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Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America

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Who’s really behind America’s appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography from an electric new voice in food writing honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left an indelible mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexic Who’s really behind America’s appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography from an electric new voice in food writing honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left an indelible mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexican-born Elena Zelayeta, a blind chef; Marcella Hazan, the deity of Italian cuisine; and Norma Shirley, a champion of Jamaican dishes. In imaginative, lively prose, Mayukh Sen—a queer, brown child of immigrants—reconstructs the lives of these women in vivid and empathetic detail, daring to ask why some were famous in their own time, but not in ours, and why others shine brightly even today. Weaving together histories of food, immigration, and gender, Taste Makers will challenge the way readers look at what’s on their plate—and the women whose labor, overlooked for so long, makes those meals possible.


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Who’s really behind America’s appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography from an electric new voice in food writing honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left an indelible mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexic Who’s really behind America’s appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography from an electric new voice in food writing honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left an indelible mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexican-born Elena Zelayeta, a blind chef; Marcella Hazan, the deity of Italian cuisine; and Norma Shirley, a champion of Jamaican dishes. In imaginative, lively prose, Mayukh Sen—a queer, brown child of immigrants—reconstructs the lives of these women in vivid and empathetic detail, daring to ask why some were famous in their own time, but not in ours, and why others shine brightly even today. Weaving together histories of food, immigration, and gender, Taste Makers will challenge the way readers look at what’s on their plate—and the women whose labor, overlooked for so long, makes those meals possible.

30 review for Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I was intrigued by this book from the title alone, but when the opening pages not only drove home the focus on marginalized voices but also set out to interrogate the role of capitalism in erasing them, I was sold. It offers a deeply personal introduction that not only sets out the author's intentions with the book but also explains his role, decisions, and lens in approaching the topic. It's a book about collective food knowledge and the amazing accomplishments of seven immigrant women, in part I was intrigued by this book from the title alone, but when the opening pages not only drove home the focus on marginalized voices but also set out to interrogate the role of capitalism in erasing them, I was sold. It offers a deeply personal introduction that not only sets out the author's intentions with the book but also explains his role, decisions, and lens in approaching the topic. It's a book about collective food knowledge and the amazing accomplishments of seven immigrant women, in particular. In the book's collected essays, readers are invited to see the women's journeys as chefs alongside their experiences as immigrants in the United States. It touches on the way each fought against white American views of their home countries' cuisines, the struggles to find success in a food culture that doesn't welcome them or only does with a patronizing tone, and the way identity, artistry, and commercial pressures influenced their careers. It's a fascinating read centering impressive women. The author decided to only rarely use direct quotes or sources in the narrative itself to leave the reader's focus on the chefs themselves. While I respect that purpose, the anthropologist in me would have enjoyed more context to the information to allow interrogation of the different viewpoints that filter the information provided. Also, he chose to focus on food-related events in the subjects' lives to keep the narrative focused on their careers. I think more personal details (where available) would have added color and context to each accomplishment and given a clearer view of each woman's personality and lived-in experiences. Finally, I appreciated the analysis offered in the introduction but didn't always see it carried through the essays themselves. For example, I couldn't help but notice how many of the women discovered a love for cooking first in the necessity of cooking for a husband early in marriage. The tension there is intriguing and meaningful, and I think with the book's stated anti-capitalist stance, there was an opportunity there to examine how this unpaid women's labor translated into financial success later on and a powerful form of self-expression and joy. This is a carefully researched but concise read about some amazing women and larger trends in food in America that span their different stories. I found it informative and powerful.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Mayukh Sen's Tastemakers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America is a must read for anyone who enjoys, collects, or reads American cookbooks. Sen’s volume has chapters on Chao Yang Buwei, Elena Zeleyeta, Madeleine Kamman, Marcella Hazan, Julie Sahni, Najmieh Batmanglij, and Norma Shirley, with an “interlude” on Julia Child. These women were various combinations of cookbook authors, restauranteurs, and restaurant chefs. All were pioneers in bringing the cuisine of their home co Mayukh Sen's Tastemakers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America is a must read for anyone who enjoys, collects, or reads American cookbooks. Sen’s volume has chapters on Chao Yang Buwei, Elena Zeleyeta, Madeleine Kamman, Marcella Hazan, Julie Sahni, Najmieh Batmanglij, and Norma Shirley, with an “interlude” on Julia Child. These women were various combinations of cookbook authors, restauranteurs, and restaurant chefs. All were pioneers in bringing the cuisine of their home countries before Americans, despite almost overwhelming challenges for many of them. The food and publishing establishments did not ease their ways. Tastemakers will be especially enjoyable to readers familiar with any of the women profiled. Since I own and have cooked from cookbooks by Kamman, Hazan, Sahni, and Child, those chapters were standouts for me. Don’t read this book looking for recipes: very much to Sen’s credit, there’s not a recipe here. A unique book, well structured and well written.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    More of a 3.5. I think I saw this book being reviewed by one of the booktubers or bloggers I follow and immediately decided to try it out. I’ve been an immigrant for almost a decade but I’m not fond of cooking, and as such love looking for places I can find delicious Indian food in America. So, I found the premise of this book very fascinating. And I have to agree, these seven women the author talks about are phenomenal. Some of them were probably the right people at the right time to introduce More of a 3.5. I think I saw this book being reviewed by one of the booktubers or bloggers I follow and immediately decided to try it out. I’ve been an immigrant for almost a decade but I’m not fond of cooking, and as such love looking for places I can find delicious Indian food in America. So, I found the premise of this book very fascinating. And I have to agree, these seven women the author talks about are phenomenal. Some of them were probably the right people at the right time to introduce and popularize their country’s cuisine to the American audience, but others battled hardships in life and prejudices in the minds of people to establish themselves and their cooking. They are very inspirational as well as aspirational, and it saddened me that I knew of none of them except Julia Child before picking up this book. I was especially in awe of Najmieh Batmanglij who used her cooking as a way to reach the Iranian diaspora, and especially those in exile like her, never shying away from making political points through her cooking and trying to keep the Iranian spirit from before the revolution alive. However, I did feel like we got to know these women on a very surface level. I can understand now that the author didn’t have many sources to refer to for a couple of them, but maybe we could have gotten to know more about the others, particularly Julie and Najmieh to whom the author did have access to. I guess I just have to read the autobiographies some of these amazing taste makers have written though it seems that most of them are out of print. But it’s important to remember and the many others who have carved a place for themselves in the culinary world despite not being white and privileged and not being the darlings of the establishment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Pooja Mathur

