by Edward Lee
Chef Edward Lee travels the country, eats food, and apparently wastes food, as the humongous amounts of food he reports ordering at restaurants cannot possibly be eaten by him. I just can’t believe he eats all that. And he doesn’t bring a traveling companion save in one chapter.
He visits New Orleans, Clarksdale, Montgomery, Indiana, and lots of other places. The chapters generally provide some introduction, some talk about the logistics of travel, interviews with chefs, and eating, and conclusion.
The most memorable was his chapter of visiting Detroit, a city with a large Muslim population, during Ramadan. He decides to try the sunup-to-sundown fasting. Yet he sticks to his plan of visiting restaurants and talking to chefs and ordering a ton of food – and photographing it and talking about it – just not eating it. I was intrigued why someone would torture himself that way. When sundown is moments away, and he orders a big meal at a restaurant that he can actually eat immediately, a fellow faster frowns at him. He tells him he should break his fast with something humble; the fast is about showing solidarity with the poor, so it would be more fitting to order something humble. Besides (here it comes) all that heavy food you just ordered would just make you sick if you ate it right away.
I wasn’t particularly grabbed by any other chapters. Lee seems likeable enough. I couldn’t help comparing it to EAT A PEACH by David Chang, another Korean chef memoirist. But unlike Chang, Lee is not into writing about his restaurants, or even himself, very much. They are very different books.