CBR bingo square, Home, Something Home
Jose Andres is a Washington, DC legend. He and a couple of other chefs made my hometown a destination for foodies. His Oyamel, Chila Chilcano, and America Eats Tavern are some of my favorite restaurants. You won’t just eat a fine meal, you’ll be treated like gold. I went to see him speak at the National Archives when he was starting his America Eats Tavern pop up restaurant in Penn Quarter to hear him speak on American food history and culture. He was very funny and warm and knowledgeable. The thing that upset me about listening to him was the person interviewing him on stage. Jose is from Spain, and the interviewer would often repeat his words as if he needed a translator. I think at one point he said politely “I speak English just fine.” It was irritating.
This book tells the story of the month that Jose Andres spent in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria setting up his volunteer organization called World Central Kitchen, to provide the residents of Puerto Rico hot meals. Real food (a hot nutritious meal and not a ration) can become people’s salvation when they are struggling. His experiences in leading World Central Kitchen in other natural disasters gave him the experience needed to mobilize kitchens around the island, cut through layers of red tape to get a contract with FEMA to feed the people, and spread the word to the people of Puerto Rico.
Make no mistake, this was a labor of love for Jose. He sweated and toiled and cooked with every one of his volunteers. He doesn’t come out and say so directly, but in between contracts from FEMA he must have spent thousands of dollars of his own money. He works himself to a state of exhaustion and needs to fly back to DC to be treated for dehydration. But he goes back to work immediately afterwards.
The people of Puerto Rico were failed by the American Government. President Trump, the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Mayor of San Juan, FEMA and the Red Cross do not come off well here. FEMA in particular accused Jose of using food relief to market his restaurants. They said he was a “larger than life” person, and did not mean it as a compliment. He is a man who is larger than life. He loves this country, and that love is found in his empathy, in his compassion, and in his food. This book will fill you with rage over how we treated fellow citizens of the United States. We were not told much of the truth of what happened to the people of Puerto Rico. But it will give you hope that there are other people out there like Jose Andres who care about others.