It’s interesting how sometimes years of experiences and ideas are brought together in a moment, and a larger picture suddenly comes into focus. That is what happened to me recently at a lecture and cooking demonstration by Grace Young that focused on her remarkable book Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories.
Some of the threads that this presentation tied up stretch back decades. My mom had grown up going to Chicago’s Chinatown with her father, and so it seemed only natural that she would introduce my brother and me to Chinese food early in life. Later, when I visited San Francisco, the existence of a Chinatown just seemed natural. Even Chinatowns in Vancouver and Toronto seemed natural to me, because they weren’t that much different from the Chinatown with which I’d grown up.
Then about 15 years ago, I visited a friend in Austria. She wanted to go to a “China restaurant.” For some reason, it struck me as odd that people in a Chinese restaurant would be speaking German, but then I realized that for the Chinese, it was probably no odder than speaking English. The food was good, the flavors recognizable, but it was different. Then a few years later, I was visiting friends in Ecuador. Again, I came across Chinese food, again, recognizable but different. Then recently, shopping at an Indian grocery store in Chicago, I found prepared meals identified as “Indian-style Chinese.” Continue reading