I think food can be a very powerful tool for affecting people’s opinions and understanding of cultures beyond their own. I’m lucky to live in New York: a melting pot of a city where we have every type of food available to us and for the most part, folks are pretty tolerant of one another. This is no coincidence. When you eat each other’s food, the fear of the unknown or “the other” is often mitigated. It’s my hope that with Food Without Borders, there’s an opportunity to hear from some of the people cooking food (often behind the scenes) and that can potentially assuage some misunderstandings of who immigrants are.
–Sari Kamin: culinary ethnographer, storyteller, eater, and Master’s graduate of NYU’s Food Studies Program
You may find Episode 2 with Manal Kahi especially interesting. It features Eat Offbeat, which delivers authentic and home-style ethnic meals conceived, prepared and delivered by refugees resettled in NYC. You might also enjoy Episode 4 with Fany Gerson, author of “My Sweet Mexico,” featuring frozen treats and sweets of Mexico. She shares her experience of how Mexican ice cream is traditionally made, touches on the impact of free trade (or lack thereof) on ingredients for a small business, interesting contrasts in people’s price expectations of different kinds of cuisine, and doing good for your community as a small for-profit business.
-Familiar but unfamiliar: being too-rusty in language skills, feeling a stranger in a friendly city
What did I find?
Aah, that southern Chinese accent! Familiar, just …familiar.I walked off the plane to find the Taiwan scents and accents floating around only familiar. It’s this kind of lush, humid smell with a subtle industrious undercurrent. Not as plastic as Hong Kong, with a strong hint of tropics. Delightfully homey.
Sometimes when I hear another language, it sounds like something on the edge of my hearing, where I can’t quite understand but if I listen a little more in a different way, it’ll make sense. It’s like a whisper of misty rain, sifting by and gone before you know it. It also didn’t feel like I was drowning in a foreign language.
In Taiwan, like a tranquil pool, I was happy to sit in it and let the words float by in a sea of general comprehension. Some waters were in other unknown dialects, like Hakka and Taiwanese, but those friendly waters floated by harmlessly. Continue Reading
I learned to bike when I was eighteen. I had gone on the University of Minnesota’s excellent study abroad program to Tianjin, China. It’s two hours south of Beijing by train.
The first week Charles Sanft, our Program Director took us to buy bikes for $20 apiece and told us that’d be our main transportation for three months.
My roommate Diana and I got up early every day to try and ride our bikes in circles in the pavement in front of the luxe dorm*, and circle after circle, we got it. For three months, this $20 piece of clever machinery carried me through the foreign streets of sweltering Tianjin, to shop in the markets for red, white, and pink shirts (I never seemed able to find other colors in women’s sizes), to the clubs with hydraulic dance floors and Qingdao beer cheaper than water. I’d pay a coin to the kid watching the bike parking lot, hop off and stroll into the internet cafes to write home and also to squint at the AOL news ticker bar at the top of the instant messenger to read the non-censored world news. I’d learn that it would be wiser to walk my bike home from the bar rather than bother riding recklessly late at night. ,It would take me back to the dorms and class* to gain（briefly）full literacy. Thus began my love of biking, and now I use it for commuting, watch for bike options when traveling, and gleefully burn the calories of delicious food I so savor via two wheels.
This story commemorates the close of May
Bike Month in the U.S.
What’s your bike story?
Share in the comments below or via social media.
*In one Chinese language class, my professor had us read a story of a man riding a horse, who gets off his horse to ask for directions. This was meant to illustrate how to be polite if you stop your bike and need to talk to some one, and I still think of it to this day.
SIM Card Rental & Local Pay Options $ < Global Data Plan $$$
Did you know: you can rent a SIM card or cell phone when you arrive at the airport in Taiwan?
