This Is the Chinese Cookbook You’ve Been Waiting For

I appear to have created a recurring series of food and recipe book reviews based on books I’ve found in my building’s laundry room. The Fabulous Chinese Cookbook by Harry K. Long dates back to 1965 and this particular copy has been much-used based on the dog-eared pages and splatters and spills, particularly for the “Broccoli with Beef” recipe. The previous owner appears to have been a smoker, so The Fabulous Chinese Cookbook won’t be staying in my collection as even flipping through it causes wafts of stale cigarette smell that give me a headache and make me nauseous. But I’ll endure for long enough to talk about it for a bit.

The preface about the author indicates that he was a well-respected Vancouver chef with a desire to share his recipes before he retired. It also indicates that Mr. Kam Long, who is presumably the Harry K. Long from the cover, “shares his experience in fine cooking by teaching you to prepare extraordinarily tasty and wholesome food, suitable for any diet and pocketbook.”

Maybe publishing companies are just more eager to give local chefs a book deal these days, but The Fabulous Chinese Cookbook looks very much like a self-publishing deal to me. The cirlox binding is typical of small print-run community cookbooks, a note at the back indicates that additional copies can be had by contacting Towncraft Stationers and Printers Ltd. in Vancouver, and most telling of all… there are no page numbers. Whoops.

The preface is a single-page bullet-point list that boasts “This is the Chinese Cookbook you have been waiting for!” and also “This is the most exciting and fascinating Chinese cookbook ever to be published.” I get the impression that Harry K. Long had a bit of an ego, don’t you?

Recipe sections include chicken, seafood, and sparerib dishes. Old school dishes such as chow mein, chop suey and egg foo yung all get their own sections with multiple recipes. There is no chapter for desserts or sweets and well over 50% of the recipes include MSG.

Sadly, there are no photographs (another hint that this is a low-budget, self-styled publication), but I’m almost glad of that, since I’m vaguely scared of what it might look like, given the food styling and photography of the era.

Back in 1965, this might well have been a book on the cutting edge of Chinese cuisine (probably not), but Chinese food in Canada has surely come a long way. Be thankful.