With the days of summer reading upon us, and the 4th of July almost here, I can’t think of a better recommendation for that road trip than Fed, White and Blue: Finding America with my Fork by Simon Majumdar.
Majumdar, to anyone who follows The Food Network is famous for his roll as a judge on “Cutthroat Kitchen.” Or perhaps you’ve seen him on “Iron Chef America”, “Beat Bobby Flay” or “The Next Iron Chef.” Name a cooking show on The Food Network and it seems Majumdar is on it.
I’ve never seen any of those shows, but I have met Majumdar and read his book. The title caught my interest first when I received a press release in my inbox about the book and saw that there was to be an appearance by Majumdar in Mansfield, Ohio. “I’ll go to Mansfield,” I replied and was sent a comp copy of the book.
Please, please, please, I thought when it arrived in the mail, let me like it. I more than liked it, I loved it.
Fed, White and Blue: Finding America with my Fork is about Majumdar’s journey traversing the United States on a quest to discover its food and the people and places that make regional and specialty cuisine so special. But that’s not all it’s about. It’s about his decision to become an American citizen.
See, Majumdar grew up British and moved to the U.S. in 2010 to live with the love of his life, his now wife, Sybil. Sybil, an American, and Majumdar met during a brief visit in Brazil. Living in the U.S. became a logical choice. Becoming an American, as Majumdar tells it, was a matter of the heart–and the stomach, in a way.
The story that Majumdar tells in his book begins at the airport when a customs official asked him what was his purpose for coming to the U.S. and chased that comment with an inquiry about Majumdar’s plan to become a citizen. That comment was the seed for the plan, and in essence, the start of this book.
In order to decide whether to become an American citizen, at Sybil’s prompting, Majumdar started traveling from coast to coast, from state to state, eating and talking along the way and falling in love with what he found at each stop. The result is a scrumptious mix of travelogue, history, food loving, people loving, and a sense of place.
As I read the book, I felt like I was on Majumdar’s journey as well, taking in everything from steak houses, to lobster fishing to ethnic eats along the way–also remembering places I’ve traveled myself. Oh, to once again smell Hatch green chile roasting in New Mexico in the fall. Sublime. Turn the pages and you’ll find the history of America’s food woven throughout the stories about the people who make it and the best places to eat it.
For example, in a search for a 4th of July experience, Majumdar headed to Nisswa, Minnesota to Shaeffer’s Foods for Mary Etta Durham’s famous pies. Of course, for the 4th of July apple pie was a choice. “I soon found myself brushing the crumby remnants of the first slice from my sweater and reaching for another,” writes Mujamdar. One slice was followed by several more of various flavors.
I wished I could reach into the page for a slice myself. Was there rhubarb pie? How I love rhubarb.
In person, Majumdar is as engaging as he is on a page. I heard him talk at Ed Pickens Cafe on Main in Mansfield where in between demonstrating how to cook a few specialty dishes for the audience to sample, he talked about the book and how he got to where he is as a celebrity food critic. Throughout the talk, Majumdar was funny, charming, humble, and as interested in the audience as the audience was in him. After the talk, he signed books and was happy to chat for as long as anyone had a question or a comment.
Majumdar’s currently on a do-it-yourself book tour of sorts with Sybil acting as manager, photographer and time keeper. They are driving a van and staying with people who are helping hook them up with speaking gigs along the way. How American, and un-celebrity like is that?
Fed, White and Blue: Finding America with My Fork is published by Hudson Street Press.
There are several speaking engagements remaining this year and others in the works. Click here for the events link.
Oh, and Simon and Sybil, don’t forget my traveler’s food tip if you’re ever back in northern Ohio: Grandpa’s Cheese Barn in Ashland.
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein