Audacious chef Eddie Huang’s memoir recounts how cooking helped him escape a stormy childhood.
Fresh Off the Boat:
by Eddie Huang
Spiegel & Grau
$26.00 List Price
“I wanted to rent a lion, but they said the insurance was too much,” Eddie Huang told me, offhandedly, one chilly afternoon late last year. We were discussing the four-minute TED talk he’s preparing to deliver at the organization’s annual conference this February, “I Dreamt of White Lions.” Its main point, according to Huang, who is a 2013 TED Fellow, is that “lions are the king of the animal kingdom like white people rule the world. But neither of those ideas have any power unless you give it.” He was hoping to illustrate his upending of the received wisdom by walking a tame lion onstage, where it would sit next to him like a docile cat while he spoke.
The plan, at once hilarious, provocative, and somewhat improbable, is not unlike Huang himself. It was designed, like everything he does, for maximum impact. Many things have been and no doubt will continue to be said about Huang’s food, politics, personal style, and pronouncements about Tiger Moms, the TV show Girls, Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant Red Rooster, and other topics, but I’m fairly certain that no one will ever accuse him of subtlety. When he’s really on a roll, as in his review of Samuelsson’s memoir for the New York Observer, he can take perfect aim at multiple targets at once: “The entire book reads like it was ghost-written by Rudyard Kipling with an assist by Girls heroine Hannah Horvath, who infamously never encountered a black person in all of season one (except that homeless guy).” The fact that Huang won’t ultimately manage to stroll onstage at TED with a lion on a leash somehow doesn’t seem to matter