2015

“L.A. Son” by Roy Choi

la-son-roy-choi

Sohn-maash (“hand-taste”) is the only way to cook, eat and feel Korean food.

This autobiography of Roy’s journey and connection to food is as juicy, spicy and warming as the recipes he shares in each chapter.  It tells a heroic story of the food as a character which saves him and grounds him throughout the various seasons in his life: living on the streets of Los Angeles as a drug-addicted gambling hoodlum; studying at the Harvard of culinary arts in New York; working his way up the chef-ladder in America’s finest hotel kitchens; then finding his signature creation of the Korean taco selling off food trucks on the streets of L.A.

Beyond a personal tale, however, “L.A Son” is truly a second generation or 1.5 generation (Korean-born; Canadian/American-raised) story.  The themes of clashing Eastern and Western cultural values and codes; striving towards what seems like an unattainable parental standard for success; and feeling like an outsider in one’s country of citizenship but feeling like a stranger in one’s country of origin.  Even the recipes included in Roy’s cookbook are a mishmash of both Korean and other ethnic foods speckled throughout his childhood.  His search, redefinition and settlement of an identity mirrors what many second generation-ers experienced, and perhaps continue to grapple with.

But back to food, here is a sample of Roy’s list of how to “eat with passion and heart”:

  • Elders are served first.  Don’t eat till they start.
  • Slurp your noodles at a voracious pace.
  • Eat all your rice.
  • Taste with fingers.
  • Double, triple dip.
  • Eat with your mouth open; talk with your mouth full.
  • Talk about what you’re going to eat for the next meal, even — and especially– if you haven’t finished this one. *

(* “L.A. Son” by Roy Choi, ISBN 978-0-06-220263-5)

 

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