Canadian author travels world with son to cook and share food with locals

Jan Wong’s latest book is called Apron Strings: Navigating Food and Family in France, Italy, and China

While in Shanghai, Wong’s son Sam agreed to prepare Western meals for the wealthy families they stayed with. (Jan Wong)

For the average 22-year-old, the idea of travelling the world with their mother might not sound like the ideal trip.

Journalist and author, Jan Wong admits that, at first, it was a tough sell for her son Sam.

But eventually she talked him into it and they began a journey which would lead to her new book — Apron Strings: Navigating Food and Family in France, Italy, and China.

“Almost every child would not go with their parent, but yes I highly recommend it,” Wong said.

Wong is currently travelling around B.C. to promote the book with stops in Vancouver and Victoria.

The narrative chronicles her and son Sam’s discovery of local food and customs in the three countries. It also looks at how globalization has affected cooking practice there.

“At first I thought I’d do cooking schools, but the journalist in me went ‘that’s not so good’,” she said.

Wong wanted to see what real people cooked at home.

The book chronicles not only the food, but the families they stayed with along the way.

‘They even eat raw pork’

In southeast France, Wong and Sam spent time with a family sheltering undocumented migrants and learned to make classic French dishes such blanquette de veau — a veal ragout.

In Shanghai, they learned to make firecracker chicken and scallion pancakes with wealthy residents and their migrant maids.

While in Italy, the pair stayed in the small community of Repergo, in the region of Asti with a population of about 200 people.

“What was special about Asti was it’s the cradle of the slow food movement in Italy,” she said.

The slow food movement was founded in the late 80s to promote local food cultures and traditions as fast food restaurants began proliferating in Europe.

One of the local traditions that struck Wong was eating raw beef.

“I didn’t know this but Italians love steak tartar so they were eating it all the time. They even eat raw pork,” Wong said. “The butcher gave it to me when she heard I was writing this book.”

But Wong admits she only had a little bite.

“Everybody in Italy thinks their own food is remarkable and every region has remarkable food.”

Wong also explores her relationship with her son in the book and their mutual love of cooking.

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