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228 × 133 × 23 mm
256 pages
26 illustrations
10 Feb 2002
  • £19.95

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China to Chinatown Chinese Food in the West J.A.G. Roberts

China to Chinatown tells the story of one of the most notable examples of the globalization of food: the spread of Chinese recipes, ingredients and cooking styles to the Western world. Beginning with the accounts of Marco Polo and Franciscan missionaries, J.A.G. Roberts describes how Westerners' first impressions of Chinese food were decidely mixed, with many regarding Chinese eating habits as repugnant. Chinese food was brought back to the West merely as a curiosity.

The Western encounter with a wider variety of Chinese cuisine dates from the first half of the 20th century, when Chinese food spread to the West with emigrant communities. The author shows how Chinese cooking has come to be regarded by some as among the world’s most sophisticated cuisines, and yet is harshly criticized by others, for example on the grounds that its preparation involves cruelty to animals.

Roberts discusses the extent to which Chinese food, as a facet of Chinese culture overseas, has remained differentiated, and questions whether its ethnic identity is dissolving. Written in a lively style, the book will appeal to food historians and specialists in Chinese culture, as well as to readers interested in Chinese cuisine.

‘The book is a valuable and timely account of the West's strange love-hate relationship with Chinese food, and a stimulating read, provoking as it does so many challenging questions about how we perceive and adapt to other cultures.’ — The Times

‘Informative and readable’ — The Independent

‘The style and presentation, as well as the topic, make this a very good addition to the literature on the history of food. Recommended. All levels'’ — Choice

‘J.A.G. Roberts has penned an absorbing account. China to Chinatown probably tells us as much about our own attitudes as host community as it does about food. A worthwhile read.’ — MostlyFood.co.uk

‘A wonderful history that is also a fascinating account of the way we eat today, shedding light on our understanding of society as well as its food habits.’ — Ken Hom, chef and author

‘A fascinating study of the way attitudes of Westerners to Chinese food in China changed in relation to the nature of political situations and to the role of Western commentators, missionaries and aesthetes.’ — Jack Goody, author of Food and Love: A Cultural History of East and West

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J.A.G. Roberts is a lecturer in the School of Humanities at the University of Huddersfield, and is author of China Through Western Eyes (3 vols, 1991-6) and A History of China (1999).

1. Chinese Food
2. The Western Discovery of Chinese Food
3. Nineteenth-century Reactions to Chinese Food
4. 1900-49: Western Impressions of Chinese Food in China
5. Westerners and Food in Communist China
6. The Globalization of Chinese Food-the Early Stages
7. The Globalization of Chinese Food since 1945
8. On the Globalization of Chinese Food
Selected Further Reading