As if trying to atone for running hardcore food porn, the October Gourmet also ran a thoughtful piece on the split between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese cuisine.
Like much of the best food writing, “Made in Taiwan” goes beyond the realm of the edible and mixes it up in the outside world. It follows the acrimonius 1949 split between the mainland and Taiwan, and how paradoxically mainland cooking traditions were actually better preserved on the island, where they were insulated from the 1960s famine and Cultural Revolution.
In fact, when the Kuomingtang exiles were finally able to return to the mainland, they were shocked by what they saw. “The food had lost its identity and tasted awful,” says Feng Zhaloin, who went to Shanghai in 1993, after years of cooking Shanghaiese dishes in exile. “The Cultural Revolution broke the chain of inheritance from master to apprentice, and there was a long period of total stagnation. My food is definitely more traditional than what you get in Shanghai.”
The piece gets into the cultural politics (what defines “traditional,” anyway?) about as deeply as it gets into the politics politics, which is to say surprisingly deeply for a food piece. Many food magazine articles feel like 500 words of material padded out into 1,500 words of copy; “Made in Taiwan” feels like a book elegantly shrunk down to an excerpt.