Publication Date: September 11, 2018 by Anthony Bordain/Ecco
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FOREWORD BY LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND LOUIS A. MIRANDA, JR.
The true story of how a group of chefs fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Americans after Hurricane Maria and touched the hearts of many more
Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island. The economy was destroyed and for most people there was no clean water, no food, no power, no gas, and no way to communicate with the outside world.
Andrés addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. From serving sancocho with his friend José Enrique at Enrique’s ravaged restaurant in San Juan to eventually cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island, Andrés and his team fed hundreds of thousands of people, including with massive paellas made to serve thousands of people alone.. At the same time, they also confronted a crisis with deep roots, as well as the broken and wasteful system that helps keep some of the biggest charities and NGOs in business.
Based on Andrés’s insider’s take as well as on meetings, messages, and conversations he had while in Puerto Rico, We Fed an Island movingly describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change and tells an extraordinary story of hope in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future.
Beyond that, a portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of World Central Kitchen for efforts in Puerto Rico and beyond.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
We Fed an Island is definitely one of my favorite books of 2018. It’s written by chef José Andrés, and discusses how he and his nonprofit organization helped feed Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria.
“A plate of food is much more than food. It sends a message that someone far away cares about you; that you are not on your own.”
I started following José Andrés on twitter after seeing his tweets all over my timeline after the hurricane. He was sharing what he was doing in Puerto Rico and raising awareness to the struggle he was having trying to get the appropriate funding.
Before reading the book, I didn’t know he had a nonprofit that helped those affected by disaster. I thought helping during Maria was the first natural disaster he assisted in. I also didn’t know he was a famous chef until a couple months ago actually.
“I am done with being polite. I am done being politically correct, I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake. And we are put one nation. We may be small, but we are huge in dignity and zealous for life.”
While reading the book, my blood was boiling. Andrés wants to help, he has a great plan, but he needs the government’s help to fund this project. It makes sense that food and water is the most important part of helping individuals after a natural disaster like this, but the government and FEMA are so INFURIATING. They didn’t seem to care, didn’t want to partner with him. He had a great plan, but they would rather work with for profit organizations that didn’t even do anything to help rather than a nonprofit. There’s one part where someone from FEMA makes a deal with him, to get FEMA to fund Chefs for Puerto Rico, the other guy gets a cut from the meals. It’s so heartless that someone would use a tragedy like this to make money, and lots of it.
Throughout the book José Andrés is critical of the government and president’s response. He’s not afraid to critique how the disaster relief was handled. He did this in a way that was respectful, but made sure to get his point across.
“We didn’t want to fight with the bureaucracy or restructure the government. All we wanted to do was to feed the people. But when you start with a simple goal, you learn you can achieve the impossible. You discover, before long, that you can actually feed an island.”
It was heartbreaking reading about the devastation, but glad at how José Andrés helped organize. You can see how passionate he is about feeding people that need it. While the government is telling stories about the violence and aggression of people in Puerto Rico, José Andrés tells story after story about all the devastated areas he went to, where communities were helping one another, not being violent like the president and government said they were. It is clear to see that Andrés cares about the people he’s helping. Not only does he want to feed them hot food, he’s trying to help regrow the economy by sourcing everything locally.
“We could create a network of chefs, like Doctors Without Borders, to help in a crisis. Rather than dumping food aid on an already struggling economy, we would source our supplies locally, wherever possible, and help put the farmers and suppliers back in business.”
This was such a good book. I definitely recommend it. My book has so many underlined paragraphs and so many sticky tabs throughout it. I want to share all the great things I found, but then I would basically be sharing the entire book.