My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food

As a little girl in Istria, Lidia Bastianich plucked figs straight from the tree for breakfast and tended her grandmother's goats. She fished in the Mediterranean. She played in the streets of Pola. Her biggest fear was that her grandfather would catch her sneaking cherries from his trees. But over the years, larger fears crept in; Bastianich lived in a part of Italy that had been ceded to Yugoslavia following World War II, under communist dictator Tito. Violence grew ever closer to home. Eventually, her family fled.

The Bastianiches waited two years at San Sabba refugee camp in Italy--formerly a concentration camp--for a country that would take them in permanently. "I didn't have an identity; I was neither Yugoslavian nor Italian. I was like a leaf in the wind."

But she became American. In her inspiring, vividly detailed memoir My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food, Bastianich explores how that came to be.

When her family moved to New Jersey in 1958, Bastianich immediately embraced her new country and growing identity as an American. She worked, saved, fell in love and started college. Then she started a restaurant--and then another, and then another. In the ensuing decades, she wrote more than a dozen cookbooks, starred in cooking shows and founded her own brand.

Her legions of fans know her as warm and effusive, and My American Dream is no different. Wisdom peppers her reflections on her life, infused with deep love for family and country--and food, too. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

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