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Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 19:30

Deconstructing Chinese Cuisine

Ambassador Endymion Wilkinson

European Commission Delegation

New Zealand Embassy

Ritan 1 Dong Er Jie

When we go to a Chinese restaurant today, we assume that the dishes are prepared according to age-old recipes which have been handed down for centuries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of what we think of as typical Chinese food (ingredients and implements) are relatively recent. Take Sichuan cuisine. It was only "invented" in the late 19th century and became nationally famous during the Republic. The ubiquitous wok used for stir-frying is a 20th century "convenience". Chopsticks, too, are not as old as many seem to think and the concept of the whole family eating together from shared dishes at the center of a large round table is a modern one.

The lecturer traces some of the major changes in Chinese cuisine over the centuries and in so doing, explains the factors which have made it one of the worlds greatest. Finally, he argues that in the sense that Chinese cuisine has always been in the process of change, it can stand as a metaphor for Chinese culture as a whole.

BIS is privileged to have Ambassador Endymion Wilkinson, head of the European Commission Delegation in China, who is also a well known and highly regarded scholar and author on China, present this lecture. It promises to be both scholarly and fun and is definitely not to be missed!