What is the taste of Taiwan? To answer this question, Jiao Tong (焦桐) has invested a substantial amount of work into traveling to small eateries around Taiwan, investigating the food of the common folk to write a book on the particular cuisine of Taiwan. Laughing, he comments, "I never thought it would take a decade for me to answer one question!"
In 1999, Jiao first became famous for his poetry collection "Erotic Recipes: A Complete Menu for Male Potency Enhancement (完全壯陽食譜)." Through his writing, he skillfully linked food, desire, and politics with a combination of serious and playful language.
Not only was this well received by readers, it also led to him being mistaken for a foodie, and to this day he receives invitations from restaurants to evaluate their dishes. For the sake of coming off professionally, he began to study culinary culture, and as a result of his growing interest, he ended up investing some 20-plus years into writing about Taiwanese cuisine.
With a combination of poetic style and scholarly approach, Jiao wrote a trilogy of books on Taiwanese street snacks, or xiaochi, culture ― "Taste of Taiwan (台灣味道)," "Belly of Taiwan (台灣肚皮)," and "Tongue of Taiwan (台灣舌頭)." Then, in 2015, he published "The Taste of Formosa (味道福爾摩莎)," a collection of his knowledge of Taiwanese cuisine, from rice, noodles, and congee through stews, seafood, and sauces, to fruit, cakes, and beverages.
At a length of over 300,000 Chinese characters, it is a veritable encyclopedia of xiaochi. In addition to his books, Jiao is also behind Taiwan's first magazine focused on food writing, "Cuisine (飲食)," and has published "Best Taiwanese Food Writing (飲食文選)" annual collections for a number of years.
Culinary culture is the shared memory of the times, and with a poet's delicate sensitivity toward the emotional side of life, Jiao has pursued the true meaning of what food represents to the people and the place that it holds in the nation's collective memories.