunlop visited the celebrated Dragon Well Manor restaurant on a farm on the outskirts of Hangzhou, an ancient capital of China whose culinary traditions date back centuries.
The restaurant’s purveyors scoured the small farms in the countryside of the Lower Yangtze region — known as Jiangnan, “south of the river” — for the freshest produce, pork and chicken. They harvested wild foods, fermented greens and tubers, and made rich broths to add depth and umami flavor rather than rely on MSG. And they studiously avoided the industrially produced foods that were feeding a burgeoning urban population and sparking a series of food safety scares and a consumer backlash for “green” foods.
But Dragon Well Manor, which she first described in an article for the New Yorker, was doing something else that caught Dunlop’s attention. It was restoring Chinese cuisine to its “rightful dignity,” she says, by celebrating food traditions that were losing ground in the face of modernity, by balancing pleasure with health and by emphasizing foods’ ben wei, “the essential taste of things.” (Read more....)