Lee writes in the book, "Much of what we think of as traditional American cuisine is being challenged. We're witnessing a reshaping of the food landscape, and it is thrilling to some, obscene to others, but that is when it becomes interesting. When the tension between two vastly different cultures creates something new."
Lee, a Korean-American, explains that one of the goals of the book was to emphasize how that collision between cultures is a good thing. Or, as he says, “I really wanted to write this book to celebrate the diversity of food that we have in America, but also to understand that's our strength, that what we have in common is that we all love to eat these crazy combinations of food, and that's what it means...to be American."
This line of thinking, of course, leads to issues of cultural appropriation. “This entire book, the recipes are all based on experiences that I have from other cultures, and I kind of lend my own sort of twist. Having said that, I think appropriation is about stealing, and the opposite of appropriation is collaboration, which is about sharing. Hopefully, we do it from a standpoint of respect, meaningfulness, and we give credit where credit is due."
Lee is just as insightful in his book as he is in conversation, and he is also full of surprises, like the revelation that his favorite pastrami sandwich in America is made and served in Indianapolis, Indiana. Where is it served? Well, for that delicious bit of info you’re just going to have to listen to the episode.