Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A #CooktheBooks Rant

This month's Cook the Book selection was Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper; A Memoir by Fuchsia Dunlop.  It was chosen by my friend, Deb, of Kahakai Kitchen.  You can find her invitation post and learn how to join us here. 

Current Selection

Let me start off by saying that I am an omnivore. I love to eat.  I have no qualms about eating meat.  I anxiously try new things.  I believe in the nose to tail movement.  I have raised my own meat chickens, turkeys and hogs.  I hate to see an animal give up it's life and not be used completely.  I cook and eat tongue, pickle pigs feet, and fondly remember eating Grandma's head cheese.  I have tried duck blood soup and enjoy eating from both land and sea.  

See the source image

This chart is from Britain.  Ms. Dunlop's home country.

That being said, I am also a big proponent of eating sustainably and treating our food humanely while it awaits it's turn to become our dinner.  I believe we should use all that an animal has to offer and not only those parts considered "choice" or "prime".  

I also believe that we have a responsibility to live our lives with truth and integrity and that there are things far more important than money and being able to look at yourself in the mirror each day.

I don't see how Ms. Dunlop can do that.  I can understand her quest to immerse herself in the culture of the food she was studying.  She had promised herself that she would eat anything if it helped her in her quest to cook and live as the Chinese do.  My question is why?  Why would eating shark's fin be that important that you would ignore the crisis created by finning?  Why would you EVER even think about eating a Bear Paw when the rest of the bear is left to rot?  Why would you continue to eat food that is suffering near extinction from over fishing and over hunting?  

I don't care if you did make a promise to yourself.  I understand some countries eat dog, horse, monkey, etc.  I might even try those things as those animals are not in danger of extinction. I'm sure there are people who disdain my taste for venison.  But I would never eat something, even if I loved it, if it were going to cause animals to suffer and die for nothing more than one piece of their body.  I don't care how much I love certain kinds of fish, I always try to buy fish according to sustainability. 

See the source image

I wonder what Ms. Dunlop would have done had she found that they killed and ate little babies as part of their culture.  Would she have done so and then written about how guilty it made her feel?!!!

I did not like Ms. Dunlop.  She often complained during this book of how certain foods would make her stomach queasy.  I can't think of any food that makes me queasier than Ms. Dunlop's total disregard and blatant disrespect of the resources that we have been given. 

I am not naïve enough to think, that had Ms. Dunlop not done these things, it would have made a difference in the culture and mindset of people that do.  However, I do think that the only person we can control is ourselves. It is  like throwing that one starfish back into the ocean when there were thousands washed up on the beach.  You can't save them all but you did save that one. What each and every person does can make an impact.

Every time you choose to forego a straw in a restaurant or take a reusable bag to the grocers makes a difference.  Each time a person decides to pay huge amounts of money to eat a snake that is endangered makes a difference.

I do agree with Ms. Dunlop that the fault does not lie with the poor person who is trying to feed his/her family rice.  Of course, if they see a chance to make some money by capturing and selling animals that are endangered, they will do so.  No animal is more important than your child, after all.  No, the fault lies completely with people, like Ms. Dunlop, who purchase and eat those animals.  

I hate the fact that I supported Ms. Dunlop by purchasing her memoir.  I certainly will not be buying her cookbooks and I have no stomach for even offering her the courtesy of trying one of her recipes that was in this book.  

I love Asian food as I have come to know it and to which in a small little blurb Ms. Dunlop described it.  The second thing written in this book that I could actually agree with is found near the end when she writes:
"The traditional diet of the Chinese masses could be a model for the entire human race.  It's the way the older generation, the poor and the wise still eat: steamed rice or boiled noodles, served with plenty of seasonal vegetables, cooked simply: bean curd in many forms; very few sweetmeats; and small amounts of meat and fish that bring flavour and nourishment"
 So with those words in mind I am sharing a quick, easy and flavorful stir fry.  I hope that you enjoy it.  Rant over.....

Marinated chicken is quickly stir fried with broccoli and onions.  Served with steamed rice, it makes a complete, nutritious and delicious meal.

