Whew! I've been reading this travel narrative/cookbook for about a month. It was a slow read, and I was often tempted to put it down, but yet there was something endearing about the author/traveler and her insights about food, travel, love and women.
Chinese American Jen Lin Liu founded a Chinese cooking school in Beijing and met an American journalist also living in Beijing who she marries. Upon traveling with him in Rome she conceives of an idea to trace the path of the noodle from China to Rome. She strives to understand where the noodle first originated and decides that following regional cuisine while traveling the silk road would be a fascinating travel memoir.
She travels through China, Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, and finally Italy to answer this one question: did China invent the noodle that Italians have now perfected? The question, while somewhat intriguing seems (and I think proves to be) a mighty thin thread to hand a 300 plus page travel narrative.
Ms Lin-Liu does dig deep into some more interesting questions primarily about the place of women in most of the countries through which she travels. She also begins to ask difficult questions about her own marriage. She meets lots of friendly cooks and locals who introduce her to the cuisines of the region.
After struggling to get through this memoir, I started to really like this author and stuck with it to hear how her marriage ended up and read her conclusions about the noodle. I won't give it away--I hate to spoil it for others. I will say that while Central Asia seemed pretty bland food wise, she wrote food porn about the cuisines of Turkey and Italy that made me vow to travel to eat in both of those places.
In the end, some interesting observations in patches, a few recipes, an earnest author who you root for, and some good food writing probably salvaged this memoir. A must read if you plan to travel in this region.