Who's really behind America's appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography honors seven 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.
As Sen moves through his subjects’ stories, each chapter raises questions about the obstacles that prevented them from ascending the ranks of the food industry and achieving the fame of other luminaries ... For the women in this book, success almost always depended on winning over the predominately white and upper class food establishment, and, as Sen shows, such approval was not easily gained ... Many readers may wonder why this book was written by a man. It’s a valid question and one Sen addresses in his introduction ... Sen is a sensitive and perceptive journalist and a deft historian; his willingness to let his subjects speak for themselves whenever possible gives his book a compelling power. He tells their stories with care, while, as he puts it, striving to 'let my own voice fade as much as possible.' In doing so, he succeeds in amplifying the voices of seven overlooked women to the levels that they always deserved.
... enthralling ... Taste Makers anatomizes the insidious ways xenophobia persists in the American food world, depriving immigrant culinary experts, especially women, of recognition and respect ... Sen’s book blazes with rage at this injustice as it commemorates these creators’ merit and mettle ... Sen draws on cookbooks, memoirs, media coverage, and interviews to create a lively group portrait of these talented women omitted from the American culinary canon ... Sen has brought to light a stellar cast of culinary experts that readers may not know about but should. There is outrage in his tone as he chronicles the discrimination his subjects encountered, but he makes his case without too heavy a hand. He is actually generous to all, even Julia Child, who, we learn, struggled with misogyny in the food world. Sen fuses deep research with a debater’s ardor and moves seamlessly between biography, history, and cultural analysis. The overall impression is one of disciplined persuasion.
Dazzling ... Sen looks at the lives of seven remarkable immigrant women whose passion for their homeland’s food transformed how Americans cook and eat ... What results is a vibrant, empathetic, and dynamic exploration of culture, identity, race, and gender ... Thoughtfully written, Sen’s portrayals of his subjects reveal how rich and nuanced being 'American' can truly be. Food lovers with a big appetite for knowledge will gobble this up.