FROM AMAZON’S BOOK DESCRIPTION:
“Before deciding whether to trade in his green card for a 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 in 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 hopes of making his in-laws proud. Along the way he makes some friends and digs 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.”
“What is the purpose of your visit?”
(Page 296) “I have certainly seen how diverse America is both geographically and ethnically. I stared in awe at breathtaking landscapes as I crisscrossed the country from Miami to Seattle and Maine to New Mexico, and I have been fortunate to cross paths with so many of the more than one hundred and fifty ethnic groups that make up the American population.
I’ve also seen the positive impact immigration has had on every aspect of American life, from the day the first Pilgrims staggered ashore after fleeing religious persecution in Britain to the day I inherited my own menagerie of crazy but beloved Filipino in-laws. Each wave of arrivals has enriched American culture, and I have tasted how they have all seasoned the melting pot that is American cuisine.”
Let me state for the record: just because I have chosen to eat a “whole food/plant-based” diet at my doctor’s recommendation, it doesn’t mean I expect everyone else to or that I don’t still enjoy learning about all kinds of food. That’s one of the reasons I like watching food competition shows on TV, such as Chopped and Top Chef. I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of ingredients (many unique enough that I’d never find them in my local store) and how they can be prepared. It doesn’t mean I necessarily want to eat them myself, but I’m certainly not going to deprive anyone else of that pleasure. Another bonus of watching these shows is that many names in the food industry have become familiar to me. While I’m definitely not a celebrity worshiper, there are a few of these “culinary stars” that I enjoy more than others and Simon Majumdar is one of my favorites. He comes across as a down-to-earth kind of guy and I felt sure that quality would be reflected in this book.
Broken down into short, easily digestible (pun intended) chapters filled with history, humor, and mouth-watering descriptions, Fed, White, and Blue is highly readable and never dry. I thought I already knew a lot about the food of my native country, but was impressed with how much more I learned. Honest to a fault, Majumdar doesn’t tiptoe around topics that some might find uncomfortable, such as hunger/obesity in America and the treatment of animals that are mass produced for consumption.
While the whole book was quite good, my favorite two chapters dealt with topics I can relate to and have some strong opinions about. His time in Mississippi focused on several things, including farm-raised catfish and hunting. We spent several years growing catfish on our rice farms in the Arkansas Delta and he noted in the book some of the same challenges we faced. As for hunting, I’ll admit I was surprised that he mentioned the often overlooked need to “manage” animal populations. He also pointed out the satisfaction of eating something harvested from the wild as opposed to mass-producing in captivity – which leads to another chapter I especially enjoyed: his visit to Nebraska to learn about the beef industry. It’s a bit ironic for me to have any negative thoughts on the subject since we have a pasture full of beef cattle. I know it’s come a long way from the days of The Jungle (Upton Sinclair), but I still find aspects of the industry disturbing, particularly the use of antibiotics. (and not just in cattle – I’ve addressed my concerns about that before)
There was more than one occasion while reading that I questioned my decision to go plant-based.* This man knows how to describe his food and drink!
It’s got me thinking… where would I take Simon Majumdar to eat if he were to visit my neck of the woods?
* Seriously, I’m very happy with my WFPB diet and only wish I’d started it years ago.