Originally from the American Midwest, I started studying Chinese in college after a summer trip to Taiwan. Armed with one year of language, and more ambition than common sense (or money), I went back the following summer and ended up living in a park. This experience really left a mark. It taught me that you can’t understand the world from inside a classroom, and that no matter how bad things look, the sun still rises in the morning.
Since then, I have gotten to see a lot of the world—as an English teacher in early ’90s Shandong, a PhD student at UCLA, and moving up the academic ladder at universities in Singapore and Australia. I am now professor in Beijing Normal University’s School of Chinese Language and Literature.
After twenty years of writing on religion, I started researching China’s food systems. This may sound Iike a big leap, but actually it’s not. Religion or food, you have to be on the ground. Before you write about it, you have to live it. For my first book on rural religion, I spent a year in a village. To understand China’s food, I have worked on an organic farm near Beijing, and visited dairy farms, trade shows, and slaughterhouses all across the country. Inspired by the great Fuschia Dunlop, I attended culinary school in Chengdu and interned in two restaurant kitchens. Check out my academia.edu page to see my published research on historical topics, as well as papers on China’s food nostalgia, food branding, Intangible Cultural Heritage, and outbound foreign direct investment.
Be on the lookout for my new book: Seven Banquets: China’s Food History from Neolithic to Now (working title), coming out next year with Reaktion Books!