I found this out once I was there, after already having purchased my $10-a-day global data plan with AT&T. AT&T would charge for each day the plan was used and meant if you stayed 8 days, you’d be charged $80 to use the same options as your regular plan back home. Turns out instead, you can rent a SIM card for your cell phone from the airport at a much cheaper rate, and then use your phone as usual. E.g. as of the writing of this post, if you get a 7-day pass with 240hrs of data at NT500 that’s about $16.61 USD. You could also rent a cell phone if you wanted, which is still pretty useful for bike rental downtown, which requires a local Taiwan phone number for registration. There’s even an option to reserve ahead of time to pick up if you do not arrive at a time when the store is in full operation. Check out the details below.
The general lesson for international travel here is: research a few options on phones, and it can save you a bundle -a bundle you could put toward more food on the trip, or a fun side excursion. When I was in Manila last Fall, my spouse’s super-helpful cousins helped set us up with SIM cards from the local company Globe, and that was a fraction of a price of our (slightly different, more complicated) AT&T global data plan at the time. When it comes to cell phone company competition, the U.S. is not the leader and you can leverage this circumstance when you travel. I often end up using more data while traveling, to figure out transit logistics, hunt for food via Foursquare, or load a zillion pictures that clog up the blog pipeline, so these options are really worth it if you are on the go but need to stay connected. No judgment of those who don’t, that is a fun route too.
Singapore is famous for its food culture, and although there are certainly high-end top-dollar restaurants with 10-course menus that would charm the foodiest ex-pat executive, the heart of that food culture lives in the local hawker centres.
Street food is a common cultural institution throughout the world, but has a special place in Southeast Asia in particular as the dominant working-class cuisine and in Singapore’s case primary meal option. The hawker centres themselves are the result of a typically Singaporean government effort in the 1970’s to improve food safety and keep an ever-increasing army of food hawkers from blocking traffic. The government built and maintains the cavernous markets themselves, and administers licensing and health codes. Despite this standardization, the hawker centre is still a vibrant part of the local culture and a wonderfully chaotic den of unexpected delights to western palates and challenges to preconceptions about “eating out”.
The centres are organized as long lines of narrow, no-frills stalls, each operated by a different vendor, each with their own specialties and styles. Although the cuisines tend to be dominated by the ethnicity of the surrounding neighborhood, it’s still a grab-bag of curries, dumplings, soups, hot pots, noodles, satay, fruit juices, and everything else that’s taken root in this culinary crossroads. Continue Reading
Besides the amazing architecture of Al Andalus (the name of southern Spain during the times of the Islamic rule from ~700 – 1492, the area now known as Andalusia), the area is also known for tapas.
Tapas are generally served in most bars and restaurants. Some only serve tapas, and are known as a tapas bar. With each drink that you order, you get small bites of food that come with the drink. This is tapas. I described it to others as a Spanish dim sum while drinking. It’s a whole culture in Spain. And it’s fantastic.
The type of tapas that come with your drinks can vary widely. From the very basic potato chips with your beer to a small plate of calamari with your sangria.
If you’re interested in advancing your knowledge in food movements, or advancing equity, there’s exciting work afoot from the folks in this space.
A few tidbits, big and small:
The gathering was held in a highly symbolic space at the Intellectual House. It felt extra meaningful in an inclusive way, to welcome members of all tribes and backgrounds. The solidarity here felt strong, and I think other cultural clusterings could really learn from such an example, and benefit from more exchange of ideas. They also began with an acknowledgement that the UW is built on tribal land.
Hyamiciate, Della (Rice) Sylvester of the Cowichan Tribes on Vancouver Island opened the gathering with an elder blessing. It was heartwarming to hear her share her wisdom on her lifelong study of medicinal plants and her life experience. It was also great and fitting contrast with the theme of the event, which was on highlighting native youth.
The keynote speaker was Kalilah Rampanen, a musician, songwriter and activist who is Nuu-chah-nulth, Woodland Cree and Finnish. Per program details, at sixteen years of age, her music “explores Indigenous, environmental, and social horizons that combine acoustic, blues, and alternative styles of expression. I was very sad to have missed this, and while keeping an eye out for follow-up notes from the symposium, have made do with YouTube videos of her songs.
