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Andrew Mellman

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Ed Lee's book is reviewed in NYTimes

by Andrew Mellman » Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:29 am

BUTTERMILK GRAFFITI
A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine
By Edward Lee
311 pp. Artisan. $27.50

“We’re not a soup, we’re a stew,” a woman says at a Swedish-American pancake breakfast in Seattle, and you know Lee would like to kiss her for her Nordic precision. She’s describing her fellow Scandinavian descendants, but the words summarize Lee’s vision of America as a whole.

The child of Korean immigrants, Lee is fascinated by ways in which the ingredients and techniques of the world’s cuisines recombine on American shores, carried here by migrants who may try to cling to their traditions, but invariably see them transformed in the mash-up culture of their new home. Here he sets out across the country to find some of their more striking stories.

Lee’s travels take him to Lowell, Mass., where he meets Sam, who fled Cambodia in the 1970s and later reinvented himself as a chef. Sam’s menu skews to the spring rolls and noodles that Americans favor, but Lee susses out a profoundly unadapted mudfish sauce that, although it makes him gag, earns the cook’s trust. In Houston, home to the country’s largest Nigerian population, he learns to make a beef curry whose key ingredient — besides Knorr bouillon cubes — is cow skin. And in Dearborn, Mich., where he lands during Ramadan, Lee’s fasting earns him entree into culinary secrets he would otherwise be denied.

In an age in which white chefs have been chided for cooking Asian, Latin or African food, Lee’s catholic approach is refreshing. He doesn’t really believe in cultural appropriation, this Korean-American Southerner who brines his restaurant’s fried chicken in an adobo broth, and likes his instant ramen with Saltines and mayo. Lee doesn’t always succeed in integrating all the parts of his tale, especially the autobiographical vignettes. But when it comes to America’s culinary landscape, he is a master of showing how that melting pot of recipes gets turned into stew. When a cook newly arrived from Morocco insists that fermented butter can be seasoned only with thyme, Lee understands her rigidity — it’s tradition, after all — but feels none of it himself. “Maybe,” he writes, “part of being American is releasing the anchor we have to our heritage.”
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Robin Garr

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Re: Ed Lee's book is reviewed in NYTimes

by Robin Garr » Thu Aug 16, 2018 11:35 am

Sounds like a good book. Thanks for posting, Andrew.
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neal.johnson

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Re: Ed Lee's book is reviewed in NYTimes

by neal.johnson » Wed Sep 05, 2018 11:18 am

And now he is promoting Shell gas station food.
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Iggy C

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Re: Ed Lee's book is reviewed in NYTimes

by Iggy C » Wed Sep 05, 2018 11:29 am

neal.johnson wrote:And now he is promoting Shell gas station food.

Could you elaborate?
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Andrew Mellman

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Re: Ed Lee's book is reviewed in NYTimes

by Andrew Mellman » Wed Sep 05, 2018 2:48 pm

Iggy C wrote:
neal.johnson wrote:And now he is promoting Shell gas station food.

Could you elaborate?


Shell TV ads in Louisville have several (one per ad) "local" chefs mentioning the local ingredients freshly prepared and featured in the gas station food areas. One of the chefs is Ed Lee. He does not mention making any of the food, just when he gets gas (for his car) and is hungry he'll patronize somewhere with fresh local food options, namely Shell.
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Iggy C

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Re: Ed Lee's book is reviewed in NYTimes

by Iggy C » Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:26 am

Andrew Mellman wrote:
Iggy C wrote:
neal.johnson wrote:And now he is promoting Shell gas station food.

Could you elaborate?


Shell TV ads in Louisville have several (one per ad) "local" chefs mentioning the local ingredients freshly prepared and featured in the gas station food areas. One of the chefs is Ed Lee. He does not mention making any of the food, just when he gets gas (for his car) and is hungry he'll patronize somewhere with fresh local food options, namely Shell.


Huh. Weird. Thanks. I haven’t seen those ads (or been in a Shell station recently.) Could that food possibly be good?
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Re: Ed Lee's book is reviewed in NYTimes

by Carla G » Thu Sep 06, 2018 4:53 pm

It’s been a while but I’ve eaten in a couple that had good chicken gizzards.

And hearty props to Chef Lee for his attitude as well as his skills.
"She did not so much cook as assassinate food." - Storm Jameson

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