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Honoring National Immigrant Heritage Month, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) cordially invites you to a virtual discussion with Michelle T. King, an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Chop Fry Watch Learn: Fu Pei-mei and the Making of Modern Chinese Food. This event will illustrate a spirited new history of Chinese food, told through the remarkable life of Fu Pei-mei, the woman who brought Chinese cooking to the world.

Beginning as a novice housewife in Taiwan in 1949, Fu transformed into a renowned cookbook author and television instructor over four decades. Inspired by her personal connections to Fu’s cookbooks, King creates rich narratives to highlight the evolution of Chinese cooking as both a continuation of tradition and a response to modern influences such as the increased female workforce, media evolution, kitchen innovations, and fluctuating diplomatic dynamics between China and Taiwan.

The conversation will be moderated by Kian Lam Kho, author of the award-winning cookbook Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking. We look forward to sharing Fu’s epic journey of becoming a global culinary icon and celebrating the enduring legacy of her cookbooks as cherished symbols of cultural heritage within the Chinese diaspora.

About Michelle T. King

Michelle T. King is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she specializes in modern Chinese gender and food history. She was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars grant for Chop Fry Watch Learn: Fu Pei-mei and the Making of Modern Chinese Food (W.W. Norton, 2024). She is also co-editor of Modern Chinese Foodways (MIT Press, forthcoming), editor of Culinary Nationalism in Asia (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), and author of Between Birth and Death: Female Infanticide in Nineteenth-Century China (Stanford University Press, 2014). Her work has appeared in Food and Foodways, Global Food History, Gastronomica, Journal of Women’s History, Social History, and other publications. She lives in Chapel Hill with her family.

About Chop Fry Watch Learn

In 1949, a young Chinese housewife arrived in Taiwan and transformed herself from a novice to a natural in the kitchen. She launched a career as a cookbook author and television cooking instructor that would last four decades. Years later, in America, flipping through her mother’s copies of Fu Pei-mei’s Chinese cookbooks, historian Michelle T. King discovered more than the recipes to meals of her childhood. She found, in Fu’s story and in her food, a vivid portal to another time, when a generation of middle-class, female home cooks navigated the tremendous postwar transformations taking place across the world.

In Chop Fry Watch Learn, King weaves together stories from her own family and contemporary oral history to present a remarkable argument for how understanding the story of Fu’s life enables us to see Chinese food as both an inheritance of tradition and a truly modern creation, influenced by the historical phenomena of the postwar era. These include a dramatic increase in the number of women working outside the home, a new proliferation of mass media, the arrival of innovative kitchen tools, and the shifting diplomatic fortunes of China and Taiwan. King reveals how and why, for audiences in Taiwan and around the world, Fu became the ultimate culinary touchstone: the figure against whom all other cooking authorities were measured.

And Fu’s legacy continues. Her cookbooks have become beloved emblems of cultural memory, passed from parent to child, wherever diasporic Chinese have landed. Informed by the voices of fans across generations, King illuminates the story of Chinese food from the inside: at home, around the family dinner table. The result is a revelatory work, a rich banquet of past and present tastes that will resonate deeply for all of us looking for our histories in the kitchen.

June 12, 2024
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
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