Fu Pei-mei (1931–2004), cookbook author and television personality in postwar Taiwan, was often called the “Julia Child of Chinese Cooking.” While Child sought to introduce American audiences to the unfamiliar tastes and traditions of French cuisine, Fu was demonstrating Chinese cooking to a new generation of postwar housewives in Taiwan, who needed her expertise and guidance in the kitchen. Fu authored more than thirty cookbooks, many of which were bilingual Chinese-English, and hosted Taiwan television's first instructional program on Chinese cooking for almost four decades, beginning in 1962. From a political vantage point, Fu's culinary talent, linguistic skills, and gracious demeanor perfectly filled the existing needs of the ruling Nationalist Party on Taiwan. Fu's comprehensive survey of Chinese regional cuisines united an otherwise fractious and fragile postwar nation. Yet Fu would not have attained the level of popularity that she did, had she not also connected deeply with her female audience. Over decades of dramatic social change for women in Taiwan, Fu embraced both the practical and emotional needs of ordinary housewives and career women alike, who sought out her expert guidance in the onerous daily task of feeding their families. This article compares the political, gender, and media contexts of Child's and Fu's culinary careers, in order to highlight the distinctive impact each had on millions of television viewers and would-be home cooks.
The Julia Child of Chinese Cooking, or the Fu Pei-mei of French Food?: Comparative Contexts of Female Culinary Celebrity
Michelle T. King is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her current research project focuses on the figure of Fu Pei-mei, using her career as a window onto changes in Taiwan's postwar society, including its international relations, gender roles, media values and culinary identities. King has received grants from the Henry Luce Foundation, the University of Texas at Austin Institute for Historical Studies, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies in support of this work. She is the author of Between Birth and Death: Female Infanticide in Nineteenth-Century China (Stanford University Press, 2014).
Michelle T. King; The Julia Child of Chinese Cooking, or the Fu Pei-mei of French Food?: Comparative Contexts of Female Culinary Celebrity. Gastronomica 1 February 2018; 18 (1): 15–26. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2018.18.1.15
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