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I liked the book in general. It read a little more like a textbook. I was hoping to read more narrative/opinion on the state of the world, capitalism, etc. and it's impact on these chefs. But outside of a brief comment here or there, it was more of a summary of the careers of these chefs. Still interesting though, to hear about their careers and how these chefs navigated the world. I liked the book in general. It read a little more like a textbook. I was hoping to read more narrative/opinion on the state of the world, capitalism, etc. and it's impact on these chefs. But outside of a brief comment here or there, it was more of a summary of the careers of these chefs. Still interesting though, to hear about their careers and how these chefs navigated the world.

  5. 5 out of 5

    T

    3.5 stars rounded up to 4. My biggest point of contention is this book was too short! The profiles on each of these amazing ladies felt too brief. During the chapter on Chao Yang Buwei alone, I found myself googling all sorts of things. Obviously, it isn’t meant to be an exhaustive tome, yet alone one so centered around history. However, food and history directly impact one another and context is key. tl;dr immigrants - especially immigrant women - get the job done.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Miller

    This book was a pleasure to read and incredibly informative- I keep finding myself mentioning fun bits of information and stories from it to my friends. I love food but don't always find myself engrossed by historical biographies. This was an anomaly, however, and I couldn't help but read it throughout the day at any chance I got. Feels like it'll be one of those books I'll have to keep buying copies of because I want to lend my own to everyone I know so they can read it too. This book was a pleasure to read and incredibly informative- I keep finding myself mentioning fun bits of information and stories from it to my friends. I love food but don't always find myself engrossed by historical biographies. This was an anomaly, however, and I couldn't help but read it throughout the day at any chance I got. Feels like it'll be one of those books I'll have to keep buying copies of because I want to lend my own to everyone I know so they can read it too.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Law

