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.
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.
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
I find this especially a propo, since I’ve been getting into different kinds of non-refrigeration experiments, like pickles, adobo, and sourdough starter. It’s a great way to save money, food, and explore parts of our heritage tied to non-electric food preservation.
Have you tried Koji or other new fermentation-related foods?
Contact me or comment below to share your adventures and delight!
What do you call some one who works on contract for a scribe? A sub-scriber!
A yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk. How do you get Food the Wong Way posts right away? A short bit of blog news here: you can now subscribe to get email alerts via the ‘Subscribe!’ option on this main page. On full web browser: it’s to the right, below the ‘Hello’ section. On mobile: it’ll be below that ‘Hello’ section at the very bottom of your browser. I promise not to sell your info to a spam list.
Little-known secret: not everything that goes up here goes up on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram accounts, and some times what does go up did not go up right away. Thanks for putting up with my corny jokes. ;D I made that one up myself, just for you.
Alaska’s official state motto is “North to the Future,” meant to represent Alaska as a land of promise.
In the spirit of time travel,* here are some tips on how to stretch your vacation outside the bounds of the time you were physically there, with my most recent Alaskan Adventures for illustration. Continue Reading
The name comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread … Empanadas have their origins in Galicia (Spain) and Portugal. They first appeared in Medieval Iberia during the time of the Moorish invasions. A cookbook published in Catalan in 1520 mentions empanadas filled with seafood among its recipes of Catalan, Italian, French, and Arabian food. It is believed that empanadas and the very similar calzones are both derived from the Arabic meat-filled pies, samosas. The dish was carried to Latin America and the Philippines by Spanish colonists, where they remain very popular to this day.