Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review: On the Noodle Road by Jen Lin-Liu

Title: On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta
Author: Jen Lin-Liu
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Library Copy
This book would be rated: PG

Cooking school owner and author Jen Lin-Liu is an American expat living in Beijing. Like many of us, she has heard that pasta had its roots in China and was brought to Rome by the explorer Marco Polo. However, Lin-Liu discovers that pasta may have, in fact, traveled to Italy along the Silk Road. So she retraces the steps of the journey from Beijing to Rome, hitting Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and other stops along the way.

I think it's hard for someone who is writing a memoir about a subject (in this case, her journey, which feels like a bit of a flimsy vehicle for a book) to know how much of her personal life to infuse into the story. I know I complain a lot about Michael Pollan, but I think he's an example of someone who gets this right. Most people who have read his books remember scenes with his wife and son, but it's the food people who take center stage. In On the Noodle Road, it felt like there was a bit too much navel-gazing-- too much about Craig, Jen's husband, the state of their relationship, where they would move next, and when they would have a child. It seemed to relegate the story of the noodles to the back seat.  

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