Proust got it right: Nothing so vividly conjures up the past as a meal, a scent, a texture. Cecilia Chiang, now, unbelievably, 89 years old, has drawn upon her food memories to tell a personal story, full of suspense and fascinating detail. Yes, each gripping chapter ends with a handful of doable and tempting recipes adapted from The Mandarin, her groundbreaking, elegant northern Chinese restaurant in Ghirardelli Square, but it is the narrative that grabbed me, from her aristocratic childhood in Beijing in the ’20s, to her almost accidental entry into San Francisco’s restaurant scene in 1961. Assistant Lisa Weiss magically caught her voice. I must disclose that Chiang has been a pal of mine for 25 years, but it wasn’t until I read “The Seventh Daughter” that I understood why she remains a force of nature, who in her Chanel suit and pearls, still eats and drinks everyone under the table.
“The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco” by Cecilia Chiang with Lisa Weiss, Ten Speed Press, $35
THE PERFECT MEAL
Eat an intriguing, foraged meal cooked by Chez Panisse chef Jean-Pierre Moullé and learn why and how to become a sustainable-food activist at Turning the Tables, a Food from the Park event. Michael Pollan, who created The Perfect Dinner in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” will speak.
The event is at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at 1 Fort Mason, San Francisco. Tickets are $150. Visit www.1fortmason.com/michael_pollan.html.