What is this Kickstarter for?
Jia! — a digital and print book about the food, culture, and people of Swatow, Teochew, and the Teoswa diaspora. Here's a taste: http://www.thecleaverquarterly.com/post/151653265277/tracing-the-teoswa
And here's a sneak peek at a recipe (file this one under US-Teoswa diaspora!): http://jiacookbook.com/recipes/sa-de-bolognese/
When I was 3, I lived for a year in Swatow — “Shantou” in Mandarin — before I arrived in the U.S. This summer, I returned to that city by the sea with my new husband (Rob) to visit my dad’s extended family. While I speak some Mandarin, talking to nai nai (my grandma) is difficult since she only speaks Teoswa, the local language. But I do know one word in Teoswa, which is nai nai’s favorite word: Jia!
In the Teoswa language, Jia! means Eat! And in Swatow, food is the real local dialect.
What is Swatow?
Swatow is a city of over 5 million people in eastern Guangdong province, the southern belly of China. Many ethnically Chinese residents of Southeast Asia can trace their roots to Swatow and Teochew (“Chaozhou” in Mandarin), a nearby city of almost 3 million.
The cities of Swatow and Teochew share a culture that includes deep appreciation for food, tea, and opera. Local residents often refer to their region and shared language as Teoswa 潮汕: Teo 潮 from Teochew (潮州) + Swa 汕 from Swatow (汕头). While Teochew can claim a longer history, Swatow — once just a beachside fishing village — has grown to be larger and busier.
— Hold up, why are there so many names? —
I know, I know. This is what happens when sizable cities are so close to each other, and when you mix the Mandarin and Teochew languages. Throw in Cantonese and you’ll also get Santow and Chiuchow!
I'm Swatow-American & I have a story to share!
Cool! Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!
How is Swatow cuisine different from Teochew or other regional cuisines?
In America, Teochew cuisine is often Teochew by way of Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. Even in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley — which is pretty much an annex of Asia — the most visible share of Teochew establishments are Vietnamese-Teochew noodle joints.
While I’m a big fan of slurping noodle soups at these shops, I’ve found little representation in U.S. eateries of the full breadth and depth of the sophisticated Teoswa culinary culture, meaning there are few opportunities for people here to stumble upon this particular regional style. Compared with other Chinese regional cuisines, there is a greater emphasis on delicate, clean, and light flavors — but there is plenty of funky fermentation and decadence to go around, too.
And while there are many strong opinions on food in Swatow, drinking and dining are pretty laid-back in this small city (small by Chinese standards, anyway). Tea ceremonies are woven into the daily fabric of life — conducted in living rooms and roadside stalls alike, always with the same unfussy finesse, and served with gossip and a gaiwan.
Is this just a collection of recipes from some city I’ve never heard of?
Nope! While this book will certainly spotlight Swatow ingredients and recipes, it will also provide an overview of the Teoswa region’s history and diaspora, and will include stories and interviews with the characters behind the stoves.
People from Swatow are pretty resourceful. In the middle of afternoon tea one day, my aunt whipped out a soldering iron to fix nai nai’s glitchy fan. In her words: “everybody here knows how to do this.” So in the spirit of making do with what you have, I’ll provide a combination of recipes: not only those faithfully delivered from Swatow, but also adaptations of traditional recipes for American kitchens without jet-engine burners, and some new inventions that may not be traditionally Teoswa but are pretty delicious anyway.
What’s the digital version all about?
Since we’re often in the kitchen scrolling through recipes on the computer or phone, we want to make Jia! recipes easily accessible both on paper and digitally.
The physical cookbook will have a similar look and feel to our digital recipe pages. Here's a sneak peek: http://jiacookbook.com/recipes/basil-cockles/
We’ll also share preview videos that will walk you through select recipes, before the entire book is complete. Those videos will look something like this, but accompanied by a detailed recipe:
Who are you again?
I’m the product of two dedicated home cooks and eaters. Mom — from Yunnan and Sichuan — made our nightly dinners, and loved trying new foods when we went out. Dad (what Mom calls a “Shantou’s boy”) whipped up his signature Swatow dishes for special occasions, and subjected restaurants to extremely high standards of worthiness.
I was born in China but raised mostly in New Jersey, where I focused on cooking the Western foods that were outside my parents’ repertoire. After leaving home, I realized I knew little about Chinese cooking and started asking Mom & Dad for pointers. I also turned to experts like Grace Young and Fuchsia Dunlop to fill in the gaps, and I fell in love with stir-frying, steaming, braising, and losing myself in the pages of a good cookbook.
My wok and I have been going strong for 6 years now, but that’s no match for me and my best friend, now-husband, and collaborator: Rob!
We met as Columbia undergrads, and have made it through three cross-country moves, two Boston winters, and one round of wedding planning. We’re now based in Los Angeles with our terrified terrier, Alfie (he’s a rescue).
I received a Master’s in Public Health last year, but, while studying health policy at Harvard, I found myself returning often to the dusty shelves of the Yenching Library to research the foods that my ancestors ate. It seemed about time that I get around to that dream simmering on the back burner: writing a cookbook.
Rob is a software engineer by day and writer by night. Over the last decade he’s designed and built countless websites, including this Kickstarter offshoot and parts of twitter.com — meaning he’ll be bringing a lot of expertise to the digital version of this cookbook, and to the writing. (Here’s some of his recent writing.)
Rob also happens to be a 24/7 historical fact aficionado, so with our research powers combined, we’re excited to dig into some dusty books (or PDFs), conduct primary research in the U.S. and abroad, test out and tweak recipes in a U.S. home kitchen, and document it all on digital film.
Where will my contribution go?
Rob and I are doing pretty much everything ourselves, except printing the books. We’ll research, recipe-test, interview, write, photograph, videotape, design, and edit the whole shebang. Your contribution will help fund the costs of recipe-testing, publishing (we want the book to look and feel really nice!), and traveling to collect more recipes & stories in Swatow and Southeast Asia.
Risks and challenges
We'll try our hardest to get the book in your hands (or on your phone/computer) quickly, but there's always a chance of production delays (dropping the camera in a vat of soup, printing issues, etc.). Rob and I will keep you informed if there are any hiccups along the way, and how we'll resolve them.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)