MAD, the Danish word for food, is a cultural symposium founded by chef René Redzepi and editor of the food magazine, Lucky Peach, Chris Ying. You and I Eat the Same is the first in a series of MAD Dispatches the two plan to release, with essays on how food brings different cultures together and how we can work on making food better – better for the environment, better for the people who farm and curate it, better for all of us, because we consume it.
There are 19 essays in this first volume, each running anywhere from 2-12 pages, on such topics as sesame seeds, flatbreads and how every culture wraps their meat in some kind of one, and, my favorite, “Coffee Saves Lives”. Ask any of my coworkers, family, or friends, and they will heartily agree.
Each essay looks at culture and food’s role in those cultures. The writing is light and instantly readable, bringing diversity into our homes and our lives. Tienlon Ho’s “One Seed Rules Them All” says of sesame seeds that “a dish can feel of one place, while being from another”; really, the sesame seed can bring about world peace: “Humans have a remarkable ability to agree on hummus’s deliciousness while disagreeing about everything else.” Redzepi’s “If It Does Well Here, It Belongs Well Here” exhorts that “the day we can’t travel and move and learn from each other is the day we all turn into crazy nationalists” – a very timely statement. Did you know that there’s a Mennonite community in Mexico? Read Michael Snyder’s “Mennonite Cheese is Mexican Cheese” and learn the history of this colony’s move. “People Will Eat Anything” is an alphabetical rundown of culinary delights, from abalone and confused flour beetle to zebra.
There are gorgeous, full-color photos throughout, and the writing praises culinary and cultural diversity in the best ways: breaking bread together is great, but growing it and helping others do it is even better. As Redzepi says in his foreword that, “If we can share a meal, maybe we can share a conversation, too.”
I’d love to get this into my YA collection; I think teens will appreciate this message. We live in Queens, a community where we can travel the world by going outside and visiting a food truck, a dim sum house, and a mozzarepa vendor all within a 10-block radius. I’m looking forward to more MAD Dispatches and would love to see one of their symposiums. In the meantime, though, I’ll content myself with videos on their website.
You and I Eat the Same is a great add to any collection, any foodie fan’s bookshelf, and is a smart YA crossover bet.