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Monday, January 14th 2019. | letter
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Katy Hui-wen Hung and Steven Crook altercate their anew arise book.By Steven Crook and Katy Hui-wen Hung Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018, 256 pages.Katy Hui-wen Hung:

I grew up in Taipei, advised in the U.S. from 1984 to 1986, and accept lived in the UK aback the backward 1980s. Some years ago in the UK, I got to apperceive Marlena Spieler, the acclaimed cookbook writer. Marlena, an American who has lived in England for a cardinal of years, is axial to the adventure of how this book came to be written.

Without her support, I would never accept pursued what started out as “just an idea.”

I aboriginal contacted Marlena afterwards she and added aliment writers based in Europe were brought to Taiwan by the Tourism Bureau. The appellation Marlena chose for her December 7, 2012 blog column gives you a acceptable abstraction of how she acquainted and continues to feel about the aliment arena in Taiwan: “I fell in adulation with Taiwan aural account of landing in Taipei.”

In that blog post, Marlena gushed about “the arduous abandon of eating… Anniversary meal was amazing, so abounding tastes and traditions, philosophies, and histories complex with anniversary dish; and for this certified garlic-lover the actualization of agilely broken garlic in so abounding places was abundant to grab my heart.”

She anon alien me to Ken Albala, a history assistant at the University of the Pacific whose specialty is aliment studies. Ken, who has accounting or edited two dozen books of his own, is in allegation of Rowman & Littlefield’s Big Burghal Aliment Biographies series. He was anon acceptant to the achievability of a aggregate about Taipei, conference me that it should be semi-academic in appearance because aliment advisers are a primary bazaar for books in this series. That’s why the book has a 21-page bibliography and 534 endnotes.

The alternation now covers 13 cities, including seven in the U.S. and Marlena’s afresh arise book on Naples. Taipei is the alone Asian burghal featured appropriately far.

In the weeks aback A Comestible History of Taipei: Beyond Pork and Ponlai was published, the warmest accession has arise from Taiwanese-Americans and Americans absorbed in Taiwan. Bodies who can apprehend Chinese accept continued had admission to a abundant accord of food-related scholarship and opinion. But our book is the aboriginal English-language appellation that sets out to explain what Taiwanese bodies eat, but additionally why they eat what they do and how their apperceive their foods.

For me, demography on this activity had a lot to do with accepting lived abroad for so long. Afterwards 2015, I began spending added time in Taipei, and I bound accomplished aloof how abundant Taiwan had afflicted aback I’d confused away. Autograph a book that would accompany calm history and ability – as able-bodied as abreast attitudes to food, politics, and added aspects of activity – seemed like a absurd way to reacquaint myself with my country. I was not disappointed.

Kitchen agents adapt lobster dishes for a ample alfresco feast catered by bando adept Lin Ming-tsan, one of several chefs interviewed for the book. Photo: Katy Hui-Wen Hung

During the analysis stage, I was abnormally afflicted by four discoveries. One was that so abounding fruits (such as guava) and vegetables were alien to Taiwan by the Dutch, mostly via Indonesia but some from China. What is more, the names of abounding fruits are acquired from aboriginal languages. That is commodity bodies of my generation, growing up beneath aggressive law, were never taught.

Another is that the intermingling of Hakka and aboriginal Austronesian foodways has been far greater and added than I had thought; there seems to be a cogent overlap amid Hakka affable and aboriginal cuisines. In addition, few Taiwanese apprehend aloof how abundant an access the U.S. has had on postwar comestible development in Taiwan. The Japanese may accept alien beef-eating habits, but it was the Americans who helped about-face it into a boilerplate food.

A soup fabricated with chicken, candied potato, and goji berries, served at an Amis aboriginal restaurant abreast Liyu Lake, Hualien. Photo: Steven Crook

Finally, I was afraid by the cardinal of vegetarians in Taiwan. I had affected there would be far added vegetarians in the UK than in Taiwan, but the statistics advance the allotment is alike college actuality than there.

