Shortlisted, 2018 Taste Canada Awards and 2018 Writers' Federation of New Brunswick Book Award for Non-Fiction
Longlisted, 2018 RBC Taylor Prize
Jan Wong knows food is better when shared, so when she set out to write a book about home cooking in France, Italy, and China, she asked her 22-year-old son, Sam, to join her. While he wasn't keen on spending excessive time with his mom, he dreamed of becoming a chef. Ultimately, it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
On their journey, Jan and Sam live and cook with locals, seeing first-hand how globalization is changing food, families, and cultures. In southeast France, they move in with a family sheltering undocumented migrants. From Bernadette, the housekeeper, they learn classic French family fare such as blanquette de veau. In a hamlet in the heart of Italy's Slow Food country, the villagers teach them without fuss or fanfare how to make authentic spaghetti alle vongole and a proper risotto with leeks. In Shanghai, they home-cook firecracker chicken and scallion pancakes with the nouveaux riches and their migrant maids, who comprise one of the biggest demographic shift in world history. Along the way, mother and son explore their sometimes-fraught relationship, uniting — and occasionally clashing — over their mutual love of cooking.
A memoir about family, an exploration of the globalization of food cultures, and a meditation on the complicated relationships between mothers and sons, Apron Strings is complex, unpredictable, and unexpectedly hilarious.
"Clever, inspirational, and absolutely decadent. "
— Jessica Raven
"With a foodie's sensibilities and a reporter's demand for detail, Jan's prose reads like a poetic collection of recipes, capturing the local ingredients, kitchen techniques, and food rules that unofficially govern different cultures. "
"Wong’s keen journalistic eye makes for a fascinating, fact-filled journey from farmhouses in Drôme-Provençal to upscale condos in Shanghai. "
— Jill Wilson
"I couldn’t put it down. "
— Ann Tudor
"Good stories, compellingly told. "
— Dean Tudor
"Maybe the world could use one more culinary memoir, after all. Possibly even more, if they’re all as good as this one. "
— Christine Sismondo
"A sharp-minded—and famously sharp-tongued—reporter drags her fully grown, chef-trained son on a homestay cooking tour of France, Italy, and China. What could possibly not go wrong? Inquisitive, caustic, delicious, and can’t-look-away entertaining, this is Jan Wong at the peak of her powers. "
— Chris Nuttall-Smith
"Jan Wong takes us on a trip through three of the world’s greatest cuisines to learn the secrets of their foods, as well as the civilizations—past and present—that underlies what they eat. From a farm family in France coping with globalization to the stubborn traditions of central Italy and the cultural confusion of today’s China, we meet the families and people behind the dishes—and learn how to make them as well. A wonderful story about Jan’s own efforts to bond with her son, Apron Strings is what we have come to expect from Jan Wong: funny, insightful, and brutally honest. "
— Ian Johnson, author of <i>The Souls of China</i>
"Apron strings may be for foodies, but Jan Wong’s Apron Strings is for everyone. "
— Uwera Nina Ntanganzwa
"A fun and fiesty journey through three great culinary cultures around the world. Jan Wong's keen attention to detail and sense of humour make for a captivating read. "
— Jen Lin-Liu, author of <i>On the Noodle Road</i>
"For foodies like me, Jan’s book will be irresistible, but the fact is that anyone would love this book. Apron Strings is one of the most appealing, charming, loveable books I’ve read in years. "
— Stevie Cameron, author of <i>On the Take</i>
"Sharp-eyed and intrepid, Jan Wong and her resourceful son Sam investigate at first-hand what happens in three cultures where people are renowned for practising and enjoying great culinary art as normal daily custom. The resulting report, spiced as it is with honesty and wit, lays out for us a rich and thought-provoking spread. "
— Margaret Visser, author of <i>The Rituals of Dinner</i>
"Irresistible in its charm. "
"If you’re hungry for travel but can’t get away, this should be at the top of your 'must-read' list. "
— Mardi Michels
"Apron Strings is dense in food history, customs, traditions and all the contrasts in between from school systems, familial roles and even water consumption. "
— Jules Torti