|Photo from the Finding Your Roots Website|
"It’s been said that America's tastes has been shaped by its immigrants"
Tom Colicchio, Italien Restaurant Business Superstar, who is the star of Top Chef. Tom’s career and life was molded by his time spent with his relatives in the kitchen and at the dinner table. In fact, he has been working in restaurants since he was 14 years old. Colicchio’s great-grandfather came to United States in 1901 with just $27. His ancestor would go back and forth between America and Europe at least three times until 1947 when he brought his family to America. Dr. Gates’ research team traced the Colicchio family back 6 generations just in Vallata, Italy, a place where Tom knew nothing about. Dr. Gates said that some immigrants would make the passage back and forth a dozen times. Colicchio said that it was a sacrifice to leave your family and it was a sacrifice to return. This is perhaps what the current immigrant community experience today; going back and forth to the homeland, all the while sacrificing for the future.
Ming Tsai, a son of Chinese immigrants who grew up in Dayton, Ohio. Ming’s show is called “Simply Ming.” While growing up, Ming recalls that every Friday night was dinner night at Ming's grandparent’s home and the food was all homemade. Ming's grandparents didn't talk about their life in China because of the Cultural Revolution which killed millions of Chinese. He said that more people were killed during the Cultural Revolution than the Jewish Holocust. I’ve never heard of the Cultural Revolution when you were killed for thinking differently. When Ming's grandfather finally left China, he brought with him a book that held his genealogy. The book went back to 891 A.D. and it traced Ming’s ancestors back to Ming’s 36th grandfather. The research team eventually confirmed Ming’s grandfather’s book and traced Ming’s family tree back 90 generations which connected him to the Father of the Chinese language, Huang Di. Huang lived around the 27th Century B.C. and was Ming's 116th great-grandfather. I do believe that the Chinese were and are the best record keepers.
Aaron, the host of Heat Seekers, is a Mexican American who grew up in El Paso, Texas. Aaron got his cooking skills from his mother who opened a Mexican restaurant in Manhattan, New York. Aaron's mom and grandfather were from Sonora, Mexico. Rafael Gabilando, his grandfather, was one of the wealthiest cattle ranchers in Sonora but when the 1910 Mexican Revolution started; Rafael abandoned his ranch for the Unite States. Amazingly, in 1914 Rafael got his land back and in 1931 Rafael bought a new ranch in Mexico. Other surprises for Aaron included discovering a 3rd great-grandfather who fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Gates researchers traced Aaron's ancestry to his 6th generation Spanish grandfather back to 1713. Gates also gave Aaron a letter that his team found that was written by one of Aaron’s ancestors. Finally, we get to see Aaron's DNA results which included 66.4% European, 24.6% Native American, 3.7% Sub-Saharan African and 1.6% North African. Dr. Gates told Aaron the 24.6% confirmed that he had at least one grandparent who was "full blooded" Native American. This was a prediction that Aaron correctly called.
Two years ago, a relative gave me a copy of a letter that my paternal Great-Grandmother, Fannie Sherrod Powell wrote. I can’t help but smile when I think about the letter, especially when she writes about “the baby being frisky like a cat.” I laugh because she's writing about her baby boy, my great uncle Ernest and describes him as a cat seems funny and strange but that was the “mindset” back then.
Dr. Gates asked one of the cooks if you could cook dinner for one person who would it be? I would cook for my sister, Mercedes aka Mercy Artis who loved to cook and eat. If she was living, she would had watch this episode because she was always watching the cooking shows. I have never heard of any of the guests on this episode until it aired but I bet my sister could tell me a lot about them. I once shocked Mercy when I made a spaghetti salad dish. She said "himmm this is good! How did you learn how to make this?" I told her that I got the receipe from a classmate and all it required was chopping lots of veggies and boiling water for the spaghetti. Mercy laugh when she said that I found a dish that I could cook.
Besides Mercy, I would had loved to cook for my maternal grandmother, Classie Pate Fuller. Grandma Classie died when I was 4 years old so I didn't get to spend enough time with her. My brothers describe Grandma Classie as being 4 feet tall and probably 200 lbs because she loved to cook and eat just like Mercy. My mom said that Grandma Classie told her that "my mother (Grandma Classie's mom) was short and fat and I'm supposed to be short and fat." Well I would also make the spaghetti salad for Grandma Classie just to show her that if she had cook this way; she probably would had lived longer and we would had gotten to know each other.