Hearing a well-versed citizen of South Africa speak so mindfully kind about cultural appropriation and “otherness” is quite a priviledge. Lesson learnt : take the time to listen, preferably over a shared plate of food, and then unlearn.
“Born in Tainan, Taiwan, Ming-Cheau immigrated to South Africa with her family in the early ’90s, and her book is focused on sharing her insights on Taiwanese culture through celebrating recipes and stories that kept her connected to her extended family when they lived in a distant country. Just Add Rice, her recently launched (beautiful) cookbook, with food photography by Craig Fraser, is a comprehensive take on East Asian and Chinese cuisine. Ming-Cheau busts the myths typical of the cultural appropriation of Asian food and sets the record straight, then adds simple recipes, and as a result the book speaks to her migrant food journey and how important it is for families who live outside of their homelands to share and bond over food, to celebrate and reflect on it. Also, as she writes,
‘It is important to normalise our culture, our traditions of food, to stop exoticising (thus othering) our norms so we can stop being seen as foreigners in South Africa.’
Now based in Cape Town where she runs her food blog, Butterfingers, Ming-Cheau’s mindful approach in this multicultural environment is refreshing and honest. Not only does she share her familiarity with Taiwanese cuisine and family recipes, but layers that with a must-have pantry list of items for cooking, all of which are widely available in South Africa, as well as suggested substitutions if required. Also included are notes on Taiwanese etiquette and dining rituals. Steering clear of stereotypes in general, this book explores heritage and Asian cooking in a way that is original, authentic and delicious.”
This is where food brings people together again and open up conversation over a bowl of deliciousness shared.
Ming is the kind of change we want to see in the world. Utterly delightful, even without rice.
Image and additional words courtesy of House & Leisure