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Of Chinese Cheese and Curds


Sunday January 20, 2019: 3:00pm to 5:00pm


Malletts Creek Branch: Program Room


Miranda Brown stretching ancient Chinese string cheese.
Miranda Brown stretching ancient Chinese string cheese.

Nowadays, the Chinese are famous for their food—but not for their cheeses or for their dairy products. Scholarly and popular accounts explain this through biological and cultural factors—the prevalence of lactose intolerance and xenophobia, for example. Miranda Brown, Professor of Chinese Studies, U-M Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, challenges the popular and scholarly view through a mouthwatering tour of dishes composed of curds. Dr. Brown traces the long history of curds in China, demonstrating that such foods were regarded as delicacies by the elite, and accounts for their sudden and belated disappearance from the modern Chinese diet. The talk then concludes by exploring the modern legacies of the Chinese fascination with curds.

A native of San Francisco, Miranda Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where she has taught since finishing her degree in History at UC Berkeley in 2002. She is currently writing a book on the premodern history of dairy in China, a topic that has received little scholarly or popular attention. Her article, on the history of cheese in South China, will appear this year in Gastronomica. Having been raised by a Southern Chinese mother, Brown is fascinated with all Chinese food and considers herself a serious amateur cook. 

This event is in partnership with the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor (CHAA), an organization of scholars, cooks, food writers, nutritionists, collectors, students, and others interested in the study of culinary history and gastronomy. Their mission is to promote the study of culinary history through regular programs open to members and guests, through the quarterly newsletter Repast, and through exchanges of information with other such organizations.

This event will be recorded