What She Put on the Table is a vivid description of social conflict and everyday life in 50s and 60s Taiwan, as viewed through the lens of the culinary culture of the time and capturing the warmth of the era.
Despite diplomatic setbacks, Taiwan’s economy boomed in the 50s and 60s. Living standards rose and televisions became more widespread – and well-known chef Fu Pei-Mei was the host of Fu Pei-Mei Time, television’s most popular cooking show.
This book follows Fu Pei-Mei from her start as an apprentice cook unable to even select vegetables to a teacher in her own right and famous television chef. But Fu herself is not the heart of the book – that is Lin Chun, a young maid in Fu’s home, and it is through her eyes we see Taiwanese society.
Country girl Lin Chun has, after many setbacks, arrived in Taipei, where she is taken in by the Fu family. She witnesses Fu Pei-Mei’s meteoric rise, the gap between city and village, bloody social conflict and comes into contact with the socialist ideas which were forbidden at the time. And this expands our story – it is not merely the tale of a woman who learns to cook, but also of Lin Chun’s successes and failures, and through her the culture and class structure of Taiwan.
In 2017 a new Taiwanese TV production project, Qseries, adapted Fu Pei-Mei’s autobiography into a TV series available on Netflix and a graphic novel of her story produced in cooperation with Dyna Books. Zuo Hsuan’s art is detailed and clean, taking the reader back in time and reminding us that there are heart-warming stories being told even in times of affluence.