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The General's Cook: A Novel de Ramin…
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The General's Cook: A Novel (edició 2018)

de Ramin Ganeshram (Autor)

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262781,497 (4.5)3
** Library Journal's Editor's Pick! ** Philadelphia 1793. Hercules, President George Washington's chef, is a fixture on the Philadelphia scene. He is famous for both his culinary prowess and for ruling his kitchen like a commanding general. He has his run of the city and earns twice the salary of an average American workingman. He wears beautiful clothes and attends the theater. But while valued by the Washingtons for his prowess in the kitchen and rewarded far over and above even white servants, Hercules is enslaved in a city where most black Americans are free. Even while he masterfully manages his kitchen and the lives of those in and around it, Hercules harbors secrets-- including the fact that he is learning to read and that he is involved in a dangerous affair with Thelma, a mixed-race woman, who, passing as white, works as a companion to the daughter of one of Philadelphia's most prestigious families. Eventually Hercules' carefully crafted intrigues fall apart and he finds himself trapped by his circumstance and the will of George Washington. Based on actual historical events and people, The General's Cook, will thrill fans of The Hamilton Affair, as they follow Hercules' precarious and terrifying bid for freedom.… (més)
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The General’s Cook by Ramin Ganeshram is a historical fiction book taking place in 1793, following Herucles, a slave as well as President George Washington’s chef. Mr. Ganeshram is a journalist, chef and food writer.

Hercules has been a property of George and Martha Washington since he was a child, his ability to cook earns him the advantages of having money, nice clothes, freedom of movement and other benefits, but not his freedom.

Hercules, however, rebels in his own way by learning how to read and having an affair with a mixed-race woman.

I have heard of Hercules before from reading several biographies of George Washington and visiting his home in Mt. Vernon. Even though we know little of Hercules, The General’s Cook by Ramin Ganeshram takes the little we know and expands upon it to create a rich story of early America.

The picture the author constructed of 1793 Philadelphia, where most of the story takes place, that of a bustling town where people from all walks of life interact. At that time a law stated that if a slave was in Philadelphia over six months, they would be considered free. The Washington’s sent their slaves back and forth to Mt. Vernon so the clock will start ticking again.
At a bind they’ll send them over to New Jersey, to step over the line and come back.

The slaves were aware of this law, as is our protagonist. Hercules, however, is more than just a slave, he is also a loyal servant to George Washington, both men smart enough to admire the other’s strength even though, obviously, the President certainly always has the upper hand.

I really enjoyed the author’s description of how the kitchen worked and ran. The meals that Hercules planned and prepared sounded fantastic and accurate to the time. To enhance this part of the story, the author introduces Nate and Margaret, a young slave and indentured girl, which Hercules trains.

This book is a gorgeous mix of food, history and food history. This is a fascinating book taking place in a time where the country, as well as men, where trying to find their place. ( )
  ZoharLaor | Nov 19, 2018 |
Hercules Harkless was a real person; he was the chef for George Washington for many years. As a slave, he had privileges that most slaves didn’t;: he received a decent wage; as long as his work was done he could leave the premises and go to the tavern or the theater; and he wore beautiful clothing. But he was still a slave. He was prohibited from learning to read and write. Even though he spent a lot of time in Philadelphia, which had a law that said any slave that resided in the state for six months was free, this freedom was kept from him by the simple method of rotating him between the Philadelphia house and Mount Vernon every few months. There always existed the threat of being sold or whipped. His daughters were kept at Mount Vernon, keeping him away from them for months at a time.

Harkless ran the kitchen for Washington, although he was under the authority of white servants. He apparently was trained in France, and learned their methods of cooking. He also kept a spotless kitchen, and knew such things as washing the cutting board between working with meat and vegetables (I have no idea if these bits are backed up by history or not).

The story takes place between 1793 and 1797; in 1797, on Washington’s birthday, after preparing things and telling the other slaves what to do, he vanished, never to be found. I like to think that he gained his freedom. The story hints that a free black man set up a tavern that sold exceptional food in New York might have been him. Along with Harkless’s own story line, there are subplots. One is of his oldest son Richmond, who worked under him in the kitchen but did not show an aptitude for the job. Another line is Nate, a young slave who *does* show a talent for cooking, and his relationship with Margaret, a teenaged indentured servant (a temporary slavehood for poor white people). Threaded all through the story is the tension that all slaves lived under, of not being in charge of their lives.

I enjoyed the story although at times it seemed to wander a bit. The author’s ability to describe things, whether sites in Philadelphia, Harkless’s fancy clothing, or- especially- the food he cooks is just exquisite. I was hungry the whole time I was reading because of the food descriptions! The writing in general, though, was a bit rough in places. A number of the supporting cast are not given enough depth. The most important thing, though, is the struggle between being a man who is free to go to the theater with white people and buy nice clothes, while at the same time always being under the whim of his owners, and this is painted vividly. Five stars. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Nov 18, 2018 |
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** Library Journal's Editor's Pick! ** Philadelphia 1793. Hercules, President George Washington's chef, is a fixture on the Philadelphia scene. He is famous for both his culinary prowess and for ruling his kitchen like a commanding general. He has his run of the city and earns twice the salary of an average American workingman. He wears beautiful clothes and attends the theater. But while valued by the Washingtons for his prowess in the kitchen and rewarded far over and above even white servants, Hercules is enslaved in a city where most black Americans are free. Even while he masterfully manages his kitchen and the lives of those in and around it, Hercules harbors secrets-- including the fact that he is learning to read and that he is involved in a dangerous affair with Thelma, a mixed-race woman, who, passing as white, works as a companion to the daughter of one of Philadelphia's most prestigious families. Eventually Hercules' carefully crafted intrigues fall apart and he finds himself trapped by his circumstance and the will of George Washington. Based on actual historical events and people, The General's Cook, will thrill fans of The Hamilton Affair, as they follow Hercules' precarious and terrifying bid for freedom.

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