Good Luck In The Kitchen

I write this with all sincerity: You—yes, YOU, reading this right now—and the rest of my blog readers are truly some of the Very Best People on the planet. I appreciate you all so much. Thank you for reading my posts, cooking my recipes, sending me words of support, and hanging in there with me when I neglect you because cookbook production is consuming my life ohmygoodnesswhenwillthisbookbedone?!

But I digress.

I wanted to tell you about this amazingly cool thing that showed up in my mail.

It’s a Chinese Kitchen God. Zao Jun in Chinese. Isn’t he handsome?? And doesn’t he fill you with confidence?


He was a lovely gift from one of my blog readers (Hi, Jennifer!), and he’s now sitting in his seat of honor above my stove. (According to the lore, he should be surrounded by tangerines or oranges, but I needed pears for a recipe, so that’s what he got. I think he was still pleased.)

Dating from 133 B.C., the Kitchen God is one of the most ancient household deities. He’s the protector of the well-being of the household. He guards against kitchen mishaps, enhances the nutrition of food, and ensures that everything tastes delicious.

For thousands of years, images of Zao Jun—statues like mine, wooden plaques, or pictures—have been placed above the stove or fireplace and given offerings to make up for wrongdoings and prompt good fortune. The offerings range from tangerines (to symbolize the sweetness of life), three glasses of rice wine, or whole meals of cooked meats, vegetables, fruits, and wine.

It’s believed that once a year, prior to the Lunar New Year, the Kitchen God travels to Heaven to report to the Jade Emperor on his host families’ behavior for the year. To sweeten the words that pass Zao Jun’s lips, the mouth of his statue or picture can be rubbed with honey. (Or maybe the sticky honey prevents him from opening his mouth to let bad news escape.)

All I know is that once the Kitchen God arrived and took his place of honor above the stove, I safely chopped every vegetable and avoided burns from grease spatters and hot pans. I like to think that Zao Jun looked out for me during cookbook photography and has given his blessing to the new book.

You can learn more about the story of Zao Jun from Wikipedia and Living in the Chinese Cosmos.

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