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Travel Culinary

Apron Strings

Navigating Food anad Family in France, Italy, and China

by (author) Jan Wong

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2017
Culinary, Essays, Family
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price

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Shortlisted, 2018 Taste Canada Awards and 2018 Writers' Federation of New Brunswick Book Award for Non-Fiction
Longlisted, 2018 RBC Taylor Prize

Jan Wong knows food is better when shared, so when she set out to write a book about home cooking in France, Italy, and China, she asked her 22-year-old son, Sam, to join her. While he wasn't keen on spending excessive time with his mom, he dreamed of becoming a chef. Ultimately, it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

On their journey, Jan and Sam live and cook with locals, seeing first-hand how globalization is changing food, families, and cultures. In southeast France, they move in with a family sheltering undocumented migrants. From Bernadette, the housekeeper, they learn classic French family fare such as blanquette de veau. In a hamlet in the heart of Italy's Slow Food country, the villagers teach them without fuss or fanfare how to make authentic spaghetti alle vongole and a proper risotto with leeks. In Shanghai, they home-cook firecracker chicken and scallion pancakes with the nouveaux riches and their migrant maids, who comprise one of the biggest demographic shift in world history. Along the way, mother and son explore their sometimes-fraught relationship, uniting — and occasionally clashing — over their mutual love of cooking.

A memoir about family, an exploration of the globalization of food cultures, and a meditation on the complicated relationships between mothers and sons, Apron Strings is complex, unpredictable, and unexpectedly hilarious.

About the author

Jan Wong is the author of five non-fiction bestsellers, including Out of the Blue and Red China Blues, which was named one of Time magazine's top ten non-fiction books of 1996. (Twenty years later, the book is still in print.) She has won numerous journalism awards and is now a professor of journalism at St. Thomas University. A third-generation Canadian, Jan is the eldest daughter of a prominent Montreal restaurateur.

Jan Wong's profile page


  • Short-listed, Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick Book Award for Non-Fiction
  • Long-listed, RBC Taylor Prize
  • Winner, Taste Canada Awards

Editorial Reviews

"A fun and fiesty journey through three great culinary cultures around the world. Jan Wong's keen attention to detail and sense of humour make for a captivating read."

Jen Lin-Liu, author of <i>On the Noodle Road</i>

"Good stories, compellingly told."

Dean Tudor

"I couldn’t put it down."

<i>Fast & Fearless Cooking</i>

"Apron strings may be for foodies, but Jan Wong’s Apron Strings is for everyone."

<i>The Brunswickan</i>

"Clever, inspirational, and absolutely decadent."

<i>The Baron</i>

"Jan Wong takes us on a trip through three of the world’s greatest cuisines to learn the secrets of their foods, as well as the civilizations—past and present—that underlies what they eat. From a farm family in France coping with globalization to the stubborn traditions of central Italy and the cultural confusion of today’s China, we meet the families and people behind the dishes—and learn how to make them as well. A wonderful story about Jan’s own efforts to bond with her son, Apron Strings is what we have come to expect from Jan Wong: funny, insightful, and brutally honest."

Ian Johnson, author of <i>The Souls of China</i>

"Wong’s keen journalistic eye makes for a fascinating, fact-filled journey from farmhouses in Drôme-Provençal to upscale condos in Shanghai."

<i>The Winnipeg Free Press</i>

"Apron Strings is dense in food history, customs, traditions and all the contrasts in between from school systems, familial roles and even water consumption."

<i>Alphabet Soup</i>

"Sharp-eyed and intrepid, Jan Wong and her resourceful son Sam investigate at first-hand what happens in three cultures where people are renowned for practising and enjoying great culinary art as normal daily custom. The resulting report, spiced as it is with honesty and wit, lays out for us a rich and thought-provoking spread."

Margaret Visser, author of <i>The Rituals of Dinner</i>

"Maybe the world could use one more culinary memoir, after all. Possibly even more, if they’re all as good as this one."

<i>The Toronto Star</i>

"Irresistible in its charm."

<i>Winesworld Magazine</i>

"If you’re hungry for travel but can’t get away, this should be at the top of your 'must-read' list."


"For foodies like me, Jan’s book will be irresistible, but the fact is that anyone would love this book. Apron Strings is one of the most appealing, charming, loveable books I’ve read in years."

Stevie Cameron, author of <i>On the Take</i>

"A sharp-minded—and famously sharp-tongued—reporter drags her fully grown, chef-trained son on a homestay cooking tour of France, Italy, and China. What could possibly not go wrong? Inquisitive, caustic, delicious, and can’t-look-away entertaining, this is Jan Wong at the peak of her powers."

<i>Top Chef Canada</i>

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