Arts, Culture & Media

A Chinese-American's journey through China one stir-fry at a time

This kitchen is cooking up a feast. The main chef talks about the dishes being prepared. Her former student hovers and helps. The kitchen is the chef's brainchild: a kitchen and a cooking school, and a chance to bring together the people that taught her how to cook and a new wave of eager students. This student talks about listening in on her mentor's stories while learning how to cook from her. The stories told of China's dizzying transformation. The cook recounts the fevered pitch of the Cultural Revolution, then the factory years, and then how she set up her own cooking school to train chefs for certification. When this chef went out to look for jobs, no one would hire her because no one understood why she would want such a job, which is low on the social hierarchy of Chinese society. The writer/chef says she thought a cooking job was an excellent way to peer into Chinese culture. She says one lesson she learned is how hard people were willing to sacrifice to improve their lives, considering the long hours and tough physical labor of running a noodle shop, for example. Through her cooking odyssey, this author has followed the arc of China's complex modern society.

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