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mcohen

Barbara Tropp

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Since tommorow will be the tenth anniversary of Barbara Tropp's death, I thought we should honor her by starting a thread so we can talk about her life and her accomplishments.

For those who've never heard of her, it might seem strange that we're talking about a Jewish woman with regards to Chinese cooking. But, oftentimes, it takes an outsider to break the surly bonds of complacity and conventional thinking.

Albert Einstein, Sigmeund Freud, Betty Friedan, Ralph Lauren were all outsiders who ended up gaining a deeper understanding because of their outsiderness and thus revolutionizing their respective fields. (Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz to lower middle-class Jewish imigrants but ended up revolutinizing WASP clothing.)

For those who've never heard of her, if you love Julia Child, then you will love Barbara Tropp who wrote the best, most authorative book on Chinese cooking, be it in Chinese or English. Because Tropp was an outsider, she studied it more thoroughly and more deeply than

those who grew up with Chinese cooking but never questioned why they cooked it that way. Instead of just cooking Chinese food because that's how your parents cooked it, Tropp wanted to understand why we cooked Chinese food like that and then taught us why and how in her masterpiece cookbook.

For those who've never heard of her, if you love Alice Waters, then you'll love Tropp because Tropp did to Chinese cooking what Alice Waters did to American cooking- she brought local and seasonal ingredients into the Chinese kitchen.

For those who've never heard of her, if you love Mission Chinese food, then you would have loved Tropp's restaurant, China Moon. When she didn't find any great Chinese food in SF, she founded China Moon to fill that void.

http://articles.sfgate.com/1999-01-20/food/17677557_1_barbara-tropp-chinese-cooking-china-moon/4

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Barbara Tropp's book "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking" truly is the Chinese version of Mastering the Art of French Cooking books by Julia and company.

There are many critics of the China Moon book but I remain a fan. She got me to pickle my own ginger, make some flavored oils, attempt those sesame topped buns, pickle spicy carrots, and really just play with my California bounty within a Chinese frame of mind. My book is in storage so this is all from memory. The very first ice cream I made with a super cheap ice cream maker was her lemon one - it set the bar for our friends for the last 20+ years!

I was in San Francisco when the restaurant was still going and was only able to walk past and gaze in as I was baby sitting very young kids. Kicking myself in the butt still for not giving it a shot.

She has a passage in the book where Jacques Pepin is in the kitchen and they are making stock and drinking champagne - priceless

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I went to camp with Barbara Tropp! She was a couple of years older, and not in my bunk, but I remember her being singularly generous. And I did go to her restaurant once, probably shortly after it opened. I had eaten plenty of Chinese food in SF, having lived on the North Beach Chinatown border during the seventies, but I remember how new and different her food was. Looking back (approx 25 yrs ago!) I admit most of the meal is blurry. We sat at the counter. One dish is very sharp in my mind: a noodle pillow; big and crunchy and unique.

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I will love this thread, time to haul out the book and get cooking. A friend gave me some buns made from China Moon. I never knew "people like us" could make that taste. Bought book next day, made Orange Oil. Time to return to it.

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Thank you for starting this thread. I discovered Barbara Tropp through the China Moon cookbook first, and I've never understood the criticisms of it - it remains my favorite Asian cookbook. So sad to realize she's been gone for 10 years.


"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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And I did go to her restaurant once, probably shortly after it opened. I had eaten plenty of Chinese food in SF, having lived on the North Beach Chinatown border during the seventies, but I remember how new and different her food was. Looking back (approx 25 yrs ago!) I admit most of the meal is blurry. We sat at the counter. One dish is very sharp in my mind: a noodle pillow; big and crunchy and unique.

Katie - I probably ate there around the same time frame and have a similar memory. I don't even remember the noodle pillow, but I do remember how clean and bold her flavors were. It also made me realize how good Chinese food could be in a restaurant that used fine ingredients and cooked with precision.

My first edition China Moon Cookbook still brings me pleasure to read and maintains its prominent position on my bookshelf.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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She had an amazing passion for chinese cooking, and although it was unconventional to be who she was, her enthusiasm made it work. She definitely followed her own drummer

that said, some of her recipes were daunting and complicated, for me anyway

but her szechuan chili peanut sauce is amazing


Edited by bloosquirrel (log)

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I went to the China Moon cafe when I was working in San Francisco around 20 years ago. Barbara was at the front desk and seated me. I recall having salad with ginger vinaigrette and a sandpot dish. My daughter also remembers going there with me another time. Oddly enough, I had just got out my China Moon cookbook, signed by Barbara, to resurrect some of the delicious dishes, when I saw the post.

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