Friday, May 11, 2018

Fed, White, and Blue: Finding America with my Fork - Simon Majumdar

Image result for fed white and blueSummary:  Before deciding whether to trade in his green card for U.S. citizenship, Simon Majumdar knew he needed to find out what it really means to be an American.  So he set out on a journey to discover America through the thing he knows best: food.

Over the course of a year, Simon crisscrossed the United States, stopping locales such as Plymouth, Massachusetts, to learn about what the pilgrims ate; Kansas, for a Shabbat dinner; Wisconsin to make cheese: Alaska, to fish for salmon alongside a grizzly bear; and Los Angeles, to cook at a Filipino restaurant in the hope of making his in-laws proud.  Along the way he made some friends and dug in to the food cultures that make up America -- brewing beer,farming, working at a food bank,and even tailgating.

Full of heart, humor, history, and, of course, food, Fed White, and Blue is a warm, funny, and inspiring portrait of becoming an American in the twenty-first century.  (summary from book - image from amazon.com)

My Review:  I first "met" Simon Majumdar through his debut book, Eat My Globe, which details his year-long quest to travel the world and eat everything in it.  While I don't think that's technically possible, Simon gave it his best go and I really enjoyed traveling and eating (vicariously, of course) alongside him.  When I found out he'd written a second book, this time detailing his travels as he ate his way through America, I had it purchased in a flat minute.  I simply wanted to spend a little more time as his travel buddy and dinner companion.

On this culinary adventure, Simon's mission felt a little more personal, as he was recently married to an American citizen and was debating the merits of seeking citizenship himself.  His wife suggested that before making the decision, he get to know the people that make up the United States.  So, Simon set out to, in his words, "eat amazing food and meet amazing people" in an attempt to find out what it really means to be an American.  He goes to all the places you might expect, from small scale farms to feed lots, craft breweries to cheese markets, fine-dining to fast food, Shabbat celebrations to Texas tailgate, lobster trawlers to food banks, and attends a variety of competitions that range from BBQ to beer to competitive eating.  In each situations, he writes not only of the incredible food eaten and drinks consumed (I'll have to take his word on that one) but of a passionate, hard-working people, committed to their craft.  Simon's attitude about his adventures was overwhelmingly positive and it was clear that although our country has it's problems, we still have a lot to offer the world.

Unsurprisingly, a good portion of Simon's journey involves the consumption of copious amounts of ethnic foods.  America is a melting pot, after all, and our culinary culture would not be complete without a paying homage to the diverse immigrant communities that make up this nation.  He learns to make the perfect kare-kare for his Filipino in-laws, eats machuca with Honduran Garifunas, Trinidadian "buss up shut"chicharrones with Puerto Ricans, drinks Jamaican wood root tonic, consumed way too much "corn cheese" and soju some Koreans reality-stars, and scarfs mouth-watering tacos from some slightly unregulated Mexican food trucks. And the people he meets are some of the most welcoming on the trip.  In a world that is struggling with rampant xenophobia, Simon's efforts to showcase America's diverse populations and all that they bring to the American table (both literally and figuratively) was admirable and well-executed.  Indeed, it was my favorite part of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the time I spent in this book.  The chapters weren't very long, which allowed me to read what I could, when I could, without too much turmoil.  However, the ability to do so, led to a slight disconnection with Simon's story.  Had I the opportunity, I might have been able to devour it in a sitting, but instead was forced to gulp down a bite or two when I could, which didn't feel nearly as satisfying.  I would recommend this book as a good-one time read for anyone who either a) loved Eat my Globe, b) loves travel/food lit, or c) just loves food.

My Rating: 3.25 Stars.  It was a good one-time read.  I enjoyed it, but I probably won't read it again.

For the sensitive reader:  Simon is infrequently crass and frequently tipsy.

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