Food and culture are inextricably intertwined in China, and perhaps nowhere more so than in Cantonese teahouses and their dim sum. Books, journals, photographs, and chronicles can tell us much about what life was like between 1880 and 1949 as Guangdong Province began to modernize. But perhaps even more fascinating is the way in which those massive changes were echoed in the teahouses and snacks of its capital city, Guangzhou. For, in addition to being delectable tidbits, dim sum can provide intriguing clues to the country's migration patterns, regional cuisines, various ethnicities, and foreign influences. Echoes of China's past have somehow managed to be ensconced within these dainty morsels, making a dim sum brunch an excellent opportunity not only to dine exceedingly well, but also to understand a city's fascinating modern history during seventy tumultuous years.
Modern Chinese History as Reflected in a Teahouse Mirror
Carolyn Phillips is the author/illustrator of All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China (McSweeney's and Ten Speed Press, 2016) and The Dim Sum Field Guide (Ten Speed Press, 2016). Her work has appeared everywhere from Lucky Peach and Gastronomica to Saveur, Best Food Writing 2015, and the 2013 MAD Symposium, as well as on her blog, Madame Huang's Kitchen. Her previous article for Gastronomica was “The Kitchen God of Chinese Lore” (Winter 2014).
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Carolyn Phillips; Modern Chinese History as Reflected in a Teahouse Mirror. Gastronomica 1 February 2017; 17 (1): 56–65. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2017.17.1.56
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