Happy New Year from the Great DMV BookClub!

While there were many things to be happy about in 2018, let’s be honest: the year was chock-full of many negatives. That’s why we wanted to start 2019 looking at the bright side!

With a new year comes new possibilities and opportunities to focus on the people that are bringing good into this world. To that end, January’s theme is people doing good and using their talents to spread love. I mean honestly, reading about someone amazing just inspires you to want to do amazing things, doesn’t it? In this case, the subject is D.C.-based chef and restaurateur, José Andrés.

Back in 2017, Hurricane Maria swept furiously over the island of Puerto Rico, cutting off supplies and food to people who had just lost their homes and loved ones. The response to this hurricane was limited, so José Andrés and his team of chefs and cooks saw the need and filled it -- 10-fold. The story of how he did what he did (and why) is told perfectly in our January book club selection:

We Fed an Island – The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico One Meal at a Time

By José Andrés with Richard Wolffe

From the Publisher:

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. Based on Andrés’ 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.

Chef Andrés’ response in the aftermath of that storm has been nothing short of remarkable. His work has even gained him an unusually not-so-hush-hush Nobel Peace Prize nomination. I can’t imagine anyone more deserving of this honor.  

After taking on the responsibility of feeding Puerto Rico, one wouldn’t fault Andrés for wanting to take some time off, however, he gathered his team again to feed first responders and displaced families after the Camp Fires in California. Now safely back at home, he’s still using his talents to nourish those that need it, by offering free lunches to all furloughed government employees during this month’s shutdown.

One could say “the man is non-stop,” which may be one reason Lin-Manuel Miranda and his father Luis Miranda decided to write the foreword to this book. Of course, it might also have something to do with the Mirandas’ love for the island and Andrés’ dedication to helping the Puerto Rican people to not only live but thrive in the face of adversity. Reading about his dedication to his craft, as well as his work to help others, should help to jump-start us all into a kinder and more helpful 2019.

Food for Thought (pun-intended!)

1. Lin-Manuel and Luis Miranda wrote the foreword to this book. If you were writing a book about your life, who would you want to write the foreword (provided Lin isn’t available)?

2. In the age of celebrity chefs, many of these giants are using their talents for good, just as José Andrés has. Are there any other chefs or giants of the food industry that you admire for their work to help others?

3. In interviews, Andrés has said many times that he knows food, but wasn’t sure how to go about helping others with his talents. What is one talent that you have that you could use to help others? As Chef Andrés has proven, it only takes a little imagination and some will-power to change the world for the better.

4. Lastly, a completely self-serving foodie question: Have you ever eaten in one of his restaurants? And was it amazing? I mean, the man is an amazing humanitarian (which is the real takeaway here), but he started out as an amazingly innovative chef …

Feel free to check out We Fed an Island at the library, or purchase it through Amazon or wherever great books are sold. Follow along with us as we read, and be sure to check back on Tuesday, January 29, for our review and discussion of We Fed an Island!

Hungry for more books about the DMV? Check out December's selection here!