ISO Esther Chen

I went to Twice Sold Tales on E. John this weekend to check out the moving sale -- right now the discount is 30 percent, which means it's a good time to look for back-catalog cookbooks. I noticed a couple of spiral-bound Chinese cookbooks that Esther Chen, who apparently started a cooking school in Seattle in 1964, self-published in 1976. I picked one up to see what passed as Chinese food in Seattle in 1976. Holy #$^#$.

I opened the Introductory Traditional Chinese Regional Cuisine to a page with a recipe for pig's feet with black vinegar, and then spent a few minutes skimming the 70-page introduction section, which describes ingredients like fish maw and ginko nuts and includes recipes that I've never seen before. The third volume in the series -- couldn't find volume two -- is devoted to southern (Canton) and eastern (Shanghai/Nanjing) foods.

The cookbooks were a fantastic find (especially for $8.50), and seem way before their time. I mean, the Cultural Revolution was just ending in 1976, and at the time I doubt that many people in China were getting to eat the dishes she was writing about. Does anyone know who Esther Chen is and if she's still around? If you took one of her courses, or if you have volume two and can help me complete the set, give me a shout.

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