Rebekah Jewell Art of Chinese Cooking
In China, there is an old proverb: "The masses regard sufficient food as their heaven." That is, "food" plays a very important role in our everyday lives. With the passing of time, people in general have begun to study and research "food". Each individual country has developed its unique cuisine and specialties. Chinese cuisine is still considered one of the most popular foods in the world.

Age 5My father, who worked for the Chinese postal service in the early 1920s in Beijing, was very fond of good food. My mother, a typical good wife, served my dad the best dishes to satisfy him at just about every meal. Moving to Urumqi, XinJiang, and then to Nanning, Guangxi, my family was well traveled in China before I was born. My brother and sisters often told me how affluent we were before the Communists took over China. Since my mother was a terrific cook who entertained friends and guests frequently at home, I learned to appreciate good food at a very young age.

Growing up in Taiwan, I never was really interested in cooking. Being the youngest in the family, I was quite spoiled and seldom needed in the kitchen. In 1962, after finishing college in Taipei, I went to Okinawa to visit my brother, who was working for the U.S. Government. There I met my husband, Richard Jewell, a widower with three small children. It was a "sink or swim situation" for me facing a ready-made family. The maid taught me how to cook the very basic American-style food, such as beef stew, meat loaf, spaghetti, etc. Friends and relatives assumed that, since I was Chinese, I would naturally know how to cook the foods of my homeland. I was so panicked, I was afraid to cook at all.

So, I made up my mind that I wanted to be a good cook. Once I immigrated to the United States in 1964, I realized that, even though I wasn't yet an expert, I could do a good job in the kitchen. I discovered that, if I tried very hard, I would conquer my fears. I immersed myself in several cookbooks but considered Joy of Cooking my Bible! My mother started sending me a variety of Chinese cookbooks for me to study. Since I knew what a good dish should taste like, I simply followed the recipes and experimented for many years. In 1969, my family and I moved to England, where I had more opportunities to practice cooking for friends. It was very encouraging that family and friends praised me for my cooking. It dawned on me that I really had a great interest and talent in cooking. I loved it.

In 1972, we moved back to Okinawa and lived there for two more years. I heard that a Mrs. Huang, who had taken cooking lessons from a very well known Chinese cooking instructor in Taiwan, was giving private Chinese cooking lessons. I organized a group of like-minded women, and we started studying with Mrs. Huang. My own kitchen became a classroom for almost two years. Having two years of private cooking lessons gave me the confidence that I was following all the right methods as far as cooking techniques were concerned.

When we moved back to Fairfax in 1974, I became quite an expert in Chinese cooking and entertained a lot of friends. Encouraged by them, I started teaching privately at home for several years. Then in the late 1970s I began teaching for the Fairfax County Adult Community Education program. I also taught Chinese cooking for the Northern Virginia Community College extension program for 2 years. Off and on, I have taught Chinese cooking for almost 30 years.

I am currently teaching 4 cooking schools in the Washington D.C. area: Arlington County Adult Education, Fairfax County Adult Education, Sur La Table Cooking School, and L'Academie de Cuisine.

I also give private demonstrations or hands-on classes taught in students' homes by appointment. Students select from a preset menu of dishes. 3 to 4 dishes prepared in a 3- to- 4-hour session. $75 per student charge includes tuition and food fee. Minimum 5 students. Northern Virginia only.

Rebekah Lin Jewell

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