When Mandy Lee moved from New York to Beijing for her husband’s work, she was hit with a soul-killing depression, unlike anything she had felt before. Growing increasingly exasperated with China’s autocratic political climate, infuriating bureaucracy, and choking pollution, she began “an unapologetically angry food blog,” Lady and Pups, to keep herself from going mad.

Mandy blogged and filled her kitchen with warm spices and sticky sauces because it channeled her focus and helped her cope with the difficult circumstances of her new life. From this deep-rooted passion, Mandy created The Art of Escapism Cooking (William Morrow).

Laced with dark humor and elaborate flavors, this recipe-memoir is the story of how “escapism cooking”—using the kitchen as a refuge to create delicious and satisfying meals—helped Mandy evade a miserable reality. The author hopes her perspective on food, presented with humor and intimacy, will change the way people approach cooking.

“This book is written for those who share the same perverse tendency to engage in cooking as a loner spends time with his Xbox or a teenager with porn—ultimately as a delicious evasion of unpalatable realities,” she says.

“Escapism cooking. It’s not a passion; it’s a drug. I’m not selling you a lifestyle; I’m telling you how I evaded one.”

“If you need to know how to cook a chicken breast with one hand while you hold a baby in the other, sorry, I’m not about solving your problems. But I can show you how I cooked mine.”

“This book is a memoir of recipes and stories that I documented during a desperately unpleasant time of my life, the delicious aftermath of how I cooked my way out of six miserable years in Beijing, my lemons and lemonade.”

Lee, who also served as photographer for the book, divides her often-Asian-influenced recipes into categories by mood and occasion.

For example:

  • For getting out of bed: Poached Eggs with Miso-Browned Butter Hollandaise
  • For snacking: Wontons with Shrimp and Chili Coconut Oil and Herbed Yogurt
  • For slurping: Buffalo Fried Chicken Ramen
  • For sweets: Mochi with Peanut Brown Sugar and Ice Cream

Lee also demystifies unfamiliar ingredients, shares her favorite tools, and provides instructions for making essential condiments for the pantry and fridge, such as Ramen Seasoning, Fried Chile Verde Sauce, Caramelized Onion Powder Paste, and her Ultimate Chile Oil.

The Art of Escapism Cooking is available Oct. 15.


About Mandy Lee

Mandy Lee founded her award-winning “angry food blog,” LadyandPups.com, in 2012 out of sheer frustration after moving from New York City to Beijing. She and her blog have been featured in numerous publications, including Saveur, FoodandWine.com, Yahoo, Food 52 and the WashingtonPost.com. She lives in Hong Kong with her husband and pups.