Yield: 4 servings

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Broccoli Chicken

This quick and delicious stir fry is ready in the time it takes to steam some rice. It makes a complete and delicious meal, perfect for those busy weeknights.
prep time: 15 MINScook time: 10 MINStotal time: 25 mins


1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ginger paste
1 T. coconut aminos or soy sauce
2  T. sugar
1 t. cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 T. sesame oil
2 T. peanut oil
1/2 of a sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 head broccoli, trimmed, florets separated, stalks cut into bite size pieces
pinch of crushed red pepper
2 T. Teriyaki sauce


Place the garlic, ginger, aminos, sugar, cornstarch, salt and sesame oil into a sealable plastic bag.  Shake to combine and dissolve sugar.  Add the chicken.  Press air from bag so chicken is fully covered with marinade.  Set aside while you cut up onion and broccoli.

Heat the peanut oil in a large wok over med high heat.  Add the broccoli stems and onions.  Cook and stir until onions are translucent.  Add the broccoli florets  and stir fry for a couple of minutes. 

Add the chicken with the marinade and a pinch of crushed red pepper to the pan.  Cook and stir until the chicken is cooked through, 3-4 minutes.  Add the Teriyaki sauce and stir to coat.

Serve over steamed rice.

Created using The Recipes Generator


  1. Thanks for joining in Wendy. I am sorry you didn't enjoy the book. I can understand--being a non-meat eater, I am struggling myself with that aspect. Your dish looks very tasty.

    1. I always enjoy our selections because it takes me out of my comfort zone to books I would otherwise not have read. Thanks for hosting Deb.

  2. "I also believe that we have a responsibility to live our lives with truth and integrity and that there are things far more important than money and being able to look at yourself in the mirror each day." You know who this made me think of????
    We ate monkey in Venezuela and dog in Viet Nam. Both were okay. I thought the monkey tasted like chicken. The dog was spicy and we didn't think it was all that good. I will be making your stir fry It looks delicious!

  3. Well-deserved rant, Wendy. I did not have as visceral reaction to her as you did, but I certainly see your perspective. And I definitely agree that little choices make a big difference. There is a group of kids at D's school who has been educating local restaurants about the use of plastic straws and urging that they either don't offer straws at all or switch to something else. We bought stainless straws for our house when they really want shakes and such. Proud of those kids!

    1. Yes, we are trying to use reusable straws and trying to remember to tell the wait staff no straws please but forget more often than not.

  4. I love that you shared your honest opinion and I think of it not so much of a rant, as a really good share- the book certainly provoked emotion from you, but at the expense of being a stance that you cannot get behind. Great review!

  5. This book seems to have stirred up :) quite a bit of controversy. I truly like getting different perspectives on food, culture and places foreign. Books I wouldn't ordinarily read perhaps.

    1. I do too Claudia. It is one of the reasons I love this group so much. It gives me a chance to read books that I normally wouldn't look at. Some have been excellent, some have not been to my taste but all have been a wonderful experience.

  6. I too enjoy that the books chosen for these discussions prompt visceral reactions. We don't have to like everything, but can appreciate all of the books. Being Italian, I tend to associate broccoli with that style of cooking -- twice cooked - first steamed then sauted in olive oil and garlic. I'm sure Simona can pull up the name for that preparation. I can't recall it

    1. There is so much knowledge and diversity. I love this group.

  7. I was already pretty familiar with the author as an authority on Chinese cuisine, so I didn't have quite as strong a reaction to this book, but her "When in Rome" approach really bothered me. I hope that "When in Rome" I wouldn't have been throwing Christians to the lions, either.

    1. Yes, that really irritated me, as I'm sure you could tell LOL.

  8. Oops! I thought I had responded to your rant a long time ago. (I did read you post soon after you posted it.) I found myself yawning a bit at the repetitive nature of her tale---just weird stuff after more weird stuff. But, I liked the first part of the book. (I had to make something vegetarian though.) Your chicken looks and sounds great, Wendy!

    1. Thanks Debra...not the best book I've read but it sure brought out a lot of feelings LOL>

  9. I agree with you Wendy that the thing we can control is what we do—where and how we shop for food, what we eat. The end result is the sum of all our individual actions. This is the world we have. Your recipe reminded me that I bought a small bottle of coconut aminos recently and have yet to try using it. Thanks!


I enjoy getting comments and feedback from my audience. Please let me know what you think, keeping in mind that we are all entitled to our own beliefs and opinions. I am happy to hear yours as long as they are stated nicely.