American Food Roots: Mastering the Art of Szechuan Cooking

I now understand the concept of cultural appropriation. This article stunned me.

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How do you figure that? Chiang’s co-author and the others who helped get the book published seem to have worked hard to make it an accurate English-language document of Chiang’s culinary tradition and personal history. That’s pretty much the polar opposite of appropriation.

Some excerpts:

Note the authors on the book cover.

“I did not enjoy doing the cookbook mainly because I felt frustrated,” she explained in 2015. “I could tell it was a little dead because it wasn’t filtered through my experience.”

Despite Chiang’s clear proficiency in an ambitious range of techniques – the book includes instructions for smoking a chicken in your home kitchen (xunji), preparing whole fish for a formal meal (shaoz yu), and stir-frying snails in garlic, ginger and sugar (luosi) – Chiang was a “home cook,” Schrecker explained

Mrs. Chiang’s arrival in America completely altered our life style,” Schrecker wrote in the cookbook. “We began to give dinner parties, dozens of them.”

Most contemporary Chinese restaurants in the United States at the time offered menus burdened with heavy sauces and spiked with MSG, Schrecker explained, and this book would correct that.

Schrecker is arrogant and takes credit for everything, including dinner parties and a book using her cook’s expertise, despite having no particular interest in the subject. She doesn’t even cook, her husband had to check the recipes. I wonder why she and Mrs. Chiang no longer speak.

I read the article, and I think you’ve misinterpreted it pretty thoroughly. There’s no cultural appropriation evident - Chiang’s name is on the book’s cover in big giant letters. I don’t see any arrogance on Schrecker’s part when she’s quoted as saying that “Mrs. Chiang’s arrival in America completely altered our life style. We began to give dinner parties, dozens of them.” That sounds more like Schrecker giving Chiang credit for improving Schrecker’s social life. And calling Chiang a home cook isn’t an insult - it’s a fact.

I also can’t figure out how you concluded that Shrecker

because this is what the article actually says: “The Schreckers’ friend Walter Gilbert, who would win the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1980, tested every one of the book’s recipes with his daughter Kate.”

I’m not sure whether you’re implying that there’s some bad blood between them, but if so, that’s a pretty big leap.The article simply says they are “no longer in touch.” There are hundreds of people I used to work with and no longer do. I don’t talk to them, not because we parted badly, but because I have no reason to.

Schrecker didn’t take credit for anything except writing the book. Chiang’s name is in the title, her photo is on the cover, her name was first in the copyright. The book is all about Chiang and her recipes, personal history, and tips about shopping, cooking, and eating. Schrecker doesn’t insert herself at all. It’s a simple matter of fact that Chiang was a home cook. She learned from her mother and never cooked in a restaurant.

I think Schrecker was bored because it was really her not-for-much-longer-husband’s project, a distraction from the books she wanted to write in her own career as an historian. She may have lost touch with Chiang because they relied on Schrecker’s former husband as a translator.

I read Ellen Schrecker’s statements and tone as surprise that something that she considered a side project of minimal interest has garnered a cult following.
I can’t speak for her. Maybe if we dig deeper we would find your read on point. But I didn’t initially see a case of cultural appropriation.

I thought she came across as dismissive.

Schrecker’s comments were taken out of context and except for the ones in the book the sources aren’t available to provide context. The author didn’t even provide cites for some of them.

Judge the book by its content, not a blog post.

Good point. I will judge the blog post writer.

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