Although I am apparently one of the attenuate non-celebrities who was able to assurance a book arrangement with a above administrator afterwards accepting a distinct bylined commodity to her name, I did not feel like a complete novice. In contempo years, I accept helped a cardinal of aliment writers and historians – amid them Robyn Eckhardt, Rachel Laudan, and Ong Jin Teong – with annual assignments or book projects.

When Andrea Nguyen came to Taiwan to do analysis for her book Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home, I organized a aggregation of accompany to advice her get around, try out restaurants, and arise workshops. I abstruse a few tricks of the barter from these professionals, and acquired confidence, because they advised me like I knew what I was talking about.

Coming up with a appellation that appropriately reflected the across of the book took some time. Steven’s aboriginal suggestion, Candied Potatoes and Ponlai: How Hunters, Colonists and Refugees Shaped the Aliment History of Taipei, was alone by the administrator on the actual reasonable area that the city’s name should be advanced and center. Afterwards the argument was finalized, we discussed a few alternatives, including one that included the chat “Kavalan” (the whiskey maker has been one of the abundant Taiwan success belief of the 21st century), afore accordant that “beyond” implies there is a abundant accord added to Taiwanese cuisine than outsiders ability think.

The accomplishments of artery foods such as tǒngzaǐ mǐgāo (savory rice topped with pork) is declared in A Comestible History of Taipei. Photo: Steven Crook

One of the best acceptable and base letters of abutment we accept accustomed came from the aliment historian Rachel Laudan aloof afore publication: “Katy, they beatific me a pdf of the proofs and asked for a blurb for the back. I beatific them this. ‘This admirable book fabricated me ache to booty a alike to Taiwan anon so I could eat my way through the country’s agitated contempo history: clammy castella blot cakes from the Japanese era, melancholia jams of Russian ancestry, beef brainstorm soups brought by Muslim soldiers from arctic China, aerial accumulate in the acceptable appearance of the aboriginal inhabitants, accomplished restaurants specializing in Chinese cuisine, and breakfasts of crullers and hot soy milk with accompanying origins in China and the U.S. Alike those who can’t booty the cruise will be absorbed by the circuitous contributions to this booming gastronomic center.’ It’s a alluring book.”

Friends accept been allurement me: “What’s next?” One acknowledgment would be: “More of the same!” The acknowledgment of our readers has aggressive me to abide acquirements about Taiwan, its food, and its history – and to allotment the absorbing belief I acquisition on my blog.

Steven Crook:

When Katy aboriginal mentioned this activity to me, I had accustomed her through the internet for three or four years. She originally got in blow with me afterwards seeing my interview-profile of David Landsborough IV, the Taiwan-born missionary doctor. Landsborough had been a abutting acquaintance of Katy’s parents, and she was analytical how I had got to apperceive him. Afterwards that, from time to time we would barter emails, discussing absorbing places in Taiwan or analytical episodes in the island’s history. For a appearance biographer consistently gluttonous ideas, she was acutely a being account knowing.

In 2015, Katy told me that Marlena and Ken were auspicious her to put calm a angle for a Taipei aliment book, and that she was attractive for addition to accomplice with her on the project. She said she was already talking to addition writer, a being I apperceive and respect, and who at that time had absolutely done a lot added aliment autograph than me. He accustomed the abeyant accent of such a book and was interested, but absolutely committed to a non-writing activity of his own.

She asked if I ability be absorbed in abutting the activity if he were to about-face bottomward her invitation. As addition who has been told added than once, “We anticipate you’re the ideal being for the job!” – alone to after acquisition out I was absolutely the third best – I accustomed this transparency. Back autograph non-fiction, few things bulk added than clarity, and I sensed Katy was addition who would agreeably accommodate and agilely accept the honest acknowledgment that is bare if a co-authoring activity is to succeed.

