Work Title: Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China
Work Author(s): Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
300 color photographs, 384 pages, Hardcover $40.00
In the Spotlight
Reviewer: Matt Sutherland
Food partisans in the United States too often view the nation's restaurant scene as two coasts separated by a culinary wasteland. The interior "fly-over" regions might not be totally disregarded but the nods are flippant and patronizing. Outside the prejudicial confines of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, only a few chef-prophets like Charlie Trotter and Rick Bayless in Chicago, Dean Fearing in Dallas, and Birmingham's Frank Stitt warrant attention.
China is also fragmented, yet there the divisions are both ethnically and regionally conveniently demarcated by the Great Wall; indeed, the Wall serves a purpose beyond tourist attraction. Before discussing food attitudes, it is important to realize that in the minds of the Han Chinese, anyone living on the other side of the Wall is not culturally Chinese. No matter that three-fifths of the land area we now know as China falls "over there." And even while China experiences unrivaled economic growth, the non-Han Chinese remain second-class citizens.
But food and cooking is our topic, and a monumental new book by the acclaimed duo of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid seeks to redraw the food map of China. Beyond the Great Wall takes us inside the kitchens of Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Yunnan, and other far off regions, showcasing "the diversity, the ingenuity, the resourcefulness, the incredible depth of history, tradition, and culture---all of these things make food in China, and eating in China, one of life's great pleasures." In light of China's rapid changes, Alford and Duguid seek to document the food and culture for safe-keeping; as an act of preservation and cultural survival for China's smaller societies "faced with the impact of a giant at the doorstep." Remember, China only opened its borders in the early eighties, a time when much of the country was living as they did hundreds of years ago.
With thirteen non-Han...