Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy

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Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy

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Recipes from the Garden of Contentment is the first English edition of one of the world’s most famous books about food. (It is the big sister edition of Berkshire’s English-only popular version of the book, which is published as The Way of Eating.) This famous book is a treatise, a cookbook, and a memoir, written in the late eighteenth century by the Qing dynasty poet Yuan Mei 袁枚. It includes recipes for well-known dishes such as birds nest and sharks fin, and offers modern readers an appealing perspective on Chinese history and culinary culture, and was translated and annotated by Sean J. S. Chen with editorial advice from well-known China scholars E. N. Anderson and Jeffrey Riegel.

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Recipes from the Garden of Contentment:  Yuan Mei`s Manual of Gastronomy (Suiyuan Shidan) is, remarkably, the first English edition of one of the world’s most famous books about food. (It is the big sister edition of Berkshire’s English-only popular version of the book, which is published as The Way of Eating.) This famous book is a treatise, a cookbook, and a memoir, written in the late eighteenth century by the Qing dynasty poet Yuan Mei 袁枚.

It includes recipes for well-known dishes such as birds nest and sharks fin, and offers modern readers an appealing perspective on Chinese history and culinary culture, and was translated and annotated by Sean J. S. Chen with editorial advice from E. N. Anderson and Jeffrey Riegel.

The editorial team’s aim was to convey the charm, humor, and erudition of one of China’s greatest writers. This edition is bilingual (English-Chinese) and has been prepared from the original 1792 manuscript, with extensive annotations.for academic use as well as pleasure reading. Also included are a glossary and a bibliography of additional sources. It is a unique introduction to the true cuisines of China, designed for students of the social history of food as well those interested in techniques and recipes.

Chinese food expert Nicole Mones, author of the novel The Last Chinese Chef, has contributed an engaging introduction to Yuan Mei and his work. The cover illustration is by Lichia Liu.

Sean J.S. Chen is a scholar and translator of Chinese food culture and gastronomy. He lives in Toronto and is an Associate at the University of Michigan Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies. His books have won acclaim both internationally and in Canada. Sean and his works have appeared on various media including China Daily, CNN Travel, Grist, National Geographic, NPR, OMNI Television, PBS, and South China Morning Press. He was a consultant and co-presenter for the award-winning PBS television series: Confucius was a FoodieSean holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. He works in developing of medical image processing and recognition techniques, as well as various medical devices and informatics technologies. This book, in its two versions, is his first publication outside the fields of science and engineering.

“This new translation of Yuan Mei’s legendary book is cause for celebration, not only because the complete text is finally available in English, but because Sean Chen so beautifully captures the author’s lyricism, humor, and opinionated pronouncements. Reading this book is like sitting down to a meal with a charming dinner partner whose interests range from culinary technique to aesthetics to the nature of hospitality, though flavor always remains foremost for him. This volume shares the delights and concerns of one of the world’s most artful gastronomes, and in the process offers a fascinating look at eighteenth-century Chinese culture.” — Darra Goldstein, Founding Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture

“Finally: a lively, scholarly, and usefully-annotated English translation of Yuan Mei’s seminal cookbook and culinary treatise that captures the spirit of the original work. Sean Chen and the Berkshire team have performed a great service for the world of gastronomy by making this fascinating text accessible to English-speaking readers.” Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Land of Fish and Rice and other cookery books

“The publication of the bilingual edition of Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy is indeed a landmark event and not only in culinary scholarship. Yuan’s wit and love of food is an added bonus and greatly enhances our understanding of one of the world’s greatest cuisines.” —Ken Hom, OBE, author of My Stir-fried Life and other cookery books

“The Suiyuan Shidan is a classic and two centuries later it still sparkles with Yuan’s irascible charm, his epic passion for food, and his near-religious devotion to the pleasures of the senses.” —Nicole Mones, author of the novel The Last Chinese Chef

“Food historians rejoice: at last, a complete translation of the 18th century classic of Chinese gastronomy. The recipes range from exotic to homey and comforting and most can be cooked in an ordinary kitchen. Yuan Mei also offers sage advice on choosing ingredients, how to combine flavors and introduces techniques that will be unfamiliar in the West; in many respects he is the Brillat-Savarin of Chinese cuisine and is equally opinionated and funny.” —Ken Albala, author of Three World Cuisines and Noodle Soup: Recipes, Techniques, Obsession

“Chinese cuisine is often misunderstood, mistaking one of the most delicate, beautiful, and tasty cuisines for Americanized semi-fast food. This books explains the complexities and delicacies of Chinese food. I enjoyed reading it very much, and recommend it for anyone who loves food.” —Kai-Fu Lee, AI expert, author of AI Superpowers, former president of Google China

“Sean Chen’s faithful and stimulating rendering of Yuan Mei’s 18th century book of classic Chinese recipes and cooking techniques will greatly interest lovers of Chinese cuisine as well as readers of gastronomic history. If you are either or both then you should own it. Reading Yuan’s book and trying out the recipes for dishes that were prepared for him and his guests at his garden villa in old Nanjing open a door to a time and place of unsurpassed good taste and refinement in Chinese history. Thanks to Sean Chen’s translation, many more people are now able to pass through that door.”  —Jeffrey K. Riegel, University of Sydney

