Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai may be a small book – but it’s a really great adventure. Nina Mingya Powles, a New Zealander with Chinese and Malaysian roots, in the background describes her experiences from the years spent between different countries, cultures and languages, and in the foreground – a year of student exhange in Shanghai and the flavors she discovered.
The topic may seem prosaic, but Powles writes about her everyday experiences in a light style, sometimes with a hint of nostalgia. The anecdotes she recalls easily transport you to a villa on the mountainsides that smell of a tropical forest, to a small stand with cheap meals for students, to a cramped kitchen where her aunt teaches her to prepare traditional dishes for the Dragon Boat Festival. Every bowl of noiodles, every plate of dumplings, every sweet roll, every piece of fruit help her define herself.
Between the descriptions of the flavours and adventures she shared with family, friends and strangers during those several months, there is also a melancholy reflection on belonging and trying to find one’s place in today’s complicated world. In China, Powles misses home and eats yogurt with imported granola, in New Zealand, she dreams of the taste of Malaysian banana pancakes… But every bite is also a beautiful memory, which Powles meticulously catalogs and shares in her essays.