This episode of Finding Your Roots originally aired on Tuesday October 21, 2014. It featured three of America's celebrated chefs; Aaron Sanchez, Ming Tsai and Tom Colicchio. Each chef is noted for exploring the cuisine of his immigrant ancestors; Mexican, Chinese, and Italian respectively.
You can watch it online at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots/melting-pot-full-episode/12093/
I found this episode incredibly fascinating because I personally do not feel ties to any specific ethnicity. I identify myself as American. If pressed I might tell you that I'm mostly Irish-American; a people not highly noted for their delicious dishes.
I had a few great-great grandparents who were born in Ireland and came to the U.S. In their childhood whereas Aaron, Ming, and Tom are descended of recent immigrants.
Aaron's mother was raised in Sonora, Mexico and came to New York to open a restaurant when Aaron was a child. But that was not Aaron's family member to come to the United States. His great-grandfather, Rafael Gabilondo was one of more than 890,000 Mexicans who fled to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution. At the height of the Revolution, he persuaded the U.S. to
allow him to bring 2,000 head of cattle from his ranch in Mexico to the U.S. In 1931, two decades after fleeing Mexico, Gabilondo bought a new ranch in Mexico where his descendants would live for generations.
Tom Colicchio's research took Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to Ellis Island - which is a little misleading because one does not have to go Ellis Island to research their immigrant ancestor. Ellis Island's records are available online through Ancestry.com and for free at http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger.
Tom's grandfather was born in Italy in 1903 but Tom's great-grandfather arrived in the U.S. in 1901. Similar to Aaron's story, we learn Tom's ancestors traveled back and forth between the U.S. and their native homeland multiple times at a time when travel was an arduous task.
As for Ming, he knew his immigrant ancestors well. His grandparents came from China later in their lives after having endured many atrocities during the Communist Revolution.
I think the most exciting revelation was the one object Ming's grandfather took with him when he left China. That was a book tracing Ming's genealogy back to 891 A.D. The researchers for this program were able to confirm the contents of the book with the one remaining stele, or stone table, that exists in Ming's family's hometown. These records revealed the identity of Ming's 36th great grandfather; 36th!! The stele led the researchers to records in the Shanghai Library that stretched the family history back even further to ninety generations. Ming is a direct descendant of one of the first five emperors of China, Huang Di; his 116th great-grandfather is often cited as the father of the Chinese Language.
I think this episode really presented the fact that immigrants find their way to the United States not because of a lack of love for their homeland but rather because in many instances the living conditions are difficult to endure due to war, natural disasters, and/or poverty. However proud of their ancestors' cultures, I do believe these guests would include the "hyphen American" when identifying their ethnicities.
Tonight's episode features actor Angela Bassett, rapper NAS, and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett.