of Asia

Flavor & Fortune:
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
about Chinese Cuisine
but Didn't Know Who to Ask

by Phyllis Louise Harris

There is nothing I would rather do than eat Asian food, cook it, teach it, read about it, talk about it, write about it, and generally help other people understand the amazing history, flavors and textures of these centuries-old classic cuisines. Dr. Jacqueline M. Newman not only does all of these things for Chinese cooking but is also Co-chairperson of The Institute for the Advancement of the Science & Art of Chinese Cuisine (ISACC). In addition, she is editorial director of Flavor & Fortune a quarterly magazine devoted to Chinese cuisine and has amassed a major collection of Chinese cookbooks. She is also a professor in the Family, Nutrition and Exercise Science Department at Queens College in Flushing, NY.

When Dr. Newman visited Minneapolis recently to present a paper on the history of Mongolian food at the Humphrey Institute we had an opportunity to talk about her work and the magazine. Naturally, we did it over lunch and I selected Kin Lee's Chinese Singapore Restaurant in Maplewood as an example of the outstanding Asian food available in the Midwest. Contrary to beliefs held on the east and west coasts of this fair land, there are Asian culinary pleasures to be had in "fly-over" land. Chef Lee proved the point with his amazingly silky Tofu and Stir Fried Chinese Vegetable, Skate in a multi-flavored Malaysian Sambal and Singapore's signature noodle dish Mee Goreng. It was a tasty start to an afternoon devoted to food.

Founded in the early 1990s the ISACC was intended to "become a source of information about the scientific and artistic significance of Chinese and other Asian foods and cuisines." Its board of directors includes Honorary Chairperson Ken Hom, well known author, chef and consultant in Chinese cuisine, and Co-chairperson Joe T. Sing, producer and manufacturer of Chinese food products. In 1994 the Institute published its first Flavor & Fortune and today supplements the quarterly issues with its information-filled website www.flavorandfortune.com.

In the Spring 2001 issue of Flavor & Fortune Tel Aviv food writer Dalia Lamdani talks about Chinese cuisine in Israel. "There was never and still is no Chinatown in any city in Israel," she writes. "There are no more than a hundred Chinese living in the country . . .This means that the initiators of the Chinese restaurants (In Israel) were not Chinese. They were and still are Israelis. And, they are aided by imported cooks who, as a rule, are from Thailand." She goes on to describe the history and growth of Chinese cooking in her country and critique's Israel's Chinese Wall restaurant.

Harry Spiller has a penchant for Chinese restaurant menus that he describes in an article entitled "Two Hundred Dollar Take-Out Menu: A View of Chinese History." As he puts it, "Menu collecting has led to thrills beyond the gustatory. . . The oldest menu in my collection . . . has only a few words beyond the list of foods (and it is from the Chinese Mission, March 15, 1898)." Today he has 6,000 menus from fifty states and 45 foreign countries. From Seattle's International District to New York City's Chinatown, Spiller takes the reader on a fascinating tour of Chinese restaurants through history.

Other articles cover historic food traditions for Chinese babies and new mothers, vegetables as food and medicine, bananas, soy sauce comparisons and there are a variety of recipes. Each issue contains cookbook and restaurant reviews as well as food notes from Dr. Newman.

This is not a typical food magazine to browse through quickly and toss aside, but rather a thoughtful treatise on a multitude of subjects about food in Chinese history, science and kitchens. It is a publication to carefully savor then save for future reference. Annual subscriptions to Flavor & Fortune are $19.50 or become a member of ISACC for $30 annually and receive four issues of the magazine. Get more information or contact Dr. Newman on the website, email to flavorandfortune@hotmail.com, or write to Flavor & Fortune, P. O. Box 91, Kings Park, NY 11754.

(Reprinted from Asian Pages 6/15/01)


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