Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Savor

Savor
Title:
  Savor:  A Chef's Hunger for More
Author:  Fatima Ali with Tarajia Morrell
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books. 2022. 384 pages.
ISBN:  0593355199 / 978-0593355190

Rating:   ★★★★★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I get up in Pakistan, playing cricket, basketball, oonch neech, and pithu gol garam with my brother, Mohammad."

Favorite Quote:  "When we think we have all the time in the world to live, we forget to indulge in the experiences of living. When that choice is yanked away from us, that's when we scramble to feel."

I was introduced to Fatima Ali through marketing for a season of the TV show Top Chef. Top Chef is a reality TV competition amongst chefs. During her seasons on Top Chef, Fatima Ali was voted the fan favorite competitor.

Her story and the cultural context of her story resonates with me. She was born in Pakistan. She spend part of her childhood in Texas before returning to Pakistan. She broke social norms by wanting to be a chef. She returned to the United States to study at the Culinary Institute of America. She competed on Chopped and then Top Chef. She worked in many different professional kitchens. "I didn't think I was so special, but actually that was the key: If this ordinary Pakistani girl could pursue the thing she loved most - cooking - and could make it to the tippy-top and do what she loved on TV, then what was to stop all of us little brown girls from carving out new paths, from calling attention to the hungry children, the silenced dreamers, the oddballs and rebels who long to go against the grain?"

Her dream was to open her own restaurant and introduce the world to Pakistan and Pakistani culture through food. Unfortunately, that dream was never realized as Fatima Ali died at age 29 of a rare form of cancer. This book is her story and her legacy. "Instead of my bucket list book, this is the story of my abbreviated life, short but nonetheless possessing secret love, joy and pain, adventure and hard work, luck and its opposite."

Unexpectedly, this book is also the story of Fatima's mother, Farezeh. Hers is a story of a different time and place and yet with similar themes of independence and strength. "There is nothing more empowering than knowing - no, believing - that all you really need is you."

The book describes the process of its own writing. Fatima Ali's original wish for her final year was to travel and experience the world. Unfortunately, her illness did not allow for that. That realization led to the writing of this book. Fatima's telling of her own story began through media such as Bon App├ętit providing her a platform. Her conversations with author Tarajia Morrell, and Tarajia Morrell's subsequent collaboration with Farezeh have resulted in this book.

The cultural context of a young "brown" girl and a "brown" woman finding their own path and her voice resonates. The story of an immigrant finding freedom and their dream in the United States resonates. The power of food memories and the power of food to unite resonates. The story of a young life sadly cut short resonates. Fatima Ali's story is one I was going to remember even before reading this book. Reading this book and learning of the other challenges she and her mother overcame further reinforces that this is a life to remember.


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