Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Seventh Daughter - Cecilia Chiang

Shares her Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco

picture photograph image The book The seventh daughter by Cecilia Chiang 10 speed press edited by Amanda Berne 2008 copyright of sam breach http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/

To be honest, I had never heard of Cecilia Chiang until my friend, the food-writer Amanda Berne, whom I first met three years ago when she interviewed me for an article about food bloggers in the San Francisco Chronicle, left the paper to work for Ten Speed press and edit Chiang's book, The Seventh Daughter. [Yes, before you rib me for it, that is the longest sentence I have ever written on this blog.]

Had Amanda stayed on in California to finish her task instead of moving to New York City, which is what happened instead, no doubt would she have forced a copy of this book upon me, insisting it was a present from a friend, not a press copy (which she knew would have gone against my carefully guarded blogging policies). Amanda had also promised me that if she was allowed a guest, I would be the one who would accompany her to a launch party for the book. Amanda clearly enjoyed working with Chiang and was certain I, too, would delight in meeting such a spirited octogenarian. I was looking forward to it. Until Amanda blew me off and moved to the opposite coast.

Fast forward several months and I read somewhere that The Seventh Daughter had finally been published. Despite having little connection with Chinese food, and not immediately understanding the influence Chiang had on the restaurant industry, particularly in California, I decided to go ahead and buy myself a copy. The purchase was mainly out of solidarity to the dear friend I miss. I hoped that reading a book she edited would allow me to enjoy a little piece of the Amanda I don't get to see so often these days.

Despite being a insatiable bookworm in my youth, these days I procrastinate too much to read. I tire easily. I often start a book I never finish or otherwise torture myself by eking out a heavy tome at a rate of one page a day until I realise it will take me a good part of a decade before I can move on to a new read.

Not so with The Seventh Daughter. This book, despite flitting back and forth between past and present, drew me in immediately. Cecilia Chiang's life is so irresistibly fascinating and so far removed from anything within the bounds of my own experiences, I could not fail to be charmed and intrigued by it.

I don't want to give away Chiang's startling story, I just need to let you know it is out there, begging to be read. And as if the story of her life's journey wasn't enough, the book is peppered with the recipes that mark her life. I thought Chinese cooking wasn't really my thing but maybe all I needed was a little inspiration...

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?Did you ever eat at The Mandarin? I'd love to hear about it from Chiang's past customers?

2007 | One of the most important posts I wrote last year
2006 | Ms Glaze's Pommes d'Amour
2004 | Nettle Fettucini

© 2008 Sam Breach
The Seventh Daughter - Cecilia Chiang


  • At 20/5/08 05:57, Blogger Kalyn Denny said…

    Will definitely keep an eye out for this book!

  • At 20/5/08 08:00, Blogger Casey said…

    I ate often at The Mandarin in its glory days; it was one of our favorite places to take out-of-town guests as setting, food and service all excelled. Whenever my parents visited, my father always reminded me; "Now be sure to tell them we want one of those crispy ducks." (The Peking duck had to be reserved 24 hours ahead.) One of my favorite dishes was the minced squab -- but all the food was excellent and surprising to someone like me who'd grown up with only the most abominable faux-Chinese fare.

  • At 20/5/08 16:08, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    We went there once or twice back in its heyday. It was swanky; quite the eye-opener for someone who thought Chinese food was mainly soggy eggrolls with red dipping sauce... Although my memory of Mandarin's food is mostly "brown and sweet."
    The biggest drawback was that it was located in Ghirardelli Square, el trappo turisto.

  • At 21/5/08 00:19, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not only is the book so so interesting and the recipes spot on, it's been nominated for a James Beard Award. Yay for Mandy! By the way, I miss her terribly as well.

  • At 21/5/08 11:29, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I haven't had a chance to read this yet but I've heard several interviews with Chang regarding her story and the origins of the restaurant. Thanks for such a great reminder that I need to get my hands on a copy.

  • At 21/5/08 13:08, Blogger kudzu said…

    Sam--Mme. C's upscale restaurant was a wonderful change from the Manhattan and Chinatown dives to which I was accustomed. I was glad to see, when I went in for a mini-review, that the young couple who bought the premises left it in its original state, now, alas, gone...More importantly, she is still leading a full and active life (friends dine with her freqently; sometimes she prepares elaborate meals at her home)...Her harrowing life adventures are worth the price of the book and I love having her signature recipes to use.

  • At 21/5/08 22:43, Blogger Sam said…

    thanks for the few of you who had the opportunity to answer my question. I wish I had been here back then to try it!

  • At 22/5/08 21:29, Blogger Cate said…

    Thanks for the info on the book -- I had read some bits and pieces about it, and now am eager to check it out myself.


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