I attended a presentation on Squaxin Island Tribal Food Sovereignty Actions by tribal members and students Aleta Poste and Candace Penn, along with UW student and Melissa Poe. I especially loved hearing from about growing up rich in culture, feeling passionate about passing on stories of gathering nettles, clams and geoduck to students while giving them experience in biology field work.
One common and inspiring theme among this, the community garden project, and sovereignty projects was the importance of sharing the knowledge and use of First Foods, its ability to empower, and the opportunity to spend meaningful time together as a community through activities stewarding these foods.
Did you know: there are only 3 fresh water mussels in the region? If you learn them all, you are an expert! (Candace Penn)
Another interesting tidbit: every tribe that’s federally recognized has its own Natural Resources Department.
There were many other exciting things covered at the symposium, abstracts can be found on the symposium program.
Oh right, this is a food blog. “What did you eat, Yiling?”
There was a first foods tasting table, the main feature photo of this post. Also, I ate bitterroot, which had the texture of enoki mushrooms (or enoki had the texture of bitterroot). The native food they were preparing smelled delicious and it drove me a little wild to have to leave before it was ready to eat.
Trial Experience Rating:
Novelty Rating: in this case, it feels crass to use the word novelty lest I other the experience, so let’s just say I haven’t attended a meeting of the minds like this in quite some time. The familiarity of being among other people with “respect for elders” as a strong value was really sweet to me, while it was also refreshing to see the different flavor of a more playful mentorship attitude from Hyamiciate than I’ve found in East Asian elders. Caveat: tiny sample size, don’t generalize from this.
Likelihood of Repeat: 100% seems the symposium has grown in verve and popularity since its inception in 2015, so I expect it to happen again next year. I’d certainly be happy to go! I only caught wind of it after a prior commitment was set so only got a brief moment to attend. Would happily go back.
On a personal level, I also really enjoyed seeing the range of attendees participating, from Morgan up from Portland who works educating youth in healthy foods, the chair of the Geography department, Dr. Charlotte Cote who has written on revitalizing Indigenous food practices, and especially students leading the shift to promote First Foods and real engagement in their own communities.
Here’s one from my significant other’s mountaineering class. I froze my ass off camping in in Bryce Canyon so you don’t have to.
While camping, you can fill a large nalgene (or other water) bottle with hot water before bed, and put it in your sleeping bag for extra warmth all night! If you find the surface a little burn-y to your skin, you can wrap a bandana around the bottle.
Bonus warmth points if you drink all the water once you wake up. Staying hydrated, friends!
My friend Amy asked me when I was in Minnesota once, “do you ever make recipes that don’t turn out?” and that spurred me starting a collection of fail/disappointment pictures. These have been deposited here as a stream, and has started to include situations I think funny.
You know, we’re all human, and we might as well admit it online, right?
I hope it makes you laugh. Let me know yes or no on that.
Future posts may also just include general behind-the-scenes tidbits, but you’ll just have to keep watching to find oot.
I’m trying something different this time with the writing. Let me know how it goes. Thanks!
Belonging is a funny thing. As an Asian American kid growing up in Minnesota, I just wanted to be like everyone else I knew. My mother (born in Taiwan) persistently spoke to me in Chinese despite my brother and I coming home from school and responding in English for about ..twelve years. My parents sent me to Chinese language school on Saturday mornings. Despite being a good student on weekdays, come Saturday morning, I would just put down all the words I’d crammed for the quiz Friday night, wistfully think of the cartoons on tv I was missing while in class, then get on with my day.* Perhaps this allowed me to continue pretending I would grow up to be 6 feet tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed, with Scandinavian features when I grew up (it’s Minnesota, people look like that).
This April, an opportunity came up for me to go to Taiwan. Unlike last Fall, this one worked with my schedule and current obligations and seemed a good chance to go explore places where my mother grew up. It would be my first time back in 16 years. I say “back,” but honestly, I’ve been to Taiwan three times in my life: Continue Reading