    I felt like this book needed to give me more. Just as soon as I was getting really into one story of these incredible women, it was over. I needed more emotional connection, not just facts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America was a gripping read that managed to be both expansive in scope yet intimate. Sen does an incredible job placing the reader inside the lives of the seven women. I really liked the use of Julia Child as a means of viewing how a chef's relationship with the food establishment and food media shaped the trajectory of her career. Each profile left me with a lot to think about in terms of who gets a big platform in the food space an Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America was a gripping read that managed to be both expansive in scope yet intimate. Sen does an incredible job placing the reader inside the lives of the seven women. I really liked the use of Julia Child as a means of viewing how a chef's relationship with the food establishment and food media shaped the trajectory of her career. Each profile left me with a lot to think about in terms of who gets a big platform in the food space and why. Taste Makers was really informative and deeply engrossing. I absolutely recommend it to lovers of food and history.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is an interesting book I heard about on a Book Riot podcast about seven women who were immigrants to the United States and changed the way we think about food and cooking--however, in most cases, most Americans have never heard of them. The author states at the outset the intent to profile female chefs who in most cases had stories marginailzed by their status as immigrants and as women. The short biographies cover women from China, Mexico, France, Italy, Iran, and Jamaica, coveering their This is an interesting book I heard about on a Book Riot podcast about seven women who were immigrants to the United States and changed the way we think about food and cooking--however, in most cases, most Americans have never heard of them. The author states at the outset the intent to profile female chefs who in most cases had stories marginailzed by their status as immigrants and as women. The short biographies cover women from China, Mexico, France, Italy, Iran, and Jamaica, coveering their struggles and triumphs. the book is short and could have been longer--I think more details on the personal lives of each of the chefs would have been useful. Still I learned a lot about women chefs and the development of food culture in the US I did not know about previously.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Frances Scott

    An interesting idea, unevenly written. Some chapters were riveting, others quite dry. The case the author makes that these women "revolutionized food in America" is not all that strong, except for maybe Marcella Hazan. An interesting idea, unevenly written. Some chapters were riveting, others quite dry. The case the author makes that these women "revolutionized food in America" is not all that strong, except for maybe Marcella Hazan.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carly Thompson

    Short biographical essays about 20th century immigrant women who introduced the food of their homelands to American audiences, primarily through cookbooks but also through restaurants, cooking schools and food media. Informative and it made me want to look up some of the women's original cookbooks. Short biographical essays about 20th century immigrant women who introduced the food of their homelands to American audiences, primarily through cookbooks but also through restaurants, cooking schools and food media. Informative and it made me want to look up some of the women's original cookbooks.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Charu

    I wonder if this book could have benefited from a different editor as I was a bit disappointed by the writing, which seemed to lack rhythm. The biographies were fascinating, though.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Raluca

    I loved the stories, especially the integration of personal stories and discussion of social and historical context, and I wanted more. Is there a second volume coming up, please?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    *This book was received as an Advanced Reader's Copy from NetGalley. For every Julia Child, there is a woman who's name has been overshadowed in history, despite numerous contributions to cooking and the steadfast dedication to their culture's cuisine. Some, like the lucky seven in this book, get to have a little light shown on them occasionally. I read a lot of food history, and I can freely admit that it apparently isn't enough; I hadn't heard of any of these women until reading this book (excep *This book was received as an Advanced Reader's Copy from NetGalley. For every Julia Child, there is a woman who's name has been overshadowed in history, despite numerous contributions to cooking and the steadfast dedication to their culture's cuisine. Some, like the lucky seven in this book, get to have a little light shown on them occasionally. I read a lot of food history, and I can freely admit that it apparently isn't enough; I hadn't heard of any of these women until reading this book (except maybe Marcella Hazan, but I can't place the where of it, and Julia Child of course). And it's a shame that I haven't, told through the author's applied voice, these women got to come alive in the pages and tell their story; and all of them had a very valuable story. Chao Yang Wuwei, Elena Zelayeta, Madeline Kamman, Marcella Hazan, Julie Sahni, Najmieh Batmanglij, Norma Shirley; these are the women, that depending on what era you grew up in, you may have owned a cookbook or viewed a show that had them featured. Their legacy was bringing light to their individual cuisines and promoting it in a country that didn't often take to change (and arguably is still working to improve on that). They pioneered ways for future chefs to be able to contribute. I enjoyed reading both the histories and the accomplishments of these ladies. Most had to overcome great obstacles even outside not fitting the 'standard American diet' and this makes their accomplishments all the more awe-inspiring as a result. While the book is brief (nearly half is notes and resources, which speaks to the research performed), it is full of information and instead of being boring as a recounting of history can be, it instead brings you in to learn about these women and want to see them succeed. I also like that the book didn't hold back on what caused some of their obstacles and the troubles that they ran into. It's important for people to know all of history, even the parts that we don't like very much or would choose to ignore. Definitely an interesting book and a must-read for anyone interested in food history. Review by M. Reynard 2021

