Finally, the Hakka diaspora has its own cookbook
LLA: To discover my own Hakka identity through what I know best, food. When I was a child, my grandmother, who we called Popo, always told us, "you should be proud you are Hakka." She would give us Chinese lessons, and sometimes cooks us dinners. Growing up in a small town where we were the only Chinese, we weren't interested in learning how to be more unique. We just wanted to fit in. So much of her Chinese lessons were lost on us. Decades later, her words haunted me and I decided to research the meaning of those words after I left Sunset Magazine.
SFBG: In your previous food writing career, how did it feel to have limited access to writing about the food you grew up with?
LLA: In the 1970s and '80s, we were allowed great freedom to explore. In fact, Sunset Magazine sent me on my first trip to China in 1987 to write about the food there. China had just opened up. A photographer and I spent two weeks scouting the food scene and came back with one of the first stories written about home cooking in China.
I wrote about all kinds of food. When I wrote about ethnic food I had to keep in mind that I was writing for a Western audience. So I would choose dishes and ingredients that might appeal to more mainstream tastes. As advertising and issues shrank, it was more difficult to write about ethnic foods because there were far fewer pages. Those few pages needed to appeal to the largest audience. That's the reality of publishing.
This book is my own personal journey to write what I wanted. It is not a mainstream subject, so it took me a long time to find a publisher. But I feel, it is waste of time to write a book chasing a trend, you should write about what you think is important. Then hope enough people will also be interested enough to read it.
THE HAKKA COOKBOOK READING
Wed/24 6-8pm, free
3885A Cesar Chavez, SF