Like most compilers of American-Chinese kitchen vademecums, Simonds (above) has a couple of helpful paragraphs on the cleaver and leaves it at that, In this massive, passionately opinionated, maniacally detailed book, Tropp looses a perfect fusillade of information and views on the noble art of cutting things up, her own progress from inept cutting efforts to ""outward harmony of movement through an inner focus on the work,"" the components of the cleaver from stem to stern, the principal types and their uses, the sort of thing to shop for (""I am in love with"" a model manufactured by Dexter), subsidiary knives, sharpening technique, and proper storage. All this (accompanied by a couple of dozen drawings) before you get to the correct technique of using the thing. Tropp's introductory material is virtually a book in itself--and then there are the recipes. Though there are only about 175 dishes to Simonds' 235-odd, they take up a far greater amount of space because of the elaborate format and the staggeringly specific and aside-filled instructions. Moreover, these recipes boldly lay claim to the techniques and materials of Chinese cookery as grist for the mill of any imaginative Western cook. The chapter on desserts is particularly daring, a genuine break with the approach of any previous American-Chinese cookbook; it includes ginger ice cream, strawberries macerated in cognac with cassia blossoms, and things dubbed ""Mendocino Lemon Tart"" and ""Yin-Yang Kiwi Banana Tart."" Though the focus of most other chapters is more traditional, Tropp is always game for spirited improvisations (chilled curried beef purÃ‰e served like pÃ¢tÃ‰ on toasted bread or crackers, coriander-accented cold chicken salad with Dijon mustard sauce, tofu cut in triangles and glazed with a brown-sugar-and-soy syrup) along with her generous selection of classics and regional specialties. A truly original culinary mind at work.