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Forgot what exactly drew me to the book other than the pretty cover and the title but it seemed like a good and intriguing book. Immigrants often make their livelihoods making food for others (whether it's their own or someone else's). I was curious to know what and who these women were/are, what they gave the United States, how they revolutionized food (would we be still be eating whatever bland cuisine that the original colonists brought? :P). There isn't much that isn't covered by the title. I Forgot what exactly drew me to the book other than the pretty cover and the title but it seemed like a good and intriguing book. Immigrants often make their livelihoods making food for others (whether it's their own or someone else's). I was curious to know what and who these women were/are, what they gave the United States, how they revolutionized food (would we be still be eating whatever bland cuisine that the original colonists brought? :P). There isn't much that isn't covered by the title. Inside are profiles of women--their histories, lives, what they brought, what they faced, etc. Some are very poignant where we see exactly how they were erased or at the very least minimized by history. I'll agree with the negative reviews: the profiles were downright boring. These stories should have been really compelling, but the writing style didn't leave much to be desired (and as short profiles instead of interwoven stories or even long biographies), it felt like I read a series of magazine profiles rather than a book that ties these stories together in some way. It was interesting, but ultimately I'm not sure a project like this would have been best as a book. Maybe coffee table book (to showcase the food), perhaps a series of profiles in the newspaper or magazine, a documentary series instead, etc. Good for a reference if you're interested in a specific woman or cuisine, etc. Library borrow was best for me. Would probably be best method for a layperson or for someone else to decide if it's worth picking up as a book for your own personal library.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Bookshelf

    If you’re interested in the world of food, this is a must-have for your bookshelf. Mayukh Sen beautifully crafts the stories of seven immigrant women in an industry that didn’t give them the long-lasting recognition they deserved. “Taste Makers” is not just a biography, but an exploration of the influence of food on the immigrant identity. It also dives into the uncomfortable truth of which immigrant stories are truly valued. While the contributions of these women have inspired much of America’s If you’re interested in the world of food, this is a must-have for your bookshelf. Mayukh Sen beautifully crafts the stories of seven immigrant women in an industry that didn’t give them the long-lasting recognition they deserved. “Taste Makers” is not just a biography, but an exploration of the influence of food on the immigrant identity. It also dives into the uncomfortable truth of which immigrant stories are truly valued. While the contributions of these women have inspired much of America’s most popular and commercially successful cuisines, they have been willfully neglected from the nation’s culinary history. Sen shines a light on how the food media, which was predominantly white and male at the time, received and even exploited the skills of these industry newcomers. Also notable was Sen’s personal reflection of what drew him to these stories, his experience in the food industry, and the specific decisions he made while writing this book. The stories of these trailblazing, successful women were inspiring. I loved learning about their journeys—of opening up a restaurant while blind, teaching cooking classes in an apartment in a new country, and being amongst the first to ever host a cooking TV show. It’s a shame most Americans will not have heard of their names if not for this book. If any, my only complaint is that I wish this book was longer. I could read a hundred more pages about each of the women, all of whom had fascinating lives filled with perseverance, passion for food, and a community built around their contributions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jess˚*•̩̩͙✩•̩̩͙*˚

