Food and Passion: an introduction and extract from The Family Chao
Posted 3rd February 2022
The Family Chao is an engrossing literary mystery that follows the family proprietors of a Chinese restaurant in a small Midwestern town. Here, author Lan Samantha Chang introduces an extract from the novel.
‘Food plays a consequential role in The Family Chao. There are two big meals in the novel: a vegetarian Buddhist’s feast and an omnivore’s holiday party. Perhaps most importantly, the Chaos are battling over the family restaurant, the Fine Chao, located in Haven, Wisconsin. I’ve been interested in mid American Chinese restaurant food ever since watching my parents, as new immigrants in the 1960s and 70s, struggle to cook with supermarket ingredients. They rationed supplies brought from Chicago, hundreds of miles away; they stir-fried iceberg lettuce; they made lists of what foods Americans did and didn’t eat. Their test kitchen became a model for the kitchen at the restaurant.’ – Lan Samantha Chang
The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang publishes on the 3rd February with Pushkin One.
Read an extract from the book below…
In the morning, Haven is buried in fourteen inches of new snow. Along the avenues crawl aging city plows, woolly mammoths making slow furrows in the glittering white. Into this sparkling, frigid tundra, James struggles alone, protected by a hood, face mask, puffy coat, gloves, and plastic bags pulled over his sneakers and taped at the ankles. After only a few blocks, his jeans are already soaked through and frozen stiffly at the knees.
Approaching the restaurant, James can hear the engine of Dagou’s small Toyota pickup with the plow attachment, rumbling from the parking lot. Snow has been pushed up so high the parking lot itself is hidden from view. Dagou, laboring within this fortress of white, can’t be seen.
James slogs around the walled lot and into the driveway. Dagou has gotten out of the Toyota and is using a big shovel to heap snow atop the high mounds. He works easily, lifting heaping shovelsful as if they’re nothing.
“Hey, Snaggle. You’re late.”
“I couldn’t get to sleep— ”
“Oh yeah?” Dagou grins, and James is struck again by his resemblance to their father. “Well, you woke up right on time, noodle-dick—I’m basically done with the snow.”