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Often called by the media, “The Julia Child of China,” author, cooking instructor and television personality Fu Pei Mei undertook a great challenge–to teach mastery of Chinese cooking technique to as many people as possible. A native of Dalien, in Northeastern China, Pei-Mei moved to Taiwan when she was nineteen years old, and there she worked at a trading company, and then appeared in television commercials promoting electric appliances. Much like Julia Child, she did not learn to cook until she was married, and like Julia, once she started learning the skills of the kitchen, Pei-Mei strove to perfect them. Her quest for perfection and her ability to teach the skills she aquired to others led to her starting a popular weekly television show in Taiwan in 1962; her show continued for thirty-nine years. During those years, she taught nearly four thousand recipes to untold numbers of viewers in Taiwan and around the world. (There are some Chinese-Americans and Taiwanese who grew up watching her show, much as many of us here grew up watching Julia Child.) In addition to the television show, in 1955, she started the oldest cooking school in Taiwan, “Pei-Mei’s Chinese Cooking Institute.” More than thirty thousand students, Chinese and foreign, attended and learned the techniques and secrets of regional Chinese cookery. She also judged Chinese cookery contests in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan as well as putting on cooking demonstrations around the world. Of course, Pei-Mei also wrote cookbooks–some of the most popular cookbooks ever written in China. Pei Mei’s Chinese Cookbook, Volumes I-III and Pei Mei's Homestyle Cooking are beautifully put together sets of recipes with full-color illustrations of each dish. The text appears in both Chinese and English, making this set of books a treasured resource for both Chinese and Chinese-American households. Her books were de rigeur for every bride, and copies, often with hand-written notes in the margins, have been passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter in both China and the United States for years. They are now all out of print and are somewhat difficult to find, but they are all worthy of attention from serious students of Chinese cookery. Pei Mei Fu died September of 2005 from cancer at the age of seventy-three. She was mourned and honored by many people all over the world who saw her as their mentor and teacher. Her daughter, Angela Cheng, and her daughter-in-law, Theresa Lin, are both great cooking teachers and authors in their own rights, and they are carrying on in Pei-Mei’s footsteps: writing books, teaching classes, appearing on television and on the radio across the world.
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