Review – ‘Mango & Peppercorns’: On Food, Love, Magic, and More

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‘Mango & Peppercorns: A Memoir of Food, an Unlikely Family, and the American Dream’ is written by Tung Nguyen, Katherine Manning, and Lyn Nguyen with Elisa Ung.

This book works both as a testimony and a recipe book, filled with warm emotions and incredible details about an unlikely pair of women who met after the Vietnam war and decided to open up a restaurant, raise a daughter, and learn about each other in the process, in ways you may find hard to believe but always remind me of the wonderful things refugees bring with them, when received with open arms.

It was 1975 when Tung Nguyen came to America, fleeing desperately from occupied Saigon. A brilliant cook, her parts in the book are chilling in the way they portray peasant life, and immensely hopeful in the way they explain away her personality: a woman with no formal instruction, considered of low provenance by other Vietnamese, she had two immense talents: a wonderful ability to cook and a force swelling inside that allowed her to care for her family despite having everything against her.

How did this pregnant refugee came into contact with Kathy Manning? Was it serendipity, or fate? Manning was a graduate student and waitress who was taking in displaced Vietnamese at her Miami home. In their long partnership, these two strangers eventually turned into a family and, also, opened up a famous restaurant.

With family photos dating back decades and Hy Vong’s 20 most popular recipes woven throughout, this is the perfect culinary story. The very definition of it is their signature sauce: mango & peppercorns, a mixture of both stories, of finding each other and coming to a middle ground, respecting backgrounds and making them wonderful; it is the perfect recipe of resilience, friendship, family, and food—and the good that comes from embracing our differences.

Also, Lyn Nguyen—hope is many things, but migrant children enrich America in a thousand wonderful ways, and her story reflects this perfectly.

Mango & Peppercorns is on sale since March 16, 2021.

Price: $24.95
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publish Date: March 16, 2021
Pages: 224
Type: Hardcover
EAN/UPC: 9781797202242
BISAC Categories: Regional & Ethnic – Vietnamese

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