Monday, October 10, 2016

Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirstin Chen

I bought this book without reading the summary because at the time it was on sale for $1.99 down from $4.99. Later, when I was trying to decide which Kindle book I wanted to read next, I really took a look at the summary and my heart sank a little when I saw that it was - gasp, cringe - "women's fiction."

To my surprise, I actually really enjoyed SOY SAUCE FOR BEGINNERS. Part of that is the heroine herself. I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to relate to a Singaporean woman caught between two very different cultures. She was born in Singapore but is the heir to an old and reputable soy sauce company. She's separated from her husband, who cheated on her with a college student, and experiencing a lot of distress over what she wants to do with her life and where her loyalties and energies should lie.

Gretchen starts off very childish and petty, but over the course of the novel, she grows into herself. I really enjoyed watching her take ownership for her mistakes. I loved her relationship with her family - her mother, her father, her uncle. It was clear how much she loved them, and how much they loved her, and ordinarily relationship-driven books make me roll my eyes because they tend to be corny, but Gretchen's love for her family reminded me of the love I have for mine. I especially appreciated the emphasis on forgiveness & duty. They helped her become a better person, and vice versa.

Also, the food descriptions in this book are off-the-charts:

An avant-garde chef in Chicago had infused the soy sauce into butter. The resulting concoction was spread on bite-sized brioche, topped with tobiko caviar, and served as the AMUSE BOUCHE to his seventeen-course tasting menu (35%).

...our entire table was covered in food: an earthenware ramekin of pearly-pink prawns bathed in garlic butter; translucent, paper-thin slices of cured ham fanned out on the plate; tortilla espanola with nuggets of potato and sweet onion; candy-stripe beets studded with goat cheese and almond slivers; slow-cooked short ribs almost silky in their tenderness; thick chorizo stew (38%).

...crispy eel in sweet sauce, smoked duck two ways, hand-pulled noodles with crab roe...squirrel-shaped Mandarin fish, eight treasure rice, four happiness pork (68%).

What an unexpected gem this was.

4.5 out of 5 stars!

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