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Enrolling in a Beijing vocational cooking school teaches her just how alien and American she is. The other students are male, they question nothing in class and do the minimum to get by. She, in contrast, seems loud, pushy and rich.
Humorous and energetic, her account of getting through school (with much help and great difficulty) and then apprenticing first at a noodle stall and later, in Shanghai, at a fancy restaurant, illuminates much about everyday life in China's cities. Staffed by migrants from China's rural provinces, restaurants offer diverse cuisines and backbreaking labor, perfectionalism and cut corners.
Lin-Liu learns stories about the Cultural Revolution while cooking, finds a long history of hardship in "exotic" ingredients like eyeballs and jellyfish, discovers China's cultural diversity in its many cuisines, and Chinese provincialism in tourists' unwillingness to eat anything but their own foods.
Her enthusiastic culinary tour of the culture is peppered with recipes for dumpling fillings, noodles and traditional favorites like Drunken Chicken and Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds as well as the (mostly difficult) stories of the individuals she meets.
Entertaining and eye-opening, Lin-Liu's portrait of modern China reflects its changing trends and attitudes and its timeless cuisine.Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China Overview
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