The actuality that I knew actual little about aliment in Taiwan, admitting active on and adequate it for added than 20 years, did not avert me for a moment. Previously, I had put calm accessories about hot-pot cuisine and Hakka aliment in Meinong, as able-bodied as three or four accessories introducing aboriginal cuisine. But that – afar from a brace of pieces about night markets, cautiously accounting to accumulate editors blessed – was about it.

For assorted reasons, finalizing the angle took us several months, alike admitting we had a brace of templates to assignment from. The adaptation we submitted was about 4,800 words long; it included some of the recipes that eventually appeared in the book, as able-bodied as two or three paragraphs analogue anniversary of the 10 capacity we planned to write.

After sending it in, we did not accept to delay actual continued at all for it to be accepted. I was blockage on a houseboat in the south of England back I got the email.

At no point did we sit bottomward to bang out a masterplan. It never seemed necessary. Instead, we anniversary took on a few of the capacity listed in the outline and began to do research. This formed actual well, because there were no capacity that neither of us capital to touch.

It angry out I knew a bit added than I had assumed. My wife comes from a ancestors of bake-apple farmers, and accepting kicked about the countryside for a acceptable while, I was already accustomed with some of the challenges faced by Taiwanese farmers.

For me, few things are added absorbing than award out what makes a accurate industry tick. While researching the appropriate characteristics of the bounded pork barter – learning, for example, that Taiwan’s piggeries are far abate than in the U.S., that consumers adopt beginning pork to arctic meat, and that best pigs are collapsed in the cities area their meat will be sold, alike admitting alteration them animate is big-ticket and after-effects in bags of abortive beastly deaths anniversary year – I was happier than a pig in mud.

We aggregate a abundant accord of advice by reading, of course. Taiwanese advisers accept produced superb books adherent to capacity we accord with in a few paragraphs. One who has accounting in both English and Chinese is Yujen Chen, an accessory assistant at National Taiwan Normal University. We additionally did a lot of primary research, talking to chefs, farmers, restaurateurs, and one of Taiwan’s best acknowledged brewers.

Katy, I anon discovered, thinks and behaves like a reporter. Given a best amid blockage at home or activity out and acquirements commodity new, she’ll opt for the closing every time.

Of the 24 abounding interviews we conducted, eight were done via email and one was a blast conversation. The others were contiguous sessions. Both Katy and I were present for six of the claimed interviews. Of the others, she did 10 while I handled eight. Every barter was an education, and several interviews provided actual for added than one chapter.

Anecdotes abundantly aggregate by H.M. Cheng – his blog, The Battle of Fisherman’s Wharf Media able-bodied accustomed to Taiwan history mavens – arise in four altered chapters. Cheng was additionally a acute antecedent of advance and acknowledgment during the autograph phase.

I ambition I had kept calculation of aloof how abounding emails we beatific out as we approved to align interviews, clue bottomward bookish papers, and affirm some of the beneath acceptable facts bodies had accompanying to us. Added than a thousand, maybe? Abounding went unanswered, but amid the active individuals who took the time to advice us were an archaeologist at Academia Sinica and a sweet-potato exporter.

We begin a huge bulk of advantageous advice on bounded Chinese-language blogs, and I assured that there is no aspect of Taiwanese aliment that hasn’t been covered by bloggers. The abutting I came to award an barring to this aphorism was during the autograph of affiliate eight, which covers alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I capital to acquaint the convenance of steeping bee pupae in kaoliang to actualize a allegedly alleviative concoction.

I accept apparent big jars of kaoliang abounding with bee pupae for auction in the countryside, but back I searched online for capacity of the alertness process, I addled out afresh and again. I assuredly begin a few debris of information, but alone again did it action to me that the blazon of being who soaks bee pupae in liquor – I account an old agriculturalist in a sānhéyuàn (a three-sided, single-story brick house) – apparently does not absorb abundant time online.

Since finishing A Comestible History of Taipei, some bodies accept said to me: “Surely co-authoring makes autograph a book quicker and easier.” To this I consistently reply: “I’m not abiding about that, but compared to accomplishing it all by yourself, I’m assertive you end up with a book that’s alert as good.”

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