When you think about it — or at least when I do — the tenets of fashion and cooking are strikingly similar.
Both require an understanding of basics, including proportion and technique and a willingness to experiment, to take chances. To excel at either, one must have confidence. Both are often informed by ones childhood or upbringing.
And while recipes or instructions are good, there’s often no exact right answer. You just know when it works.
So then it’s no surprise that I so thoroughly enjoyed A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food And Family, By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, a NY-based writer who has written about fashion (imagine that!) for InStyle, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
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Cheryl’s story connected with me on so many levels, and not just because she was the unofficial ringleader of the regional press corps at NY Fashion Week. When I was the Observer’s Style Editor covering fashion week for the first time, she welcomed me into the fray with open arms though we had never met.
The book resonates because I too, like many women I know, struggle with finding a seemingly impossible balance between tradition and modern feminist ideals inside the kitchen and in the workplace. And, of course, when you toss in a wicked love of designer goods (Cheryl was part of a pre-economic crash team of reporters covering luxury goods for the Wall Street Journal), you’ve got yourself a situation only the most home-y food can fix.
Though set against a backdrop of finding her Chinese-Singaporean roots through her family’s favorite dishes, Cheryl’s is a relatable story of life’s true priorities making themselves known when and how you least expect it. Say, when you’re learning how to make pineapple tarts and gambling rice with your aunties in Singapore or baking bread with your Twitter friends.
The chatty, sweet and funny tone of A Tiger in the Kitchen is only augmented by the 10 recipes for Singaporean dishes she so lovingly describes in the trade paperback. $14.99; hyperionbooks.com; cheryllulientan.com