Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Seventh Daughter: Off to a So-So Start

Some good news, some bad news.

First the good: Cecilia Chiang's splendid recipe for Spinach with Sesame Seed Paste. You wilt spinach in boiling water, plunge it immediately into ice water, then wring it dry. Toss with a dressing of sesame paste, sesame oil, sugar and soy sauce. Awesome. Even my finicky children seemed to enjoy.

Now the bad: The Chongqing Spicy Dry-Shredded Beef. Inedible. I will trot out the time-honored clichee: It was like chewing on shoe leather. Mark poured himself a bowl of Cheerios, Isabel made a peanut-butter sandwich, and we threw the whole pan out. I am unsure whether to blame the recipe, or the flank steak I purchased at the increasingly out-of-favor Sunset Super.

Meanwhile, I'm thoroughly engrossed in Madame Chiang's life story. Even more than Niloufer Ichaporia King's Bombay Kitchen, Chiang's Seventh Daughter doubles as a memoir. 

Some facts about Madame Chiang:

  • She grew up in Beijing in a house with 52 rooms. Rich!
  • She now lives in Belvedere, California. Still rich!
  • Her mother had bound feet which caused "excruciating" pain in her legs.
  • Her mother also had a child ya tou (literal translation: "slave") who massaged her aching legs.
  • A quote from Madame Chiang: "Looking back, I have to admit that as a girl, I felt a little jealous of the relationship my mother shared with her ya tou."

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