    This book is a collection of seven short biographies of immigrant women who brought their cultures from the kitchen to the United States. Sen did a great job of making these seven stories about equal is pacing and in showing each of their unique personalities. The featured women immigrated from all over the world (Iran, Jamaica, India, Italy, France, China, and Mexico) and they all had different personal experiences that motived some to "Americanize" their food and assimilate to white American n This book is a collection of seven short biographies of immigrant women who brought their cultures from the kitchen to the United States. Sen did a great job of making these seven stories about equal is pacing and in showing each of their unique personalities. The featured women immigrated from all over the world (Iran, Jamaica, India, Italy, France, China, and Mexico) and they all had different personal experiences that motived some to "Americanize" their food and assimilate to white American needs, while others refused to compromise their culture's cuisines. Each of these stories shows a special blend of culture, gender, and history that shines a light on the women that chose to persevere in a dominantly male profession. Sen's research methods were equally fascinating, and I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about how diverse cuisines were introduced to Americans in the last century.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    I like the idea of this book, a collection of profiles of immigrant women who took different approaches to combining the cuisine of their native lands with American styles and ingredients. I had read about some of these women before, of course, such as Elena Zelayeta, but the resulting book seems surprisingly tepid. Mayukh Sen has done a lot of research and almost half the book is the endnotes and bibliography.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sara Rosales

    Super interesting. I’m glad I read this - I don’t know much about people in the culinary world besides Julia Child, so I learned a lot by reading this set of essays about immigrant women chefs, and the patterns that either hindered or catapulted their careers in America.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Subha

    I have enjoyed this book very much. I am amazed at the these immigrant women contributions to make assimilation a little easier through their passion for cooking. One of the best books I read in recent times.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Krishna Thiagarajan

    The writing was a tad lacking in some parts but the very existence of this book is something we should appreciate and promote

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    This book does not sparkle. It is quite worker like in tone. Its value lies in its depiction of seven women who immigrated to the US and in some way shared the food of home. All seven faced barriers. It might be their gender; their home country; access to authentic ingredients; having a husband or not having a husband; being a mother. Oh, and racism. You won’t find recipes here. But you will learn more about the immigrant experience, restaurants, and cookbook publishing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Glenn

    A light, fun read. Lots to learn about from hard working immigrant women who made an impact in America, and America's food scene. Lots of Julia Child bashing, and really not that much complexity other than re-telling the stories. So, what you see is what you get. A light, fun read. Lots to learn about from hard working immigrant women who made an impact in America, and America's food scene. Lots of Julia Child bashing, and really not that much complexity other than re-telling the stories. So, what you see is what you get.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: This book did a great job of showcasing the personalities and accomplishments of immigrant women who influenced American cuisine. Tastemakers is a new entry in the group biography genre, one of many doing the good work of sharing stories of important but forgotten women in history. The women featured here are all immigrants to the United States who had a profound impact on American cuisine. Each of these women contributed significantly to the inclusion of their cuisine in main stream Ame Summary: This book did a great job of showcasing the personalities and accomplishments of immigrant women who influenced American cuisine. Tastemakers is a new entry in the group biography genre, one of many doing the good work of sharing stories of important but forgotten women in history. The women featured here are all immigrants to the United States who had a profound impact on American cuisine. Each of these women contributed significantly to the inclusion of their cuisine in main stream American cooking. Some of these women were more clearly writing for people familiar with their cuisine, such as expat communities, while others wrote for novices. How to balance authenticity with approachability (and ingredient availability) was something each woman had to determine for herself. This was a really lovely, fascinating book. The author wrote one of the best introductions I've read, explaining why he was drawn to these stories; what he hoped to accomplish with these biographies; and why he thought he was the right person to tell these stories. I'd love to see more authors letting readers in on their decisions in this way. Knowing where the author was coming from helped me better understand the book. Something the author mentioned hoping to accomplish was letting us share his feeling of getting to know these women. I think he was very successful in that regard. Many of the women he wrote about had previously published biographies, so he was able to convey a lot about their thoughts and feelings. Despite disappointingly short sections devoted to each woman, I did feel like I got a sense of their personalities. I was going to say that the author didn't do a great job showing that these women singularly shaped American cuisine. However, revisiting the intro, I'm reminded that his goal was to disrupt the idea of the lone male genius in two ways - by showcasing the stories of influential women and by showing that the changes they made were the result of group efforts. This was also something the author accomplished. In each story, he provided helpful context, describing other women and cultural influences that promoted change. My only complaint with this book is the usual one I have with group biographies. I'd simply have liked to spend more time with each of these women. Given that the book itself (minus bibliography) was only about 200 pages and given the amount of material available about each of these women, I'm a little perplexed by just how short each section was. I'd have happily read a book that was twice as long. It seems like enough info exists to have fleshed out these brief biographical sketches. Still, it's pretty good when the worst thing I can say about a book is that I wanted more of it! I know a number of readers I talk to or follow enjoy books on either women in history or food. I'd happily recommend this book to anyone interested in either topic.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Gurjar

