Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On the Noodle Road -- a review

I am on a mailing list for advanced reader's copies of new books. Most of what I receive is fiction, but every once in a while another title slips in. This one really caught my interest:

    On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu
    (publication date is 7/23....publisher page is here)

The author is a Chinese-American, raised in California and who now owns a cooking school in Beijing. While at a dinner in Italy, she began to wonder about the "age-old question" on the origin of noodles. Did Marco Polo really introduce the noodle from China to Italy?

This work is a little cultural anthropology, a little cooking skills, a little travel guide, a little meditation on the role of women and feminism. It is a delightful, eclectic mix of all of the above. At the time of her trip, she had recently married, and that is part of the rumination on the role of women in society and feminism.

Her trip was by surface transportation (for the most part - there was one hiatus where she flew back to Beijing, and then flew back to where she left off). Some of the trip is by train and car, but she also did some hiking, and some of the penultimate legs were by boat (ferry). Her trip took her across China, through several of the "-stans" into Iran and Turkey, and then to Greece and Italy.

I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this book. Especially at home, food is the province of women. In some of the countries she visited the role of women is strictly circumscribed. There are many societal implications. Several of the people she cooked with and learned from are women who do it because it is expected, not because they enjoy it. (I find that sad, but then again, I like to cook.) I gained insight that I did not expect about several of the areas she visited.

I did not cook any of the recipes, and even though I usually give away ARCs when I get them, I will keep this one for a bit to try some of the recipes.