At the Chinese Table describes how, during the 1970s and '80s, celebrated cookbook writer and illustrator Carolyn Phillips crosses China's endless cultural and linguistic chasms and falls in love. This memoir is a coming-of-age story set against a background of the Chinese diaspora and a family whose ancestry is intricately intertwined with that of their native land. With illustrations and twenty-two recipes, At the Chinese Table captures the diversity of China's cuisines.
A tidy collection of recipes punctuates this memoir, displaying variety without overwhelming home cooks keen to try out new tastes. Phillips grasps the nuances of Chinese flavors and appreciates the Chinese focus on food’s mouthfeel. Her own line drawings add character and a sense of place.
In this multifaceted memoir, food writer Phillips (All Under Heaven) vividly recounts her love affair with Chinese cuisine ... Phillips’s reflections are peppered with humor [...] Phillips’s reflections are peppered with humor ... Phillips pairs every chapter with a few recipes [...] that ambitious home chefs will want to try. The blend of cooking, culture, and romance make this an irresistible treat for food lovers and travelers.
In a smooth mixture of memoir, family biography, cookbook, travelogue, and travel writing, Phillips ably conveys her knowledge of Chinese cuisine even though she is not Chinese ... The narrative is most enjoyable when the author narrates her memorable experiences with meals both decadent and delicate, painting vivid pictures of enticing aromas and flavors ... However, the author’s detailed retelling of [the author's husband's] family history sometimes feels out of place, as do the often dry, lengthy historical tangents. Recipes appear throughout, often tied to engaging stories of the author’s life with J.H. as a young couple in Taipei, falling in love and making food for friends and family. Helpfully, Phillips often includes substitutes for ingredients difficult to find in the U.S. and tips for achieving the most authentic results, recounting which shop owners, cooks, or friends passed the tips along to her. It may take an extra trip to the store, but the recipes are worth the effort. The line drawings are pleasant if unexceptional. A uniquely presented story of love and food that reaches across genres and generations.