Nicole Mones is an acclaimed novelist whose works draw from her experiences in China, where she began a successful textile trading business in 1977. Her books, including A Cup of Light, Lost in Translation, and The Last Chinese Chef, frequently explore Chinese culture through the prism of its cuisine.
In this lecture from the 2011 Key West Literary Seminar, Mones discusses the intellectual substructure of Chinese cuisine and explores how the food and culinary customs of a country can reveal its culture and history. She reveals the thematic and narrative concerns that go into creating a Chinese meal, as well as the characteristic emphasis on guanxi, a term signifying “relationships” and “connectedness” between people, ideas, and things. Toward the end of her talk, Mones examines the traditions of Hangzhou, a lakeside city and poetry mecca whose cuisine is explicitly literary, and whose most important dishes are named after poets and poems, including a pork dish named for 11th-century poet Su Tung-p’o.
From KWLS 2011: The Hungry Muse