(Navigating food and family in France, Italy and China)
Goose Lane Editions, Fredericton, New Brunswick
380 pages, $ 24.95
Jan Wong, an accomplished newspaper journalist, and now professor at Sang Thomas University, has written a remarkable book on French, Italian, and Chinese bourgeoisie cuisines.
Apron Strings contains candid observations about the behaviours of French and Italian bourgeoisie versus those nouveau riche in Shanghai, China’s most populous and most industrial city.
Her revelations about her elations with her 22-year-old sun, Sam, are revealing and educational for all.
This lively engaging and full of insightful observations book tells about a French family with two adopted, disabled children and couple illegal immigrants from Georgia.
After her stay with the French family, she travels to Piedmont, Italy to learn about Piedmontese specialties from several families and experience the taste of spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), risotto, panna cotta, and yoghurt cake.
Then Jan Wong and her son fly to Shanghai via Moscow. Her description of Aeroflot, the national airline of Russia, the state of the modern Airbus 320 is revealing and should be heeded by all contemplating booking a flight with the airline.
In Shanghai, she and her son experience the behaviour of Chinese nouveau riche displaying their wealth and dictating how their servants must act and behave.
The French and Italian chapters of the book inform the reader about prevailing philosophy to seasonal and local foods prepared using recipes handed down from mother to daughter and how important it is to enjoy meals with family members.
They eat to taste, and not for quantity she writes.
The third leg of the journey takes Wong to Shanghai in connection with university fellow student from Beijing University where she studied Chinese. Her friend, now very rich, lives with her family in Shanghai, a city of huge industrial capacity and financial power.
After a few days she and her son move to another rich family to see how the “lady” of the household cooks.
The contrast between the former stays in France and Italy and Shanghai shows how people with poor backgrounds begin to behave when they accumulate wealth or marry rich.
There are a few recipes, (all can be replicated in North America with ingredients available in large cities) which emphasise “terroir” and seasonality in Europe still today.
Apron Strings “reads” funny, is sharp-eyed, insightful, and brutally honest.
The book is irresistible in its charm, love of food, mother and son relationships, and family.
Apron| strings is a captivating read for all who like reading and enjoying food!
Buy it now, and read it again and again for entertainment and education.