By Alisa Fleming, www.GoDairyFree.org – I have read perhaps two novels in my life, both before the age of eighteen. Yet, surprising even myself, I was drawn in by the allure of The Last Chinese Chef. I confess, like many other women, I am drawn in by all things pretty. The cover on the Last Chinese Chef is so elegant and attractive that it was hard to resist.
Luckily, the downplayed notation on the cover indicating “A Novel” was accurate. Though The Last Chinese Chef was an inspired novel, it really was so, so much more. I could recount the general storyline for you as so many reviews do, but you can read this on Amazon for yourself. Not to be understated, it really does have an excellent story. Though I hate to admit it, I longed for my reading time each day to find out if Matt was the child's father and if Sam would be selected from among the greatest chefs. Nonetheless, the drama was not overdone, and the intertwined stories of culinary history and lessons of Chinese cuisine were sensational.
My heritage is primarily Northern European, but as someone who happily lives milk-free, my diet is largely made up of various Asian cuisines. Needless to say, I love Chinese food. But only on occasion have I had the chance to trial the flavors of “real” Chinese food. They are so much deeper, complex, yet not suitable to the average American palate.
The author, Nicole Mones, stepped outside of the comfort zone to introduce westerners to this cuisine that in reality, we hardly know. I was truly amazed by the intricacies of Chinese cuisine. The concepts of texture and appearance are taken to new levels, rivaling flavor in importance on the Chinese table. I learned so much from her writing, too much to even detail, and my curiosity has only been heightened.
The only problem I had with this book, was that on occasion it took me a moment to figure out that their had been a scene change and who was talking. But perhaps this my lack of novel experience. As I continued reading, I was easily able to catch up with the story and put it all into perspective.
Thanks to Mones, I have received some renewed inspiration in the kitchen, and seem to be tasting my food in a new way. Not to mention, I am now eager to take a trip to China! For any curious cook I can not recommend The Last Chinese Chef enough.
Beyond the food itself, there was one other message that really hit home for myself. Mones emphasizes a concept central to the Chinese, that meals are to always be shared. To dine alone in China is…well…odd. Perhaps I can find a way to return this foreign concept to my household…as I sit here in front of the computer with my dinner.