“Kitchen Chinese” by Ann Mah

10 Jun

Just had a wonderful day at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf showing around a friend (Ivy) from Ohio. Watching her look at the everything – the sea, the people, the food – was refreshing. I know that sometimes I crave to go the Wharf sometimes too, but my reaction to the Wharf was nothing compared to her amazement and interest.

As we sat eating strawberry nutella crepes, we looked on at the crowds of tourists snapping photos, shouting about, and stumbling through their fanny packs and purses. I couldn’t help but mention how silly they look. To that she said, “They do look pretty silly, don’t they? I just find it so cool how they come to visit YOUR city. In Ohio, no one comes there with as much enthusiasm.”

And she was right (as far as I know).

I tried to imagine not living in a tourist-attracting city. It was hard to say the least. No more red double-decked buses, noisy tour guides, and swarms of tourists that are willing to pay $25 for a “I <3 SF” shirt and a load of magnets with funny messages like “The choice of dinner today is: Take it or Leave it”.

I think I’d miss San Francisco if I left it. In fact, I’m going to miss it a lot when I officially leave for my UC Davis summer program on June 20th. But it’s for college prep so it’s worth it, right?

Anyhow, as I was sitting with my friend Ivy, I started to remember the foodie book I had started. It’s a novel by Ann Mah called Kitchen Chinese. In Mah’s words, it’s “a novel about food, family and finding yourself”. And indeed, this is correct.

For Ann Mah’s website, blog, and updates on her current city (Paris), go here.

I have to say that I’m enjoying reading her casual writing. It’s almost like she’s talking to you. Basically, the novel is a fictional account – to my dismay – of the main character’s travel to China. The main character is a young women born and raised in New York as an “American born Chinese” so she doesn’t know any more Chinese than the basic words used when cooking in the kitchen. Hence the title, Kitchen Chinese. After a failed relationship and journalist career in NYC, she decides to move to China to follow her brainy sister who has somehow turned herself from an Ivy League nerd to a pop culture in-crowd member. China is where the main character finds herself and reconnects with her roots – all through adventures of food.

I can’t tell whether I just made it sound really cliche and boring, but you’ll have to at least see the book itself. I can’t say that the writing is superb, but it’s definitely a comfortable read. It’s been the perfect companion on the days I like to go to my neighborhood’s local cafe. Mah’s writing is humorous and funny. Sort of reminds me of my style, though I’m not too sure what my style is either.

Also, if they come out with a movie about Kitchen Chinese, you’ll be “in the know”! As much as I enjoyed watching Julie & Julia, I regret not having read the book. In fact, I don’t even own the book! It’s definitely on my “thing to buy” list though.

Did I mention that I was literally a month late from being able to meet her at the Van Ness Books Inc. store? I was so devastated. I was ready to ask her questions about her travels too! I just Googled her name and the book and found a list of her visiting/tour schedule. But alas, I was too late.

So if you’re looking for a casual entertaining read for those moments when you want to relax and read something without doing a major brain workout, then you’ve found the book.

By the way, I can’t wait until this weekend because according to the weather forecasts, it’s going to be sunny and warm with light breezes. What could be better than that? With this kind of weather, it’s time to go out and enjoy the city!


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