Invitation to a Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food

Highbridge Audio. Nov. 2023. 17:20 hrs. ISBN 9781696613606. $29.99. COOKING
James Beard Award–winning chef Dunlop (The Food of Sichuan) invites listeners to a new understanding of Chinese cuisine, seen through the lens of 30 Chinese dishes. While Dunlop adopts a somewhat academic tone, her passion for China’s flavors seasons the audiobook to perfection. There is sweet longing for favorite dishes and sour reflections on the racism directed toward the beloved cuisine. Dunlop allows spiciness to creep in when discussing bias against Asian fine dining, arguing that what passes for haute cuisine if it comes from Europe would probably be reviled by Westerners if it instead came from China. Dunlop also notes that American and British versions of Chinese dishes often don’t resemble the originals, since they are tailored to Western tastes. While the chapters focus on techniques and ingredients, Dunlop adopts a broader outlook, putting forth an entire philosophy of food. Her fascinating insights pair with her audibly deep love for the cuisine, enticing listeners to expand their culinary experience. The audiobook’s listlike sections would be easier to digest in print, but it’s worth the extra work to experience Dunlop’s journey exactly as she intends.
VERDICT A sumptuous exploration of Chinese food and cooking that might make listeners rethink their attitudes toward China’s cuisine.
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