Wednesday, October 5, 2022
It truly was news to me but my local newspaper yesterday informed me that it was National Taco Day. Not sure where it came from, or why it exists, but I had a nice taco Tuesday with friends at my favorite local taqueria.
Sunday, June 19, 2022
We spent our first summer vacation at Yosemite National Park. It was my third visit to the park and much is the same. The scenery in Yosemite Valley remains spectacular: granite rock faces, rushing water falls, popping wildflowers. The unexpected treasure was Mariposa Grove and nearby Wawona, at the south entrance to the park: majestic giant sequoias, scarred from wildfire and yet with leaves reaching for the sky and glistening with afternoon sunlight. Ranger Connie Lau, who was until recently a high school teacher, took us on a walk that prompted us to observe and connect with the natural world. She asked us about our roots before describing the expansive root system that holds steady these giants, the protective devices that keep us healthy such as nutrition and hydration, and what makes us stand tall. Her last question to the group was about legacy, taking note that the oldest of the sequoias had been dated 3,000 years and that the grove had lived through generations of parkgoers and national affairs. She recommended we consider those who built the paths we walked on... and provided the services that made possible our visits through the decades. That led her to recommend the Chinese laundry exhibit, adjacent to the Wawona Hotel, a few short miles from the Mariposa Grove.
Drawing on research from Park Ranger Yenyen Chan (who had interned at NPS while a Yale undergraduate), this in-depth feature from the Sierra Club explains that the exhibit opened in October 2021 to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the park and the workers who contributed to and sustained it. The Gold Rush fueled interest in the Sierras and Yosemite Valley. In order to accommodate the visitors, Yosemite built two stagecoach roads and employed Chinese immigrant workers who had grown disillusioned with gold prospecting after the imposition of taxes on foreign miners. In the 1870s, 300 immigrants worked to build roads by carving and blasting a path to the Wawona hotel. In 1882, 250 Chinese workers worked alongside other laborers to build a 56-mile road from Crocker’s Station to Tioga Pass, at 9,945 feet. The Chinese were paid $1.20 per day, while the European American workers made $1.50 per day.
Rangers discovered the humble brown structure and cast aside relics of the Chinese laundry workers who cleaned and pressed clothing and hotel linens for the Wawona Hotel before the structure fell into disuse. This is the site of the new exhibit. Displays showcase historic photographs, artwork, and artifacts found in the park over a century ago. There is a 1915 photo of the beloved backcountry cook Tie Sing with Stephen T. Mather and the Mather Mountain Party as well. There are some interactive activities for visitors, asking them about their experiences with migration or to explain the hardest job they've ever done on a slip of cloth to be hung on a clothes line. The most moving to me was an activity inspired by the tradition of Chinese laundries in America, which would enclose a small piece of paper with Chinese calligraphy into finished pieces of laundry. Visitors are asked to write a note of encouragement to the Chinese laundry workers. The visitors before us wrote notes of thank you for their contributions and their sacrifices. My family, born of Chinese immigrants to the US post-1965, added to their thanks and included an apology for the Chinese Exclusion Act and discrimination that would follow notwithstanding their contributions. We also included assurances that their legacy would be remembered through exhibits such as this one and the small but growing contingent of Chinese American rangers committed to telling their stories.
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
For Cool Hunting, Kelly Pau profiles co-founder Alvin Salehi about his meal-delivery platform, Shef, a "service that empowers immigrants and refugees to become food entrepreneurs." What makes Shef unique? It "uses local, home cooks that are trained and safety certified. Their names and cultures are listed on the site, which is home to over 100 different countries’ cuisines from Nepalese to Haitian, Gujarati and Thai … For cooks, Shef provides a platform where they can share their culture, generate income and work from home at their own schedule."
Amid Afghan resettlement efforts, Shef also spearheaded an expedited review process for Afghan chefs wanting to join the platform. To date, Shef continues to donate 100 meals per week to resettlement organizations assisting Afghan refugees.
Monday, November 22, 2021
As Thanksgiving brings families and cultures together, food is on our minds. Food has an incredible power to bring communities together. For Salon Food, Kayla Stewart features Washington, D.C.’s one-of-a-kind Immigrant Food restaurant, showcasing its ability to counter misinformation about immigrants while serving delicious meals. "Food has forever unified people," explained Chief Operating Officer Téa Ivanovic. "For someone unfamiliar with the issues facing immigrants in America, it’s daunting to jump into the complex topic of immigration without a baseline understanding of what immigrants contribute ... But it’s a lot less tough to sit down with a group of friends and learn about how your favorite dishes or flavors have come from immigrant cultures across the globe."
I will need to check out Immigrant Food on my next trip to D.C.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Long Island City in Queens is a burgeoning site for Asian food, cutlure, and politics in what is becoming a mecca for a new migrant community. According to the NY Times, there has been a fivefold increase in Asian residents in Long Island City since 2010 so that the Asian population of 11,000 is now one-third of the total city population. There are at least 15 Asian-owned businesses — including a Mandarin child care center and hair salon and several restaurants — that have opened in the neighborhood since March 2020.
