Monday, February 7, 2011

Cheryl Tan, What Are You Reading?

Cheryl Tan is a New York-based writer with experience as a staff writer at the Wall Street Journal, In Style magazine and the Baltimore Sun. Her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, Every Day With Rachael Ray, Family Circle, Bloomberg Businessweek, Chicago Tribune, The (Portland) Oregonian, The (Topeka) Capital-Journal, The (Singapore) Straits Times and She is also a regular contributor to The Atlantic Food Channel. I've been following Cheryl on Twitter where she mentions her travels, her work, and where she organized the Let's Lunch group that always cooks up great things with a given theme. You can check on what Cheryl has cooked lately on her food blog as well. Last spring and also last December, Cheryl was an artist in residence at the Yaddo artists' colony, where she was working on her memoir. That memoir, A Tiger in the Kitchen, will be released tomorrow February 8, and it tells the story of how she discovered her Singaporean family by learning to cook with them. I knew I'd hear some good recommendations when I asked Cheryl, what are you reading?

I have a big stack of books I've been dipping in and out of recently--these are a few:

The Oysters of Locmariaquer by Eleanor Clark

I'm in love with this book -- it's a wonderful narrative about a little town in Brittany, France, where the famous Belon oysters are cultivated. You learn about the people, the stories, the history of these oysters -- I adore travel narratives that share the tales behind what's on your plate. Clark won the 1964 National Book Award for this work -- a great achievement for a food narrative.

Alice, Let's Eat by Calvin Trillin

Trillin is one of my absolute favorite writers -- so insightful, so funny, always spot on. I'm enjoying reading about his eating journey in America and Europe with his wife, Alice, by his side. I always come away from reading his pieces and books -- Travels With Alice is another favorite -- feeling like I've been there, sitting at that table elbow to elbow right next to them. The best travel writing does that for you.

Travels With Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America by Ken Wells

Ken Wells is one of the most engaging writers I know and his appetite for life really comes across in this book -- it's a hugely entertaining account of his journey across America, following the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana, talking to beer makers, drinkers and experts. (While drinking some beer, of course.) I'm not a huge beer drinker but I'm enjoying learning about beer culture and lore in the U.S. -- and I now want to see the World's Largest Six-Pack in Lacrosse, Wisconsin!

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

This is just an enchanting book about a detective who enters the dreams of a murdered man in order to solve a crime. The writing is lovely and filled with charming little details -- I was hooked from the moment I saw the word "umbrellist" used to describe the protagonist on the first page. I recently met Jedediah Berry at Yaddo, an artists' colony in upstate New York, where we were both working on our books. He's an unusual, fascinating guy, which made me really want to read his book -- which, just like Jed, is turning out to be a real treat so far.

The Sweet Spot: Asian-Inspired Desserts by Pichet Ong

Having just celebrated Chinese new year, I have Asian cookies and sweets on my mind. It's always around this time of year that I pull out Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot and leaf through it, looking for treats to make to celebrate the lunar new year. It's hands down the best book on Asian desserts out there -- there are some recipes for traditional favorites of mine (mango sticky rice, fried bananas) as well as modern desserts he's created. I love that he uses ingredients like Horlicks (the British malted milk drink) and kumquats that you don't often see in American desserts. My favorite recipe in there, though, is his lemongrass frozen yogurt recipe -- it's incredibly easy and makes for a refreshing end to any meal. My guests always love it when I pull that out of the freezer for dessert.

Thank you for participating, Cheryl. Check back to see who answers the question next time and what other books are recommended.

Previous WAYR posts:
Jaden Hair
Michael Ruhlman
Monica Bhide
Michael Natkin
Sara Roahen
Andrea Nguyen
David Lebovitz
Rick Bayless
Tara Austen Weaver
Mollie Katzen
Deborah Madison
Soup Peddler
Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan
Robb Walsh
Kim Severson
David Leite
Dan Lepard
Carolyn Jung
Joan Nathan
Melissa Clark
Dianne Jacob
Zoƫ Francois
Yotam Ottolenghi
Lucinda Scala Quinn
Barbara Lynch
Addie Broyles


  1. I like it when you share books. The Art of Detection sounds right up my ally!

  2. What a great sounding collection of books! I want to read them all, but especially the food/travel/history ones. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great feature, I enjoy your What are you reading post. I would love to read Alice, Let's eat!


  4. What a wonderful selections, Thanks you, I especially intrigued by Eleanor Clark's book.

  5. I have two out of that list I will check out: the Alice book and the one about Brittany

  6. Wow Lisa, great selections of books...I would love to get a hold of the sweet spot...

  7. Always enjoy these posts! They seem to come near a time of travel for me and I appreciate the foodie choices!

  8. Wow., thanks for this list, I've read a couple & some I've never heard of. Fantastic list. Thanks Lisa :)

  9. Oooh more great books to look for. We are huge Calvin Trillin fans and have all of his food books. Another great post in your series, Lisa. Thanks!

  10. What a great feature! I'm always on the hunt for new books to read and this looks like a great list. Thanks!

  11. I love "The Sweet Spot.'' My fave kabocha cheesecake recipe is in there. Yum! Can't wait to check out Cheryl's own new book, too.

  12. What great reads and I love Pichet Ong, the Manual of Detection just sounds intriguing as does the Oyster book. You've highlighted some very interesting reads. Thank you Lisa and Cheryl.


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