On the Noodle Road

On the Noodle Road

From Beijing to Rome, With Love and Pasta

Book - 2013
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A food writer travels the Silk Road, immersing herself in a moveable feast of foods and cultures and discovering some surprising truths about commitment, independence, and love.

Feasting her way through an Italian honeymoon, Jen Lin-Liu was struck by culinary echoes of the delicacies she ate and cooked back in China, where she'd lived for more than a decade. Who really invented the noodle? she wondered, like many before her. But also: How had food and culture moved along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route linking Asia to Europe--and what could still be felt of those long-ago migrations? With her new husband's blessing, she set out to discover the connections, both historical and personal, eating a path through western China and on into Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, and across the Mediterranean.

The journey takes Lin-Liu into the private kitchens where the headscarves come off and women not only knead and simmer but also confess and confide. The thin rounds of dough stuffed with meat that are dumplings in Beijing evolve into manti in Turkey--their tiny size the measure of a bride's worth--and end as tortellini in Italy. And as she stirs and samples, listening to the women talk about their lives and longings, Lin-Liu gains a new appreciation of her own marriage, learning to savor the sweetness of love freely chosen.
Publisher: New York :, Riverhead Books,, 2013
ISBN: 9781594487262
Branch Call Number: 641.82 Lin-Liu 2013
Characteristics: 388 pages : illustration ; 24 cm


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Jul 29, 2018

I have checked this book out multiple times as I am fascinated with the link between pasta in Asia and pasta in Europe. Many years ago a Turkish student made Manti with me. The most delicious noodles I had had except for the noodles I had had in China made by Hui people. And later wonderful noodles I tasted in Urumqi, China. The book is a great tribute to food exploration. Yes, the author spends some time writing about other parts of her journey, but those make it interesting and personable!

Feb 04, 2018

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.

Jul 19, 2017

"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.

ChristchurchLib Oct 14, 2013

"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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