A New (Old) Cookbook

I went out antiquing today with a friend and I purchased a little cookbook entitled: How to Cook and Eat in Chinese, published in 1945, and written by Bu Wei Yan Chao. I was sold when I saw the inscription, which reads:
"To Agnes Hocking, who told me to write this book".
Upon taking this little gem home, I discovered that the author of this cookbook was a Chinese woman who graduated with a degree in medicine from Tokyo Woman's Medical College. She is apparently credited with having coined the term "stir-fry". Who knew?

The book is very simple. No photos, almost pocket-sized, and totally interesting. It's laid out like a novel, with chapters that have titles such as "Red-Cooked Meat" and "Shrimps", and the first few chapters are dedicated to Chinese cooking styles, utensils and table manners. The Chinese vegetable names and other ingredients are written in the Wade-Giles method for romanizing Chinese characters, which is tricky for me to decipher. Lucky for me, there's an index in the book that lists all of the recipe names in Chinese...if I don't understand the English transliteration of a word, or if the recipe calls for a vegetable who's English name I don't understand, I just flip to the back, read the title of the recipe in Chinese, and voila! (I knew all my years studying Mandarin would pay off!)

This afternoon, I scanned through the recipes and started reading the Author's Note. I'd like to share a few sentences that made me laugh...
"I am ashamed to have written this book. First, because I am a doctor and ought to be practicing instead of cooking"... "I blame my husband for all the negative contributions he has made towards the making of this book...The only recipe that is really his is No. 13.1, Stirred Eggs, which I let him write out himself. But he was so longwinded about it that I had to stop him from trying any other dish. Apart from that, his support to my undertaking has been largely oral."
I have a feeling that this cookbook's going to become a favorite, and I plan on reading it cover-to-cover. You'll probably benefit by getting a few recipes...If you're interested, you can purchase your own version of this book .

Also, check out this sweet new compost bin I picked up today. It's nothing fancy, just an enamel-coated bucket with a lid, but I like it. (And there's another one at the Antiques Center of Northampton, if you're interested).

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