#DesiCraftChat: Mayukh Sen on cultural politics and historiography in the American food industry

Desi Books Ep 57 w/ Mayukh Sen Desi Books


(available at Anchor.fm, Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Breaker, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Overcast)

Hello and welcome to Episode 57 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.

In today’s #DesiCraftChat, we have Mayukh Sen discussing their new book, Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America. In this conversation, we talked about cultural politics and historiography—who and what gets recorded, remembered, forgotten, and celebrated and how—and much more.

#DESICRAFTCHAT WITH MAYUKH SEN — INTRODUCTION

Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning writer based in New York. He has taught food journalism at New York University since 2019. His writing on food has appeared in The New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and elsewhere, and he has written about film for The Atlantic, Film Comment, the Criterion Collection, and a number of other publications. He won the 2018 James Beard Award for Profile and was nominated for the 2019 James Beard MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. He also won the 2019 IACP Award for Narrative Food Writing, and his work has been anthologized in The Best American Food Writing 2019 and The Best American Food Writing 2021.

Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America is a group biography that 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.

After World War II, the US went through a food revolution driven by immigrants from other countries. The way that Sen examines the lives and works of these seven immigrant women through archival research, original reporting, and well-crafted prose makes this book more than history or biography to me. It is also an interrogation of cultural politics and historiography: who and what gets recorded, remembered, forgotten, and celebrated—and how. Sen offers insightful critiques into how the American media’s biases against immigrants, women, and people of color have caused these lapses in our collective consciousness. He invites us to fully appreciate the important culinary contributions made by these women with joy and pleasure.

As I invite you to enjoy this conversation. Here’s Mayukh Sen now.

#DESICRAFTCHAT WITH MAYUKH SEN

[Audio]

You’ve been listening to episode 57 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.

Today’s #DesiCraftChat was with Mayukh Sen discussing their new book, Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America.

Episode 58 will be up shortly. Follow on Twitter @desibooks, Instagram @desi.books, Facebook @desibooksfb. Tag the accounts if you have requests or suggestions. Please go to the website if you’d like to sign up for the free, weekly newsletter. That’s desibooks.co. And please share this interview via social media so we can keep raising the tide of desi literature.

Stay healthy, keep reading, and write well.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.™
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