A Tiger in the Kitchen: book review

A Tiger in the Kitchen , by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. Publisher: Voice; Original edition (February 8, 2011) Memoir. Paperback, 304 pages.

Watching my sister, my mother, my auntie Alice, and my grandmother gathered around the kitchen counter, wrapping popiah, I couldn’t remember the last time we had all spend an entire afternoon together.

Food has never held a major significance for me. I don’t relate food to family because I don’t have a family and I’m also a vegetarian and no one ever wants to invite a vegetarian to a holiday meal when he or she’s cooking a slab of dead flesh. A Tiger in the Kitchen disappoints as it’s too long, too dragged out and doesn’t get to the truly interesting aspects of the author’s journey until more than midway through. The inconsistent writing style and slow doesn’t inspire someone to keep turning the pages. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, a New York-based Singaporean, one day decides that she wants to cook authentic Singaporean dishes and to do so she reconnects with her family. She spends the next year taking extended trips home to Singapore.

Home, rather, is rooted in the kitchen and the foods of my Singaporean girlhood—the intoxicating fog of turmeric and lemongrass seeping the air as bright orange slabs of otak . . .

While cooking, she learns about her aunts and her grandmothers. That part is okay but being so enthralled with food is something to which I cannot related. Particularly a lot of duck and other meat dishes as I’m a vegan. And also not surprisingly, Lu-Lien Tan remains oblivious to what she’s eating until she actually sees the full duck or pig that she’s supposed to prepare to eat. So many people eat meat without really thinking about where it comes from and all the whys and hows. At least I can give Lu-Lien Tan a bit of credit for discovering that aspect of the food she so desperately wants to be able to cook. A Tiger in the Kitchen will appeal to a small group of readers, mostly foodies, specialty chefs and those interested in Asian culture.

purchase at Amazon: A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and FamilyPacific Rim Cooking, Food & Wine Books)

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