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Michelle T. King Author Talk • Chop Fry Watch Learn: Fu Pei-mei and the Making of Modern Chinese Food

Tuesday June 25th at 6:30 pm

A note about our in-store events:

We offer first come, first served seating in our shop. There will be overflow room outside if needed and the author will be mic'd. Everyone is welcome to attend.

You can pre-order a copy below for pick-up at the event or purchase copies on-site.


Michelle T. King is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she specializes in modern Chinese gender and food history. A 2020–21 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar, she lives in Chapel Hill with her family.

Carolyn Phillips —Twice a semifinalist for the James Beard Awards, Carolyn is the author and illustrator of three books. Her prose, articles, illustrations, and recipes have appeared in many major publications, and The Atlantic included one of her essays in its “More Than 100 Exceptional Works of Journalism.” Carolyn's detailed and often magical illustrations have appeared in books, magazines, museums, galleries, Papyrus greeting cards, and Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninja series. She even designed the Chinatown scenes for the third Ghostbusters movie, directed by Paul Feig. 

Chop Fry Watch Learn — A spirited new history of Chinese food told through an account of the remarkable life of Fu Pei-mei, the woman who brought Chinese cooking to the world.

In 1949, a young Chinese housewife arrived in Taiwan and transformed herself from a novice to a natural in the kitchen. She launched a career as a cookbook author and television cooking instructor that would last four decades. Years later, in America, flipping through her mother’s copies of Fu Pei-mei’s Chinese cookbooks, historian Michelle T. King discovered more than the recipes to meals of her childhood. She found, in Fu’s story and in her food, a vivid portal to another time, when a generation of middle-class, female home cooks navigated the tremendous postwar transformations taking place across the world.

In Chop Fry Watch Learn, King weaves together stories from her own family and contemporary oral history to present a remarkable argument for how understanding the story of Fu’s life enables us to see Chinese food as both an inheritance of tradition and a truly modern creation, influenced by the historical phenomena of the postwar era. These include a dramatic increase in the number of women working outside the home, a new proliferation of mass media, the arrival of innovative kitchen tools, and the shifting diplomatic fortunes of China and Taiwan. King reveals how and why, for audiences in Taiwan and around the world, Fu became the ultimate culinary touchstone: the figure against whom all other cooking authorities were measured.

And Fu’s legacy continues. Her cookbooks have become beloved emblems of cultural memory, passed from parent to child, wherever diasporic Chinese have landed. Informed by the voices of fans across generations, King illuminates the story of Chinese food from the inside: at home, around the family dinner table. The result is a revelatory work, a rich banquet of past and present tastes that will resonate deeply for all of us looking for our histories in the kitchen.