Residents, many of whom are Chinese and Korean students (Japanese is the third largest ethnic group), are attracted by the close proximity to Manhattan and comparatively lower rents for luxury apartments. They are changing the profile of the community from its Italian immigrant and artist roots.
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Welcome America is presenting a cook book, Taste of Belonging: A Collection of Recipes and Ways to Strengthen Community Across Differences, to promote cultural understanding. Created as a toolkit and resource guide, the cookbook is intended for individuals and organizations seeking fresh inspiration and tips for building connections and decreasing prejudice in communities.
The introduction to the cookbook quotes chef Jose Andres:
From biryani to bulgogi and tortillas to tikkis, food has the power to evoke memories, bring people together, and transport you to other places.
Learn more and read the downloadable cookbook here.
To learn even more about using food as a tool for understanding, register for the session on "Fostering a Sense of Belonging in Your Community" at the Welcoming Interactive on May 5.
Monday, March 8, 2021
The Arab American Civic Council in southern California is now reviving its efforts to promote an area within Anaheim, California as Little Arabia. The goal is help local businesses who have struggled during the pandemic. Arab American advocates, business owners, and many community members see the designation as a way to acknowledge the community's economic and cultural contributions to the city. A social media campaign promoting "Designate Little Arabia" is part of the effort.
According to the Journal of Urban History. The district took root when entrepreneurs capitalized on low real-estate costs in the West Anaheim area and leased space to Arab immigrants for homes or businesses. Over time, the area transformed from an economically stagnant part of town to a vibrant food destination of Arabic restaurants, bakeries, halal markets, hookah lounges, and community organizations.
Monday, December 21, 2020
Saturday, December 12, 2020
Attention Hulu subscribers: Have you checked out Padma Lakshmi's show Taste the Nation? The Top Chef host and cookbook author travels the U.S. exploring foods from indigenous and immigrant communities. It looks delicious!
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Fugetsu-Do, a confectionery shop in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Little Tokyo, is known for its mochi -- a Japanese rice cake treat. The store has been owned and operated by one family -- the Kito family -- since 1903.
As the BBC notes, the business was started by Seiichi Kito, a Tokyo-trained mochi maker, in 1903. His son Roy joined the business in 1935, but their work was cut short during WW2 when the shop was closed and the Kitos were interned at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. After the war, father and son returned to Little Tokyo to restart their business. While they'd stored their equipment during internment, they couldn't pay the demanded back rent to get their equipment out of storage. With the help of an investor, the business eventually reopened in 1946. Roy's son, Brian, took over the business in 1980 and continues to run it today though he hopes his son Korey may take over the business. It's a National Historic Landmark!
You can watch their mochi-making magic here:
The next time you're in LA, you'll know where to stop in for a tasty treat!
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Novelist Min Jin Lee (Pachinko 2017) shares a moving personal anecdote about venturing into a Korean restaurant in Manhattan for jajangmyeon during the pandemic. These black bean sauce noodles, which originate in Northern China, happen to be one of this blogger's favorite comfort food dishes. They are the kind of food that I miss, and the she misses, while forgoing restaurants under shelter. Lee describes her transaction from behind a plastic counter mask, masked and gloved, and her heartfelt attempt to convey her appreciation for the woman's labor in this way:
"The Korean woman in the apron handed me the paper bag and stepped back.
We bowed to each other, the way we might have at a Korean church.
“Su go ha se yo,” I said, which translates to “Keep up your hard work,” but that isn’t it exactly. The phrase is a kindness, meaning, I recognize you’re making an effort, and I encourage you to bear up, and it also means, I admire your labor.
My city is five boroughs, and each borough has many neighborhoods, and each neighborhood is made up of numerous blocks, and on each block, there are businesses, and in each one, there is a counter, and that’s where you and I meet.
I hope when we can take off our masks, I get to tell you how much I need you."
Friday, April 24, 2020
Antoni Porowski is a Quebecois chef and television personality who you may recognize from the Netflix hit reboot of Queer Eye. His parents migrated to Canada from Poland (along with Antoni's sisters) before he was born. And Antoni has moved between Canada and the U.S. throughout his life.
Antoni had a super relatable immigrant moment during Season 1 of Queer Eye, Episode 3 ("Dega Don't"). The Fab Five got pulled over by a police officer while driving around Georgia. They're all clearly stressed when the officer asks the driver (not Antoni) for his license, which the driver was unable to produce. (Interjection: Really? You're driving a car! Even if it's for TV. Whatever.) Anyhoo, when it all turns out to be a gimmick -- the police officer was the nominator of the week, Antoni exclaims in relief: "I thought I was going back to Canada!"
And if you're looking for a feel-good quarantine show, I highly recommend Queer Eye. It's refreshing to watch a show that leaves you feeling your faith in humanity restored. It's a nice antidote to my over-consumption of news.
(And, yes, Tan fans... DO expect another QE immigrant of the day nod in the future!)
