Liu Shufu, founder of Taste of Taichung Cultural Writing Team and one of the authors of Tastes of Taichung
How do you discover a city’s character? How can you experience a city’s spirit?
Well, you start from ordinary foods, the dishes eaten by city residents on a typical day. Foods and beverages not only reflect a city’s character, history, and cultural heritage, but also reveal its creative development. Writing calls back rich individual memories, family histories, even a city’s background and collective experience – the intellectual and emotional connotations that lie between the lines are the secret to readers’ relish in food writing.
Tastes of Taichung (2014) is the first collection of writings on Taichung cultural life with food as a central theme. Another writer friend and I research “food and literature,” a window through which we ponder the environment and experience life. Hence, the two of us decided to make the city the subject of a culinary field study. Armed with the spirit of cultural research and explorers’ keen curiosity, we set out to excavate time’s tracks – ancient and modern – buried within food, and to discover the aura of delicious flavors.
From the old city of Taichung, with its distinctive farm-village flavors, to the provincial government era’s sumptuous banquets and receptions; from the coffee houses that sell Taiwanese-style bento boxes, to the coffee gardens that feature Western-style architecture and Mediterranean cuisine; from the cafés that specialize in hybrid East-West cooking, and an assortment of tea and coffee drinks, to well-known eateries that creatively combine local tastes with flavors from abroad; from Fengjia night-market’s off-the-wall offerings to opulent “five-senses restaurants,” created and operated by dining conglomerates … 1 With food as its theme, Tastes of Taichung attempts to trace the development of the city’s culinary life, presenting the beauty of Taichung’s foods in distinctly stylish prose. Moreover, the book also smuggles in writers’ opinions and interests, highlighting the city’s humanistic landscape.
Tastes of Taichung is not a travel book or a restaurant guide. I believe that good food writing should touch on the cultural and affective aspects of eating, using writers’ erudition and enthusiasm to stimulate readers’ imaginations, sparking wonder and interest in the foods we consume. Good food writing should also embody a philosophy of living and reflections on cultural phenomena, the palate a portal to the examined life, the text a reflection of the writer’s cultivation and taste. Thus, living is no longer taken for granted and food is no longer just food, but is, moreover, a subject worthy of appreciation and understanding. Tastes of Taichung is the creation of these beliefs. The book offers a fascinating look at the role food has played in the Taichung region, reflecting both the city’s magnificence and the cultural history of its ordinary citizens.
1Eating establishments that purport to stimulate patrons’ five senses by offering fine foods (taste, smell), enchanting music (hearing), tasteful décor (sight), and well-appointed dining facilities (touch).
|Related Literary Themes：||Food in Literature|