“Yuan Mei is one of those Qing cultural giants we shouldn’t be able to get enough of.  Sean Chen’s contribution here is unexpected yet indispensable, an inexhaustibly delightful excursion with a true 18th century genius.” —Pamela Kyle Crossley, Collis Professor of History, Dartmouth College

“This is a totally wonderful job.  It’s extremely accurate and thorough.” — E.N. Anderson, University of California, Riverside, author of The Food of China

“The Suiyuan Shidan is one of China’s greatest classical cookbooks. It is also unique in that it beguiles its readers with wit, intelligence, and brevity, much like Fernand Point’s Ma Gastronomie. Translating something as difficult as this is therefore an event worth celebrating, and kudos go out to Sean Chen for his meticulously scholarly approach. Open the cover and prepare to be enchanted.” —Carolyn Phillips, author of All Under Heaven

Translator and annotator Sean Jy-Shyang Chen is a scientific developer for computer assisted minimally invasive neurosurgery. This is his first publication outside the fields of science and engineering.

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Additional information

WeightN/A
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Volumes

1

ISBN

9781614720430

Format

,

Pages

468

Reviews

  1. Darra Goldstein, founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture

    “This new translation of Yuan Mei’s legendary book is cause for celebration, not only because the complete text is finally available in English, but because Sean Chen so beautifully captures the author’s lyricism, humor, and opinionated pronouncements. Reading this book is like sitting down to a meal with a charming dinner partner whose interests range from culinary technique to aesthetics to the nature of hospitality, though flavor always remains foremost for him. This volume shares the delights and concerns of one of the world’s most artful gastronomes, and in the process offers a fascinating look at eighteenth-century Chinese culture.” — Darra Goldstein, Founding Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture

  2. Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Land of Fish and Rice and other cookery books

    “Finally: a lively, scholarly, and usefully-annotated English translation of Yuan Mei’s seminal cookbook and culinary treatise that captures the spirit of the original work. Sean Chen and the Berkshire team have performed a great service for the world of gastronomy by making this fascinating text accessible to English-speaking readers.”— Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Land of Fish and Rice and other cookery books

  3. Ruth Reichl, author of Save Me the Plums

    “This is far more than a cookbook: Recipes from the Garden of Contentment is food history at its finest, a window into a fascinating and long-lost world.”

  4. Ken Hom, OBE, author of My Stir-fried Life and other cookery books

    “The publication of the bilingual edition of Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy is indeed a landmark event and not only in culinary scholarship. Yuan’s wit and love of food is an added bonus and greatly enhances our understanding of one of the world’s greatest cuisines.”

  5. Ken Albala, author of Three World Cuisines and Noodle Soup: Recipes, Techniques, Obsession

    “Food historians rejoice: at last, a complete translation of the 18th century classic of Chinese gastronomy. The recipes range from exotic to homey and comforting and most can be cooked in an ordinary kitchen. Yuan Mei also offers sage advice on choosing ingredients, how to combine flavors and introduces techniques that will be unfamiliar in the West; in many respects he is the Brillat-Savarin of Chinese cuisine and is equally opinionated and funny.”

  6. Petits Propos Culinaires 112

    “The pearl in the oyster is the preliminary matter, where [Yuan Mei] talks of waste, show, service, right eating. When people talk of China possessing one of the big cuisines of the world, reference to this book is essential ammunition.”

  7. Nicole Mones, author of the novel The Last Chinese Chef

    The Suiyuan Shidan is a classic and two centuries later it still sparkles with Yuan’s irascible charm, his epic passion for food, and his near-religious devotion to the pleasures of the senses.”

  8. Kai-Fu Lee, AI expert, author of AI Superpowers, former president of Google China

    “Chinese cuisine is often misunderstood, mistaking one of the most delicate, beautiful, and tasty cuisines for Americanized semi-fast food. This books explains the complexities and delicacies of Chinese food. I enjoyed reading it very much, and recommend it for anyone who loves food.”

  9. Jeffrey K. Riegel, University of Sydney

    “Sean Chen’s faithful and stimulating rendering of Yuan Mei’s 18th century book of classic Chinese recipes and cooking techniques will greatly interest lovers of Chinese cuisine as well as readers of gastronomic history. If you are either or both then you should own it. Reading Yuan’s book and trying out the recipes for dishes that were prepared for him and his guests at his garden villa in old Nanjing open a door to a time and place of unsurpassed good taste and refinement in Chinese history. Thanks to Sean Chen’s translation, many more people are now able to pass through that door.” 

  10. Pamela Kyle Crossley, Collis Professor of History, Dartmouth College

    “Yuan Mei is one of those Qing cultural giants we shouldn’t be able to get enough of.  Sean Chen’s contribution here is unexpected yet indispensable, an inexhaustibly delightful excursion with a true 18th century genius.”

  11. E.N. Anderson, University of California, Riverside, author of The Food of China

    “This is a totally wonderful job.  It’s extremely accurate and thorough.”

  12. Carolyn Phillips, author of All Under Heaven

    “The Suiyuan Shidan is one of China’s greatest classical cookbooks. It is also unique in that it beguiles its readers with wit, intelligence, and brevity, much like Fernand Point’s Ma Gastronomie. Translating something as difficult as this is therefore an event worth celebrating, and kudos go out to Sean Chen for his meticulously scholarly approach. Open the cover and prepare to be enchanted.”

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