Chop Fry Watch Learn: Fu Pei-mei and the Making of Modern Chinese Food (Hardcover)

Chop Fry Watch Learn: Fu Pei-mei and the Making of Modern Chinese Food By Michelle T. King Cover Image
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A spirited new history of Chinese food told through an account of the remarkable life of Fu Pei-mei, the woman who brought Chinese cooking to the world.

In 1949, a young Chinese housewife arrived in Taiwan and transformed herself from a novice to a natural in the kitchen. She launched a career as a cookbook author and television cooking instructor that would last four decades. Years later, in America, flipping through her mother’s copies of Fu Pei-mei’s Chinese cookbooks, historian Michelle T. King discovered more than the recipes to meals of her childhood. She found, in Fu’s story and in her food, a vivid portal to another time, when a generation of middle-class, female home cooks navigated the tremendous postwar transformations taking place across the world.

In Chop Fry Watch Learn, King weaves together stories from her own family and contemporary oral history to present a remarkable argument for how understanding the story of Fu’s life enables us to see Chinese food as both an inheritance of tradition and a truly modern creation, influenced by the historical phenomena of the postwar era. These include a dramatic increase in the number of women working outside the home, a new proliferation of mass media, the arrival of innovative kitchen tools, and the shifting diplomatic fortunes of China and Taiwan. King reveals how and why, for audiences in Taiwan and around the world, Fu became the ultimate culinary touchstone: the figure against whom all other cooking authorities were measured.

And Fu’s legacy continues. Her cookbooks have become beloved emblems of cultural memory, passed from parent to child, wherever diasporic Chinese have landed. Informed by the voices of fans across generations, King illuminates the story of Chinese food from the inside: at home, around the family dinner table. The result is a revelatory work, a rich banquet of past and present tastes that will resonate deeply for all of us looking for our histories in the kitchen.

About the Author

Michelle T. King is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she specializes in modern Chinese gender and food history. A 2020–21 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar, she lives in Chapel Hill with her family.

Praise For…

A large portion of the American populace still confuses Chinese American food with Chinese food. What a delight, then, to discover this culinary history of the worldwide dissemination of that great cuisine—which moonlights as a biography of Chinese cookbook and TV cooking program pioneer Fu Pei-mei.
— John H. Maher - The Millions

A fascinating, in-depth look at the history and impact of the woman who taught countless mothers and grandmothers how to master Chinese home cooking. As Michelle T. King writes, and we couldn’t agree more: ‘Skilled home cooks . . . are made in the kitchen, not born through blood.’
— Kaitlin, Sarah, Bill, and Judy Leung, New York Times best-selling authors of The Woks of Life

The long-awaited tribute to Fu Pei-mei whose story is fascinating and inspiring, and whose influence on Chinese home cooking is astonishing. This is an eye-opening biography that’s well researched from a great storyteller.
— Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge

A joyous tribute to an icon of Chinese cookery. While many have heard of Fu Pei-mei, few know her backstory. This book is an excellent and long overdue celebration of Fu’s long-lasting influence in kitchens around the world.
— Clarissa Wei, author of Made in Taiwan

Michelle Tien King fuses the story of a fascinating modern culinary leader—a champion of Chinese mothers and wives—with the history of postwar Taiwan. It made me hungry for more Fu Pei-mei—and for dumplings.
— Danielle Dreilinger, author of The Secret History of Home Economics

Finally, a beautifully written and meticulously researched book that celebrates the woman behind the technicolor pages, the fascinating times Fu Pei-mei lived in, and the immense scopeof her influence. An engaging and important work for any reader, whether they grew up with Pei-mei in their kitchen or not.
— Cathy Erway, author of The Food of Taiwan

Fu Pei-mei is the role model that I’ve been looking for: a chef whose influence—extending from her cooking schools to her shows, books, and products—is as wide-ranging as it is enduring. Chop Fry Watch Learn stands as evidence that cooking transcends sustenance when propelled by visionaries like Fu.

— Lucas Sin, chef

King has woven together feminism, cultural identity, and personal stories into a fully realized portrait of an extraordinary life set against contemporary Taiwanese history.
— Carolyn Phillips, author of At the Chinese Table and All Under Heaven

A spectacularly good book combining the subtle arts of memoir, narrative history, social analysis, and media criticism. I am excited to use it in my class to draw attention to the social dynamics of cooking outside the Euro-American world.
— Krishnendu Ray, professor of food studies at NYU and author of The Ethnic Restaurateur

King adeptly tracks Fu’s career as a cooking pioneer as well as de facto ambassador for Taiwan. . . . An appealing story of a determined home cook who taught generations how to prepare authentic Chinese food.
— Kirkus

King interweaves biography, memoir, and culinary history in her delicious debut. . . . This tasty ode to an undersung chef satisfies.
— Publishers Weekly

King does a remarkably thorough job of documenting Fu's life. . . . An appealing biography for gastronomes and students of feminist history alike.
— Mark Knoblauch - Booklist

King weaves history lessons, personal anecdotes and firsthand interviews into the thoroughly researched Chop Fry Watch Learn to paint the extent of Fu’s legacy. . . . Readers are sure to find her diligent biography compelling.

— Yi Jiang - BookPage

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324021285
ISBN-10: 1324021284
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: May 7th, 2024
Pages: 336
Language: English