“This is a splendid introduction to the cooking and history of China, filled with surprising details on the origins of many famous dishes…” — PD Smith, The Guardian
“Clements marshals his sources in a deft and approachable manner, leavening the complexities of history with folklore, and spicing up his narrative with piquant anecdotes.” — Fuchsia Dunlop, The Spectator
“…running through Clements’ account is an insistence – smartly and subtly offered, and particularly welcome in our present straits – on the role food plays in binding family and friends together.” — Christopher Harding, The Telegraph
“The Emperor’s Feast is witty and insightful, taking readers on a journey through China’s history from the comfort of the dinner table. It inverts the old maxim by convincingly demonstrating that people aren’t just what they eat, but how they eat.” — Derek Sandhaus, author of Drunk in China
“Clements’ love for China’s history and cuisine shines through in each chapter, with his evident passion making the book a consistently engaging read.” — Tom Wilmot, Asian Movie Pulse
“This book is itself a feast, each chapter a sumptuous course.” — Frederik L. Schodt, author of My Heart Sutra.
“…a novel perspective on traditional history book tropes that will engage both foodies and historians alike.” — Elouise Hobbs, Buzz Magazine
“The Emperor’s Feast is a terrific read and historian Jonathan Clements writes with erudition and humour about this vast, perplexing country.” — Constance Craig Smith, Daily Mail
“…perfect lockdown reading…” — Mark Dolan, Talk Radio
Jonathan Clements tracks the diverse history of China through its food and drink, from the sacrificial cauldrons of the Bronze Age, to the contending styles of a modern Chinatown. He outlines how changes in politics, technology and ingredients have altered “Chinese” food over the centuries, as the nation copes with new peoples, crops and climate conditions.
Clements focuses on the personalities connected to Chinese food – the drunken priest-kings of the Shang dynasty; the Tang noblewomen experimenting with tea and lychees; the stand-off between Mongols and Muslims over halal meat. Later chapters carry the impact of Chinese food out of its homeland and around the world, as migrant communities cater to local tastes and encounter new challenges. “Chinese” food is different, yet again, depending on if you eat it in small-town Canada, a Mumbai mall, or a Singapore street market.
You can hear a three-minute sample from the audio book here, read out by yours truly, and inexplicably followed by a music track by someone called Mr Bongo.