* 2019 Mirror Weekly Book of the Year
* 2020 Taipei Book Fair Award
A young woman abandons the city and its oppressive conventions in favor of the rigors of farm living. The indefatigable Chen Yiju interweaves stories about the joy of pickling vegetables into this invigorating tale of redefining herself as a woman, a daughter, and a caretaker of people and plants.
Despite their relatively progressive politics, Taiwanese cities can feel like suffocating spaces to certain kinds of people. Chen Yiju knew from a young age that she didn’t fit the established profile of a young urban woman; her body didn’t develop like one, she didn’t like to dress like one, and her lesbian identity seemed to pose an obstacle to building a family. Even after her parents chose to recognize and respect her sexual identity, there were certain barriers they just couldn’t cross together.
Hands-on agricultural labor afforded Chen the freedom and responsibility over many kinds of life that she wanted. To grow into herself there was to become tanned, muscular, and imbued with the smells of the field – characteristics no traditional urban woman could abide. There on the farm, surrounded by the plants she cared for, Chen found space to work through the opportunities – and the frustrations – that befell her. One of the ways in which she loves to express her care and knowledge is through pickling.
As anyone who has been to Asia knows, pickling isn’t just for cucumbers! It’s an ancient method of cooking food without fire that imbues the careful attention of the pickler into every unique food, be it a tuber, or a leafy green, a fruit, or even a flower. The transformed food comes out of its jar bearing the distinct flavor of its individual creator.