The scarcity of meat had nothing to do with the family's income—they were well-off—and everything to do with how the Chinese and most other Asian cultures assemble a meal.

Nina explains that everyone took food from the communal bowls and ate it with the rice. When your rice bowl was empty, she says, you filled it with what was left of the soup to drink as an aid to digestion. The author of 10 books on Chinese cuisine and culture, including the best-selling Asian Noodles and A Spoonful of Ginger, Nina still travels to Asia at least once a year and dreams of spending a year or two living in Shanghai.

Today, she wanders far from the cultural and urban centers in search of authentic food and customs that have not been influenced by the West. "It's sad to see how Asians have adopted some of our Western customs," she says. "On the other hand, I also see them coming full circle and readopting their own traditions for a more healthful life—things like less meat and more grains and vegetables at a meal."

But regardless of what she finds in Asian cities or small hamlets, she is always drawn to the value of the family she finds everywhere. "The richness of sharing these customs is what it's all about," she concludes.

Nina Simond's Recipes
Excerpted from O, The Oprah Magazine Cookbook. Copyright © 2008 Hearst Communications, Inc. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever books are sold and online via


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