Book Review: A Taste of Taiwan 台灣滋味

A while back, on an evening stroll which lead to Eslite bookstore 成品書店, I noticed A Taste of Taiwan (amazon)on the shelf. I flipped through a few pages, it looked interesting, so I jotted it down on my list of books to check out later on. At last, I recently got my hands on a copy of it to review in more details.

A Taste of Taiwan is published by the bilingual magazine Taiwan Panorama which used to be sponsored by the now-defunct Government Information Office (GIO) and has since been absorbed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Just like the magazine, the book features articles in Chinese and its corresponding English translation. The books is split in three main sections, Culinary Culture, Local Flavors and Gourmet Gifts, providing a pretty broad presentation of the Taiwanese food landscape.

The Local Flavors part is a bit disappointing since it is more a showcase of some famous night markets, and not a presentation of regional specialities as could be expected from the title of the chapter. The ever increasing popularity of European style bread and consumption of coffee get some generous coverage, as well as the wine and liquor making culture on the island. For bits of local flavors, you’ll have to peak into the Gourmet Gifts section.

If you happen to have a feeling of déjà vu when reading the book, then I suspect that you are already subscribed to Taiwan Panorama, the book echoes many of the magazine’s articles, or that you’ve spend some time perusing the Taiwan Food Culture website originally  initiated by the GIO, the same governmental organization who used to be behind Taiwan Panorama .

The verbiage of the book is politically correct, sometimes a bit too over that you can expect some kind of government involvement in the making of the book. Comments praising the benefits of joining the WTO, particularly turned on the red signals for me. But well, isn’t some degree of soft propaganda expected from any governmental publications?

All in all, this is a book worth perusing through to get an idea of what the government wants to project to the outside world, but you can also get the gist of it by simply surfing the Taiwan Food Culture website. For Chinese learners, it can make for a good learning material with the convenient layout of Chinese and English articles, side by side.

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