I chose to read this book because it combined a bit of anthropology and history with food, specifically a quest to figure out not only the origin of noodles but how they traveled from China to Europe. A quarter of the way through, however, I groaned as I realized that the book was going to be as much about the author's ambivalence about marriage and gender roles as it was food. While I think the former topics are worthy, that wasn't what I thought I had signed up for.
I persevered, however, and I came to see why that subject was highlighted: as the author journeyed from China through Central Asia, the women she encountered were held to a standard many Americans (myself included) would find harshly sexist. I was most disturbed by her account of the otherwise kind man in Turkmenistan who laughed about the way he expected his wife to stay silent in front of male guests and that she and other female family members sit outside in the cold while the men dined with guests. Tradition, as the author notes, is one thing when it comes to food but another when it comes to relationships.
Most irksome for a modern woman who enjoys cooking is the way most of the women the author encounters on her journey feel about cooking: it is something that is expected of them and many do it well, but it is not something they *enjoy*. It's a job requirement... and that job "wife". At the end of the book, the author concludes that the way to make sure that traditional food endures as women's roles change is to involve men in the kitchen- and this has to start when they are young. While a revolution in Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan may be difficult to coordinate, American parents can begin immediately.
The food- not only noodles, but also rice dishes and desserts- were described in tantalizing detail. Pictures of the food would have been perfect, but the recipes of some selected dishes are appreciated. (Sadly, no recipe for the baklava was included.) The author's credible theory that noodles traveled along the Silk Road seems stretched when we find that noodles diminish in importance in Central Asia and don't pick up again until, just barely, Turkey. As she notes, the story of the food's journey will probably never be known and at a certain point, it doesn't matter. Food shouldn't emulate a historic ideal and cultures shouldn't rest on their history. If both aren't adapting, they won't survive. Through the author's personal life, we can see that the same applies to relationships as well.
"Eating a path along the Silk Road:" China through Southwest Asia, and across the Mediterranean... This sounds like a heavenly foodie escape. The author takes a wondrous journey from China to Italy, tasting and cooking and recording recipes, in a quest to discover where noodles came from, and why these artistic and culinary platforms for sauces exist across so many Silk Road cultures; along the way she ruminates on the surprising echoes in sauce tastes and even in food philosophy that follow pasta-philic cuisines.
"Where did noodles originate and how did they spread? (Contrary to popular belief, Marco Polo had nothing to do with it.) In this "footloose, spontaneous, and appetite-whetting journal of culinary adventure" (Kirkus Reviews), Jen Lin-Liu, a recently married Chinese-American cooking instructor based in Beijing, travels the famed Silk Road in search of answers. Sampling regional dishes in the homes of generous local women in China, Tibet, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Italy, and other locations, she savours the food and companionship and muses on noodles, love, and what being a wife means to her and to her hosts. Pasta-loving travellers will likely find this scrumptious book, which includes some recipes, mouthwatering." Armchair Travel October 2013 http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=688525
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