    I received an advanced galley copy of the book and just finished the first two chapters. The stories are incredible and I am glad to see these women be the stars. The writing is phenomenal writing makes you feel like you are right there beside them watching the events unfold and I cant' wait to dig into the rest of the book! Already bought another copy to gift my mother. :) I received an advanced galley copy of the book and just finished the first two chapters. The stories are incredible and I am glad to see these women be the stars. The writing is phenomenal writing makes you feel like you are right there beside them watching the events unfold and I cant' wait to dig into the rest of the book! Already bought another copy to gift my mother. :)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    A true disappointment. The idea is great and I like the women they chose to focus on but the writing is poor and convoluted. Some chapters were marginally better than others but they often drew what seemed like tenuous connections and conclusions about the women. They talk about Julie’s (the author refers to all the women by their first names) microwave cookbook but then a few pages later talks about how Julie didn’t get respect as a cook because Americans wanted quick, easy Indian recipes. What A true disappointment. The idea is great and I like the women they chose to focus on but the writing is poor and convoluted. Some chapters were marginally better than others but they often drew what seemed like tenuous connections and conclusions about the women. They talk about Julie’s (the author refers to all the women by their first names) microwave cookbook but then a few pages later talks about how Julie didn’t get respect as a cook because Americans wanted quick, easy Indian recipes. What could be quicker and easier than food made in a microwave? The author also talks about the “high profile celebrity” Sean Lennon going to Julie’s restaurant between 1984-1986 when he would have been an elementary school student. Of course a child can dine out but surely he would have been with his very famous mother or some caretaker? He wasn’t going to the Nirvana Club One with Duran Duran and Pointer Sisters as the author implies. How did that slip though? What else is just wrong or misinterpreted? The thread of these women largely starting to be interested in cooking after marriage and often after having other major interests and even careers outside of the food industry was never remarked on which seems like a massive missed opportunity. I would have liked some reflection on the age of the women at the time of their success as well. Largely they were not particularly young women with little formal training yet had great success in a male dominated industry. I really tried not to nitpick but it was tough, especially for a book that was supposedly fact based. The issues were so glaring and odd. Way too many to list here. Where was the editor? Was this rushed to print as some mea culpa for all of the recent wrong doing in the food world? I can’t figure out what went wrong here. These women deserved so much better. The book is very short so my suggestion to you is to take this list and do your own research. Many of the women have written memoirs so you can read their own words and thoughts.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kimball