Saturday, June 9, 2018
The shocking loss to suicide of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has dominated the news in recent days. Bourdain had quite a following. As CNN reports, "[o]n his award-winning series, "Parts Unknown," Bourdain brought the world home to CNN viewers. Through the simple act of sharing meals, he showcased both the extraordinary diversity of cultures and cuisines, yet how much we all have in common."
In one of the many eulogies to Bourdain's life, Gustavo Arellano for the Los Angeles Times writes that "Anthony Bourdain was the eternal compadre of overlooked Latinos." He elaborates:
"Bourdain understood his privilege and used it as a cudgel to force Americans to think about our role in the world. He was particularly unsparing to our hypocrisies on Latino immigration. He spoke throughout his career about how Latinos (since he was a New Yorker, specifically Ecuadoreans, Salvadorans and Mexicans from the state of Puebla) were his eternal compadres, because of their work ethic and hilarity and giving ways. Anyone who opposed more of them coming into the United States, he said, was simply deranged."
Bourdain publicly criticized Donald Trump's immigration policies:
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Monday, November 6, 2017
Scheherazade Daneshkhu for the Financial Times reports that fruit and vegetables are being left to rot on British farms because of a shortage of labour, according to the National Farmers’ Union, which is calling on the government to implement a seasonal agricultural workers scheme to fix the problem. Ali Capper, whose fruit farm on the border between Herefordshire and Worcestershire sells Gala apples to supermarkets, said the business had 20 per cent fewer workers than usual in September.
The UK farming industry is heavily dependent on pickers from the EU — notably eastern Europe — for seasonal work. Low unemployment rates and the seasonal nature of farm work makes it difficult to attract domestic pickers, the sector argues. At the same time, the UK has also become less attractive to seasonal workers mostly from Romania and Bulgaria because of the fall in the value of sterling against the euro since Britain voted last year in a referendum to leave the EU.
Friday, May 26, 2017
The Los Angeles Times reports on this "sweet" story about everyone's favorite breakfast food: "Instead of national chains, the Southern California doughnut sector is dominated by mom-and-pop businesses run by immigrants, none more influential than Cambodian Americans."
Landing here as refugees in the mid-1970s to escape the Khmer Rouge, the Southeast Asian community quickly found a lifeline in the doughnut business.
An ambitious Cambodian refugee named Ted Ngoy built a network of doughnut shops and staffed them with his countrymen whose visas he sponsored. Ngoy started in Orange County, in La Habra and expanded to Fullerton, Anaheim and Buena Park. Cambodian doughnut stores spread to Los Angeles County, which long been dominated by the Winchell’s Donuts chain.
Years ago, Bill Hing told me about the presence of Cambodians in the donut business.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Here is a cool idea for foodies!
This May, Momed Atwater Village in Los Angeles is holding weekly “immigrant dinners” on Wednesday, featuring nine dishes from a variety of countries including Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Egypt. The series is meant to promote the understanding and acceptance of different cultures and shine a light on the refugee and immigrant crisis affecting much of the world today.
Even better, fifty percent of all proceeds will be donated to the International Rescue Committee, an organization that works to help refugees from all over the world.
Friday, May 12, 2017
For those of you interested in immigration and food (I'm talking to you, Stephen Lee), the Minneapolis Star Tribune has taken a fascinating look at "26 immigrants who have woven their cooking into the fabric of Minnesota, changing the Twin Cities dining scene forever."
The coverage includes beautiful portraits, maps of the chefs' home countries, and information about their food.
Perhaps we could schedule a future immprof conference for Minneapolis? We'd eat well!
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Sriracha has been the subject of a book and commentary. David Tran, the founder of Huy Fong Foods, which manufactures Sriracha, has an amazing refugee story. See here, here, here. The company is named for a Taiwanese freighter, the "Huey Fong", that carried the Tran and more than 3,000 other Vietnamese refugees in 1978.
'while racism and xenophobia have come out into the open, food this time around seems to be exempt. It would be nearly unthinkable to talk of banning a cuisine based on its country of origin. Red or blue state, Trump voter or Sanders diehard, we all want to watch Anthony Bourdain eat his way around the world and find the tastiest fish taco in town. The political tide may be shifting to nationalism, but our appetite is increasingly globalist."
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Immigration in the Age of Trump? How Kitchen Raids In Buffalo Sent Shock Waves Through Immigrant Rights Community
Last November, the ImmigrationProf blog raised the question whether the Trump administration would expand the use of workplace raids in immigrtation enforcement and looked at the raid on La Divina, a taqueria in Buffalo, New York.
NPR ("How Kitchen Raids In Buffalo Sent Shock Waves Through Immigrant Rights Community") follows up on the story and the impacts of the La Divina taqueria raid:
"The morning of Oct. 18, 2016, the employees at La Divina, a taqueria and Mexican grocery in Buffalo, N.Y., were prepping for the lunch crowd — making salsa, grilling chicken and stocking the shelves with Mexican Cokes and Corona beer. