by Guo Yue and Clare Farrow - £12.99 Piatkus Books (2008)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780749929343 | ISBN 10: 0749929340
"There was a saying in my childhood that you could always tell when it was six o'clock in the evening, because at that moment the entire city would begin to vibrate with the force of everybody's chopping. And in the courtyards you could always tell what your neighbours were preparing, simply by listening to the speed and rhythm of their chopping."
Music, Food and Love tells the story of the Chinese Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a musical child. Guo Yue, the youngest son of a traditional violinist, grew up in the poor and overcrowded courtyards and alleys of north-east Beijing. He had very little schooling, but an instinctive love of music, nature and cooking enabled him to find a means of self-expression at a time when freedom and individuality were suppressed by the policies of Mao Zedong.
In this charming and life-afirming memoir Gue Yue recounts his childhood before and during the Revolution. In vivid, sensual detail he evokes the colours, smells, tastes and sounds of a world that no longer exists. Whether he is describing the mounds of aubergines and tomatoes arranged like treasure on the grey earth outside the nearby grocery shop, the sensation of flying a hand-made white paper kite high above the river, or his sisters singing traditional love songs and twirling like ballet dancers as they cook for the family, his prose is unique, musical and poignant. Among the most moving passages are those written about his mother, from whom he was separated during the Revolution.
The traditional Chinese recipes in Music, Food and Love play an intimate part in its appeal, bringing the memoir to life. These dishes are based on a simple collection of ingredients - like notes on a bamboo flute - and a natural approach to taste, colour and texture.
(Price & availability last checked: April 2018)