Behind the Recipes in the WINNIE ZENG Series, a guest post by author Katie Zhao


As a child growing up in a Chinese American household, there were few things I loved more than eating good Chinese food. Some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories revolve around making delicious treats in the kitchen together with my grandparents whenever they had the chance to visit us from China (not often!). The food we created together was better than anything we could get at a Michelin-starred restaurant. While the recipes mentioned in the WINNIE ZENG series are reinventions of anything I might have whipped up in the kitchen during those days, the feelings they invoke in Winnie are identical to the feelings they invoked in me—feelings of love and appreciation for one’s family and culture. There are so many holidays that revolve around food; in fact, any time there’s any kind of large gathering of family and/or friends, food is almost certain to be involved. To me, food has always been magical, and it was only a matter of time before I wrote books about magical food!

In the WINNIE ZENG series, Winnie discovers her deceased grandmother’s magical cookbook and, through baking mooncakes from a recipe described within, unleashes her grandmother’s spirit. I have always believed that good food is central to a solid family unit—that food is its own language and can transcend any language barriers. Even though Winnie never had a chance to know her grandmother in life, through her shaman powers that are awakened by food, she’s given a second chance to reconnect with her long-lost grandmother as they team up to save the world, which is one of the most precious moments in the series. Winnie also has a rocky relationship with her bossy older sister Lisa, and they ultimately reconcile and come to an understanding because of Winnie’s food. There are moments in the books where Winnie connects with her mother via cooking as well. Food becomes a bridge between so many different characters in the story, just as it helped bridge any language barriers between my relatives and me so many years ago. Ultimately, it’s because Winnie is able to use food made from these recipes to connect with her family, friends, and community, that makes her such a powerful young shaman.