Monday, October 17, 2011

A Tiger in the Kitchen : A Memoir of Food and Family - Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Summary:  After growing up in Singapore, the most food-obsessed city in the world, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan left home and family at eighteen for America -- proof of the rebelliousness of daughters born in the Year of the Tiger.  But as a thirtysomething fashion writer in New York, she felt the dishes that defined her childhood calling her back.  Was it too late to learn the secrets of her grandmothers' and aunties' kitchens?  In her quest to recreate the dishes of Singapore by cooking with her femal erelatives, Tan learned not only cherished recipes but long-buried family stories.

A Tiger in the Kitchen, which includes ten recipes for Singaporean classics such as pineapple tarts and Teochew braised duck, is the charming story of a Chinese-Singaporean ex-pat who learns to infuse her New York lifestyle with rich kitchen lessons that reconnect her with her family and herself.  (Summary from book - Image from )

My Review:  I found A Tiger in the Kitchen while helping my husband catch a sexual predator.  Yes, you read that right.  There was a wanted creeper at our local library and so I called my DH who, it just so happens, funds my book habit by working as a police detective. Anyhoo, while I waited for a him to arrive, I forced myself to “browse” our library’s new arrivals while keeping an eye on said creeper and, though I didn't register many of the titles, this one caught my attention.  You can pretty much count on me to snap up any food and travel books, even in the direst of circumstances.  Both genres, especially when put together,  temporarily satisfy my fervent desire to travel the world and eat copious amounts of ethnic food.  

A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family follows New York resident and fashion writer, Cheryl Tan, as she travels to Singapore in an attempt to reconnect with her family, rediscover her heritage, and recreate the food from her childhood.  It also tells of her life in New York, and explores aspects of her family history and her memories of growing up in a Singapore.    

As far as memoirs go, Tiger was an interesting read but nothing spectacular.   At first, I was disappointed with Cheryl’s lack of commitment to her own mission: to learn how to cook the dishes of her childhood from the legendary women that made them.  I expected her to dive right in, but instead she hung back and watched, showing up late, and appeared hesitant to do any real work.  I almost gave up reading because I couldn’t reading an entire book that showcased such little effort.  However, as Cheryl became more comfortable with her surroundings and with the women in her family, she started to become more involved in the kitchen and more dedicated to her objective.    

Even though I inhaled Cheryl’s descriptions her successes and foibles in the kitchen, the endearing moments spent with family and friends, and the RECIPES at the end, this book never had that quality that made me really want to finish it.  Quite frankly, I went days without reading it, and only picked it up again because I knew I needed to finish it before I could start another one.  In short, it was an okay read (and it made me hungry for Chinese food), but is not a book I’m likely to recommend highly or read again.
My Rating: 3.25 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  I can't think of anything objectionable.  Except perhaps the consumption of seaworms.  Blech.

Sum it up:  A mildly flavorful mixture of culture and cuisine.


Anonymous said...

Good to know Mindy. I have had this sitting on my shelf at home from the Library and had yet to pick it up. Glad I didn't miss much since now I must return. I usually am good for a memoir, but I really need to be sucked in. Thanks for the great review. Cortney H.

ATigerInTheKitchen said...

You never did mention -- so what happened to the predator? And thanks for reading Tiger.

MindySue said...

Booked. Jailed. Deported. That's what you get for trying to watch women PEE in a public restroom.


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