A couple of months ago I was notified that The Hakka Cookbook was the USA finalist and on the shortlist for the Chinese Cuisine category in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The award ceremony would take place in Paris. At first, I thought Paris seemed an expensive trip to go for an award I was unlikely to receive. Yet, I might never have another chance for this experience. Any excuse to visit Paris seemed good enough, win or lose.
Last weekend we sat in a ballroom packed with people, some dressed in backless gowns, Japanese kimonos, or Russian costumes. Finalists were from all over the world— Malaysia, Australia, Mexico, Ireland, China, Turkey, India, South Africa. People were just as excited as if they were at the Academy Awards. As the awards were announced, the winners came to the stage, received a large certificate (sorry, no golden statue), and a brief chance to thank their supporters.
Shock, disbelief, joy–these emotions flooded through me as I heard the host of the ceremonies announce, “We have a tie for first place for best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook in the World.” I looked at the screen on stage and my book, The Hakka Cookbook appeared alongside China’s finalist Da Dong Artistic Conception of Chinese Cuisine. I couldn’t believe it, my modest book, which took years to find a publisher was awarded Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook in the World for 2012. My husband was so shocked, he almost forgot to take photos as I walked to the stage to receive my award certificate.
The day after the awards, I compared the finalists in my category. Interestingly, the two first place winners were complete opposites. I would almost consider the book from China an art book. Big and beautiful with glossy pages of lush color photos of stylized dishes, it seemed to be made for the coffee table rather than the kitchen. Recipes were chef-oriented. The Hakka Cookbook, the only finalist without color photos, used duo tone paintings by my brother, Alan Chong Lau, to illustrate the pages. Detailed recipes for comfort food was written for home cooks. Yet the book also contained history, and stories about the Hakka, a people and cuisine rarely written about. Perhaps the judges awarded both of us for innovation in different ways, we both explored new territory in unique presentations. Whatever the reasons, winning made my trip to Paris, even sweeter.