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Here in Washington, DC, there are many ways to travel the world by eating at restaurants started by people who migrated here from other countries. We can find Ethiopian, Salvadoran, Vietnamese, and so many more. But what about some of the more "common" cuisines, the ones that have become so ingrained in the American diet that we don't think of them as "ethnic"? Start with a book that covers the history of several types of cuisine, and then read more about some of the women behind them.

Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen 

Written by a food journalist, Taste Makers tells the stories of seven women, some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t, who have influenced how certain “ethnic” foods became American cuisine. Foods such as Chinese, French, and Italian are as mainstream as they come these days, but do you know the history of these types of cuisine? What about Jamaican cuisine or Indian? Read the stories of seven women who brought these cuisines to Americans. Following are memoirs of other women who might also be considered taste makers.

When French Women Cook : A Gastronomic Memoir by Madelaine Kamman

One of the “Taste Makers", Kamman writes of a long-ago France and the food prepared by her mother, grandmother, greatgrandmother, and other women she knew. While the recipes are rather dated now (the book was published in 1976), it’s a worthwhile read for the charming stories and memories. Read it with Alice Waters’ memoir, and you’ll be reading about the food that inspired her when she first went to France. After you read Kamman's memoir, read Alice Waters' memoir, Coming to My Senses, in which her trip to France inspired her and eventually led to her restaurant Chez Panisse.

Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey

Jaffrey is well-known today as a cookbook author and expert on the cuisine of India (and others), but that isn’t all she’s ever done. This book covers her years growing up in India in a large, loving family with a focus on food. You’ll want to try some of her family recipes that are included.

My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family and Food by Lidia Bastianich

Bastianich, known today for her many cookbooks, her TV programs on public television, and her restaurants, writes of her early life on the Istrian Peninsula, her family’s departure from there during World War II and into a refugee camp, and how they came to the United States. Her love of cooking began as it did for many of us: at her grandmother’s side. She eventually took jobs in a bakery and in restaurants to learn as much about cooking as she could before opening her own restaurant and becoming the influential cook she is. This is a touching story of her love of family and food.

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About the Author:

Carol A is a Library Associate at the Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library where she works in Adult Services. She loves helping patrons find new books to read and especially showing them how to access our many digital resources and how to download e-books. When not working, she can usually be found walking around the city, going to farmers markets, and then cooking whatever she found. And after all that, a pot of tea with a good book in her favorite armchair.