Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Yes, Chef!

My writing has been sidetracked a bit lately due to all the reading I've been doing. (ah, summer!)  Andrew gave me the new Marcus Samuelsson book for my birthday (while we ate at his restaurant Red Rooster- ta da!)

I highly recommend it to everyone who loves:
1. Ethiopia
2. Food
3. Cooking
4. Traveling
5. All of the above

Just a few pages in his memoir Samuelsson (I call him Marcus in my head, but I'm trying to be cool here.) reflects on his adoption to Sweden from Ethiopia, and the few memories he has from his early childhood in Africa.  He jokes kindly about all the adoptive mothers who come up to him to share their children's stories.


Here I am, a Marcus, I mean Chef Samuelsson stalker.  When Andrew and I went to Red Rooster for our anniversary this winter the Chef was there, and graciously agreed to my request to look at photos of our kiddos.  He sat down on the booth next to me, and taking my phone from my hands scrolled through my photo album.  He asked about them, their ages, etc.  Sigh. It was a marvelous moment (for me).

There are so few Ethiopian adoptees in America, and very, very few grown up ones. I think we adoptive moms have latched onto Samuelsson as a role model for our children, and his Swedish mother as ours. In Yes, Chef he is wonderfully affirming of his adoptive family, while honest about the complications and joys of reconnecting with his Ethiopian family.  He talks about the very different memories and experiences of his sister, who was 5 years old when they moved to Sweden.  Most movingly, he reflects on the ways in which his Ethiopian, Swedish, and international travels have combined to make him who he is now: a chef and business man with a family in Harlem.

If you live in or visit New York, I highly recommend eating at the Rooster.  (You'll need to make a reservation exactly one month in advance to get a table.)  The food is interesting and delicious, the service is warm and attentive, and you never know who might come in the door.  On our first visit we ate next to a former Governor!

Of course, Samuelsson is a chef: most of the book is about food.  Food preparation, food culture, tasting, traveling, discovering food.  If you like to cook it will make you want to go shopping at a farmer's market and pull out your big pots.  If you like to eat it will make you want to explore a new neighborhood or spice family.  I've found re-newed energy for perfecting my own doro wat.

And after you eat the doro wat or catfish at the Rooster, you might as well read the book too. It will make you hungry all over again.

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