About six months ago, I found myself standing in the middle of the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots community farm in the City Heights section of San Diego. It was there that I met Luchia, a refugee from Uganda who now lives with her daughters in City Heights. She is one of the strongest, most determined women I have ever met, so beautiful and proud.
She was there to meet me, show me her garden plot, and then, take me home to cook traditional Ugandan fare. When we met it was actually a little chilly out and her natural instinct was to wrap her arms around me, making sure that her scarf was wrapped around me too. Needless to say, it was an instant connection and she welcomed me within a heartbeat.
Over the past five years the IRC has been building its New Roots program – a program which connects refugees, newly arrived in the United States, with the land and helps them integrate into their communities. To date, the IRC has been able to establish community gardens and farms in 11 of the 22 cities where they help refugees restart the lives.
Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more and we invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America. Catch up on past coverage.
In Spanish, it’s known as “Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias” or el “Dia de Las Gracias.” Although it’s not a holiday celebrated in Latin America, Thanksgiving has resonated with Hispanics in the United States because of two vital components in Latino culture: family and food.
Latino households across the country will serve Hispanic dishes alongside Thanksgiving classics like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, blending their own culture into the “traditional” American holiday.
“Last year, I spent it at my sister’s house and we had ham, pasteles, yam, stuffing and Mexican rice alongside the turkey,” says Baltimore, Maryland resident Elianne Ramos. She works as the Vice-Chair of Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media .
Of course, not every Latino household is the same.
Editor's note: This piece was originally published in the Southern Foodways Alliance's Gravy Foodletter #42. Today's installment comes courtesy of Kat Kinsman, managing editor of CNN Eatocracy. We're resurfacing it to kick off our year-long look at what the Civil Rights Act of 1964 meant for restaurants.
Several stories above Manhattan's Central Park, there hangs a three-Michelin-starred, monstrously expensive restaurant that an awful lot of people think is perfect. I may have thought that, too, at one point, but I know it's not, because I've been to the K&W Cafeteria.
Actually, I'm going to back that up and admit out loud in public that I have in fact boarded a plane, rented a hotel room, and stayed overnight in a city several states away for the express purpose of sitting down with a groaning tray of K&W chicken livers, fried okra, collard greens, and vegetable congeal and eating my greedy head off.
Yes, I made some preemptory noises about going to visit a couple of old friends who live in relative proximity to a K&W. I brought them along with me so I could steal hush puppies off their plates. And their child's. I have no shame. And the trip cost just slightly less than my single meal at the aforementioned palace of gastronomic fanciness.
There clearly are many, many things wrong with me as a human being, but if you've ever eaten at a K&W, you know my love of the place is not one of them.
That wasn't always the case. Though a Sunday apres-church K&W dining room is now typically a multi-racial, transgenerational, pan-denominational assembly of Southerners possessed of a great appreciation for fancy church hats and rock-bottom prices, in the early 1960s, several outposts found themselves at the center of the battle over segregation.
Editor's note: This piece - a little-known lesson in African American drinkways - was originally delivered as a presentation at the 2008 Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium on the Liquid South. It was later printed in Cornbread Nation 5. Today's installment comes courtesy of John Simpkins, Fellow of Comparative Constitutional Law at the Charleston School of Law.
I've been black since birth. I'm not sure how long I've been a Jew. "You're the only black person I know who can quote Woody Allen movies," said my Jewish friend, Peter, when I asked him to assess my Jewishness. "I only quote from the early good ones," I explained. "And those I love. In fact, love is too weak a word for what I feel. I more than love them. I 'lurve' them."
"Sammy Davis Jr. was your favorite member of the Rat Pack," Peter continued, pressing his case. "You even sent your three-year-old to summer camp at the Jewish Community Center. He recognizes the Israeli flag, can sing the dreidel song, and is constantly asking for challah. If you're not Jewish, Jonah certainly is."
My jaw hit the pavement the first time I saw the truck. Outside Atlanta's CNN Center was parked a FedEx-sized delivery automobile, painted with the colors of the Mexican flag and the portrait of an African-American man wearing a sombrero right smack in the middle. It bore a tagline, “The Blaxican Mexican Soul Food.”
I knew I had to find this Blaxican.
Before he was known as The Blaxican, William Turner was a Boston, Massachusetts-raised father of two who came to Atlanta in 1992 and today, like many Americans, found himself unemployed. Turner was laid off from his job as the marketing director for a non-profit religious organization a year ago.
So with that background, where did the food come in?
Several years ago, a graduate-school classmate and I intersected in Birmingham. We'd become friends over the poetry of Keats and Yeats in upstate New York. Once a semester, we would trek to Syracuse's Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, where I'd load a rack of ribs into my toothpick-thin body, to the amazement of the Harley-riding regulars. So on his first trip to Birmingham, I decided to take Paul to Dreamland.
I mean the one near UAB. Paul wasn't ready for the Tuscaloosa cathedral. I had to ease him into it. And the Birmingham Dreamland was also part of my grad school experience: I went there with my parents just after it opened, when I made my first trip home from New York for Thanksgiving. Birmingham's Dreamland was one of the few places I could exceed my Dinosaur draw, polishing off a rack before moving on to the second. This was the obvious venue for an Alabama reunion with Paul.
From dawn to dusk during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex in order to purify themselves, learn humility, pray and concentrate on Allah's teachings. Sarah Mahmood is a former intern on Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien and a junior at Wellesley College and shares this story of her family's traditional Indian celebration.
This might be the first Ramadan that my parents wonʼt complain about how theyʼve gained weight, despite having fasted the entire month.
After a long, hungry day of fasting, itʼs easy to overcompensate when you can finally eat. It doesnʼt help that in South Asia, the meal eaten to break the fast (Iftari or Iftar in other parts of the Muslim world), consists primarily of fried food.
Now that Ramadan is in the summer though, and the sun sets later at 8 pm, fewer families are having the traditional fare. Itʼs too hectic to prepare and eat two meals just before going to bed, and so many are skipping straight to dinner.
Jesse Friedman and Laura Hadden are cooking their way around the world.
The Brooklyn couple has set out on a multi-year project to throw a dinner party featuring the cuisine of each of the 193 United Nations member countries - in alphabetical order, no less. They document the experience, complete with pictures and recipes, on their blog, United Noshes.
Thus far, they’ve cooked 36 meals - starting with Afghanistan and ending with China.