Literature on the menu at book fair event


The Writer's Gourmet Menu, a Shanghai Book Fair project which combines reading with Chinese cuisine, was launched on Monday. Chats with seven domestic authors at the dining table will go online each day of the upcoming seven-day event.

The authors will cover topics such as history, culture, science fiction, detective stories, fashion, gourmet food and lifestyles with guests, mostly writers, experts and scholars, at seven local restaurants.

The restaurants all specialize in different styles of cooking, and include the Park Hotel on Nanjing Road W. and traditional Chinese style restaurant Lubolang in Yuyuan Garden.

The organizers — Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House and local tourism marketing service provider Destination Partner — worked with the city's culture and tourism authority to design author-themed menus and lists of selected literature and food-related books.

The restaurants will have a section for reading and "grab bags" with coupons and products will be provided at local restaurants and bookstores. Some travel routes in Shanghai relevant to literature and gourmet food will also be released.

Xu Jiong, head of the city’s press and publication administration, said the project is a key part of the book fair's exploration of how to integrate with different industries and attract more people to reading.

When talking about relationships between writer and table, said Xu, some people might think of the Havana bistro of American writer Ernest Hemingway, now a place of pilgrimage for literature lovers. Or The Elephant House cafe in Edinburgh where JK Rowling wrote some of the first Harry Potter book.

As the representative of the restaurants involved, Hua Chuan, general manager of Jin Jiang Hotel, told Shanghai Daily he thinks the culture of dining is about stories behind the dining table and in this new project, they had introduced cultural elements into dining and their cuisine. "It's not just telling a story. We have to tell good stories of our cuisine and make them more related to the culture."

Eily Liu, president of Destination Partner, said it has the Shanghai Food Festival and the press and publication administration has the Shanghai Book Fair. The two sides had worked together to see if the events could be connected. They came up with the The Writer's Gourmet Menu project.

Over the weekend, an episode of the project was filmed at Jade Mansion, a restaurant known for its Huaiyang and Chuan cuisines — cooking styles in Jiangsu and Sichuan — on the fourth floor of Pudong's IFC Mall.

Science fiction writer Chen Qiufan, known for his novel "Waste Tide," talked about what aliens would eat with two other guests, sci-fi author Wang Kanyu and Yan Feng, professor at Fudan University's Department of Chinese Language and Literature, while trying the food served by the restaurant.

"It's great to see that the book fair can graft literature onto dining to break the boundary between the arts and food. This is a nice beginning," said Chen. "This year many industries were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including catering and tourism. Now we're almost back to our normal life and this event can encourage more people to enjoy their life, cuisine and literature."

Yan said: ”I think this is a meaningful event. For me, I often write something and post pictures on my blog about gourmet food, along with some articles. Food has every tastes of human life and its own culture.

"Many writers are also gastronomes. For instance, Su Shi, a renowned poet in the Northern Song Dynasty, and Yuan Mei, poet and essayist in the Qing Dynasty. We seek gourmet food for a better life and that is also the goal of our creating literature."

Wang said she once introduced some elements of gourmet food in her books and believes this "collision" of literature and food can spark new opportunities for the two fields and their target audiences.

Wendy Ho, vice general manager of the restaurant's owner King Mang Group, said the arrival of authors and scholars had brought the restaurant a sense of literature. "It allows the audience to see different sides of their favorite authors and helps we restaurants improve ourselves as well. We will undoubtedly participate in more such projects in the future."

Source: SHINE

Editor: Cai Wenjun

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