In the early twentieth century, China was stigmatized as the “Land of Famine.” Meanwhile in Europe and the United States, scientists and industrialists seized upon the soybean as a miracle plant that could help build modern economies and healthy nations. Soybeans, protein-packed and domestically grown, were a common food in China, and soybean milk (doujiang) was poised for reinvention for the modern age. Scientific soybean milk became a symbol of national growth and development on Chinese terms, and its competition with cow’s milk reflected China’s relationship to global modernity and imperialism.
The Other Milk explores the curious paths that led to the notion of the deficient Chinese diet and to soybean milk as the way to guarantee food security for the masses. Jia-Chen Fu’s in-depth examination of the intertwined relationships between diet, health, and nation illuminates the multiple forces that have been essential in the formation of nutrition science in China.
Throughout the winter of 1937–1938, soybean milk fortified with calcium and vitamins came to the rescue of starving, malnourished children in Shanghai’s refugee camps. In tin bowls grasped by little fingers, soybean milk symbolized how a beleaguered China could struggle forward and protect its future. As a fortified food designed and distributed for the expressed purpose of combating malnutrition, soybean milk had traversed ontological distance from its former incarnation as a tonic for aging, ailing bodies.
- from the introduction
A creative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding how soybeans became a solution to the newly perceived nutritional deficiency of the Chinese diet during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Daniel Asen, author of Death in Beijing: Murder and Forensic Science in Republican China
A pioneering work encompassing nutrition science and nationalism in the field of modern Chinese history.
Seung-joon Lee, author of Gourmets in the Land of Famine: The Culture and Politics of Rice in Modern Canton
Today soy milk is a fixture in every supermarket and every coffee shop, yet for hundreds of years after the Chinese discovered how to make it, it remained a minor food even in its homeland. In this delightful and timely book, Jia-Chen Fu weaves together stories about the ascent of milk in the western diet, growing Chinese anxiety about their traditional food supply, the tumultuous political changes in twentieth-century China, and the incorporation of soy beans on American farms to explain this global culinary revolution. Authoritative and fascinating.
Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History
The Other Milk tells a fascinating story—how nutrition science transformed the place of soybeans in the Chinese diet from humble components of traditional cuisine to instruments of physical and social development, only to be replaced by dairy foods as markers of modernity. This book is a superb example of how cultural history, cuisine, science, and globalization intersect around one food—soybeans.
Marion Nestle, author of Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat
An outstanding contribution to food history, which exemplifies just how dynamic and vital the field has become. Soy milk will never look, or taste, the same.
Mark Swislocki, author of Culinary Nostalgia: Regional Food Culture and the Urban Experience in Shanghai