The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel
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When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husband’s estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang.
In China Maggie unties the knots of her husband’s past, finding out more than she expected about him and about herself. With Sam as her guide, she is also drawn deep into a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. To her surprise she begins to be transformed by the cuisine, by Sam’s family -- a querulous but loving pack of cooks and diners -- and most of all by Sam himself. The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman regaining her soul in the most unexpected of places.
remembered, under loose, neutral clothes. Care and grief had her in a cage, leaving only her large eyes, which now burned with extra intensity, as if compensating for the rest of her. “How are you?” he said, uselessly, and rose to give her a hug. “Had better years,” she said into his shoulder. They sat a few minutes talking. Their words made circles around Matt, remembering him, trying to laugh about him, talking about the shock of his death — “Christ, that’s one phone call you never want to
fresh and live fish. This was what Nephew now needed. Unfortunately the Master of the Nets was much too exclusive to take new customers. Still, he was an old friend. Jiang had to try. “Uncle,” the boy had said, “he doesn’t take anyone.” “Speak reasonably,” Jiang had reproved him. “I’ve known him a long time.” And so the boy had come, and waited here in Wang’s reception area, with its tanks and its refrigerators. It was smart to have the office this way. Fish was visceral. It had to be seen,
“My pleasure to meet you,” said Maggie. “Ta hen gaoxing renshi ni,” said Sam. Xie had been watching her eyes. He could always tell when someone understood. “She can’t talk?” he said abruptly in Chinese. “No, Uncle, not a word.” “Too bad.” “No! No, Uncle, it’s not like that. She’s not my girlfriend. She’s a writer, she’s doing an article about the competition. It’s no more than that.” “Did I say something?” Xie demanded. “Did this worthless old lump say anything to her but welcome?” “No.
Fujian Province, around the Shandong peninsula and down the coast past the great mouth of the Yangtze. When finally we came to the first wet fingers of the Min Jiang estuary, north of Fuzhou, he said I should get off there instead of near the city. Go ashore in some quiet place. Hide for a while. Hide where? I thought. How? But we came to a small cove and the captain took the dinghy down and put me off in calm, waist-deep water. We parted like brothers, with promises to meet again in this life
card. Maggie McElroy. Writer, Table magazine. “Look, I didn’t say and you didn’t ask, but I want you to know something too. If Shuying is Matt’s, you won’t have any trouble from me. I’ll take care of things.” “Thank you,” said Gao Lan. She stood up with them and walked them to the door, where she and the widow clasped hands for a second. “Three days, maybe four,” Matt’s wife said. “I’ll call you.” The next day, Saturday, Uncle Xie died. Sam called her about it in the morning. She consoled