    In TASTE MAKERS, Mayukh Sen sets out to celebrate the lives of seven women who made deep impressions on the way America cooks and eats. Each chapter is a biographical essay of one of the immigrant women that reads more like historiographical essays with lists of cookbooks. The chapter on Najmieh Batmanglij is particularly worth a read, having life to it that the other chapters lack. The kitchen was the heart of her family but Najmieh wasn’t allowed in the kitchen until she got a degree. Still, s In TASTE MAKERS, Mayukh Sen sets out to celebrate the lives of seven women who made deep impressions on the way America cooks and eats. Each chapter is a biographical essay of one of the immigrant women that reads more like historiographical essays with lists of cookbooks. The chapter on Najmieh Batmanglij is particularly worth a read, having life to it that the other chapters lack. The kitchen was the heart of her family but Najmieh wasn’t allowed in the kitchen until she got a degree. Still, she started cooking for herself while in school in America, asking her mom to send her family recipes. While a refuge in France in 1979, she began writing a cookbook as a way to connect to Iran and the life she was forced to leave behind. She continued to write Ancient Persian and Morse en Iranian cookbooks as she moved to Washington, DC. She was forced to self publish her books as result of the anti-Iranian sentiment of the time. Still, she persevered, focusing on writing for her own people. Another chapter I wouldn’t miss is the one on Elena Zelayeta, a fierce woman born in Mexico City whose family immigrated to America when the Mexican Revolution began while they were on a family vacation to San Francisco. She cooked and danced for her restaurant guests until she went blind in her 30s. But instead of giving up, she relearned how to cook, using her other senses. A very interesting trend amongst these seven women is how they fell into cooking. They all had different careers and lives outside of cooking but eventually decided to focus on cooking. • I fully understand and applaud the goal of this book but it falls short. For the majority of the women, I couldn’t make the connection if they specifically impacted how America eats.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    After Sen apologizes a bit for being a man writing about immigrant women trailblazing what we now take for granted in the U.S. landscape of regional and commercial cuisine, the seven women featured in this heavily researched book truly come alive in brief but colorful chapters. Sen starts with how Chinese cuisine became politically acceptable over several decades, despite efforts to chop suey its own origin myths, and moves on to a French woman whose persnickety preference for technical precisio After Sen apologizes a bit for being a man writing about immigrant women trailblazing what we now take for granted in the U.S. landscape of regional and commercial cuisine, the seven women featured in this heavily researched book truly come alive in brief but colorful chapters. Sen starts with how Chinese cuisine became politically acceptable over several decades, despite efforts to chop suey its own origin myths, and moves on to a French woman whose persnickety preference for technical precision caused her to be labeled “dry” and unrelatable, the struggles of an Iranian chef against pervasive Orientalism, caste and purpose for a Tamil Brahmin chef, and more. The end notes are also great, and this could easily be a textbook for undergrad courses in creative writing, food studies, gender studies and more.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna Hawes

    My main difficulty with reading this book was how hungry it made me to read about all the delicious food 😆. I don't know much about the cooking establishment or read much food media so all of the material was quite new to me. The author made it all very accessible and it's certainly made me think more critically about who gets cooking shows on TV or published cookbooks. The contrasting chapter on Julia Childs was helpful in that regard. I appreciated the author's lens of trying to show how Ameri My main difficulty with reading this book was how hungry it made me to read about all the delicious food 😆. I don't know much about the cooking establishment or read much food media so all of the material was quite new to me. The author made it all very accessible and it's certainly made me think more critically about who gets cooking shows on TV or published cookbooks. The contrasting chapter on Julia Childs was helpful in that regard. I appreciated the author's lens of trying to show how Americans saw these women and how that overlapped or conflicted with how they saw themselves. A great deal of research went into the book to really flesh out the details of the lives of these women, although I was often left wanting more. Considering hunting down their cookbooks to see some primary source material and try cooking some of their delicious work

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christine Delea

    A wonderful book that continues, along with many other books from the last 30 or so years, to illuminate readers in the contributions of women in our history and culture. (In so doing, these books also make one realize how deliberate others have been in erasing women, especially women of color and “ethnic” women, from our collective knowledge). This book offers short biographies of women from different cultures who transformed American cuisine. And while many win awards and even a bit of celebri A wonderful book that continues, along with many other books from the last 30 or so years, to illuminate readers in the contributions of women in our history and culture. (In so doing, these books also make one realize how deliberate others have been in erasing women, especially women of color and “ethnic” women, from our collective knowledge). This book offers short biographies of women from different cultures who transformed American cuisine. And while many win awards and even a bit of celebrity while alive, their names have—for the most part—faded. But if you enjoy “real” Chinese, Jamaican, Italian, Mexican, Iranian, French restaurants (or cooking dishes that are true to their homeland), you have these women to thank. If you are a foodie or someone who enjoys reading about interesting people, you should read this book!

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