NYPL BOOK OF THE DAY • NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2023 BY ZED BOOK CLUB & INDIA CURRENTS • LA WEEKLY BOOK PICK • RECOMMENDED BY BOOK RIOT & ELECTRIC LITERATURE
A timely self-examination of the “mixed” American experience featuring exclusive recipes and photographs from the author’s multicultural family.
As citizens continue to evolve and diversify within the United States, the ingredients that make up each flavorful household are waiting to be discovered and devoured. In Colorful Palate, author Raj Tawney shares his coming-of-age memoir as a young man born into an Indian, Puerto Rican, and Italian-American family, his struggles with understanding his own identity, and the mouthwatering flavors of the melting pot from within his own childhood kitchen.
While the world outside can be cruel and unforgiving, it’s even more complicated for a mixed-race kid, unsure of his place in the world. Turning to his mother and grandmother for guidance, Tawney assists in the kitchen, providing intimate moments and candor as he listened to the tales behind each culinary delicacy and the women who perfected it. Each lovingly prepared meal offered another opportunity to learn more about his extraordinary heritage. The ability to create delicious fare with his family wasn’t just a duty for the grand ladies who raised him; it was a survival tactic for navigating new and unknown cultures, not always willing to accept them at first or even a hundredth glance. As Tawney examines both himself and his loved ones through the formative stages of his life, from boyhood through adulthood, he begins to realize, through all of the chaos and confusion, just how “American” he actually was.
In this contemporary coming-of-age tale, Tawney tackles personal hot-button issues about race and identity through poignant, heartfelt moments centered on delicious meals. From succulent tandoori chicken to delectable arroz con habichuelas to scrumptious spaghetti and meatballs, Tawney shares his family recipes along with the intimate stories he overheard in the kitchen as he played sous chef to hundreds of recipes that not only span continents but also come with their own personal histories attached. Colorful Palate is a tale of the mixed experience, one of the millions that rarely get told, undefined by a single group or birthright and unapologetic about its lack of classification.