LINGUIST List 15.1888

Tue Jun 22 2004

Media: How to Cook and Eat in Chinese

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Terry Langendoen, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese

Message 1: How to Cook and Eat in Chinese

Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 16:50:11 -0400 (EDT)
From: Terry Langendoen <>
Subject: How to Cook and Eat in Chinese

The June 13, 2004 issue of the New York Times Magazine contains an
article by Jason Epstein entitled "Chinese Characters", pp. 71-72,
extolling the virtues of the long out-of-print cookbook "How to Cook
and Eat in Chinese" by Buwei Yang Chao, the wife of the renowned
linguist Yuen Ren Chao. (They are the "characters" referred to in the
title.) It contains one and only one recipe written by YRC, for
Stirred Eggs, and it is a wonder to behold. It contains a footnote on
the problem of how to decide which is the last egg to be added to the
mixture, which reads as follows (quoted from the second revised
edition published in 1958 by Faber & Faber, London; my copy still
contains the retail price label of 12 shillings):

"Since, when two eggs collide, only one of them will break, it will be
necessary to use a seventh egg with which to break the sixth. If, as
it may very well happen, the seventh egg breaks first instead of the
sixth, an expedient will be simply to use the seventh one and put a
way the sixth. An alternate procedure is to delay your numbering
system and define that egg as the sixth egg which breaks after the
fifth egg."

He concludes the recipe with the following observation.

"To test whether the cooking has been done properly, observe the
person served. If he utters a voiced bilabial nasal consonant with a
slow falling intonation, it is good. If he utters the syllable yum in
reduplicated form, it is very good."

I thank Jim McCawley for telling me to get this book. It was one of
the best pieces of advice he ever gave me.

Terry Langendoen, LINGUIST List book review editor
 Department of Linguistics, University of Arizona
 PO Box 210028, 1100 E University Blvd, Tucson AZ 85721-0028, USA
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