Colette Rossant's The World in My Kitchen
The World in My Kitchen: The Adventures of a (Mostly) French Woman in America
by Colette Rossant
Atria Books, 226 pp., $22
Taste and smell are the most evocative of all the senses. A faint whiff of a long-forgotten aroma can bring on a cascade of memories. These inextricable links between aroma, flavor, and memory gracefully weave together Colette Rossant's memoir The World in My Kitchen. Rossant, arguably the godmother of fusion cuisine, ascended to fame, both as a chef and a writer, due to her high-spirited genius for combining flavors from all reaches of the globe.
This is the third book in a series of acclaimed culinary memoirs penned by Rossant and picks up the thread of her life at the time of her marriage. After a troubled childhood shuttling between France and Egypt, she defied her family and married her American boyfriend at the age of 18. She and her husband settled in New York City, and it is fascinating to see the often-idealized America of the Fifties through the eyes of a young, foreign bride. Along with the culture, we also see the cuisine. There is a purity to her take on food that is fascinating; the French cuisine she grew up eating seems archetypal in its simplicity and juxtaposes sharply with the canned and frozen-food revolution that was gripping the United States at that time. Unsurprisingly, she found much of the American diet inedible and was forced by circumstance to improvise.
Over a period of decades, Rossant scoured the Eastern seaboard to find heirloom vegetables, real cheese, artisan breads, and all manner of oriental and Middle Eastern foodstuffs with which to fashion a personal cuisine. The World in My Kitchen chronicles that journey and along with it Rossant's eventual rise to eminence. Each chapter describes an era of her life, and at each chapter's conclusion, she gives the recipes for the dishes that figure prominently in her narrative. The result is a doubly engrossing book that gives us a window into the birth of modern American cookery.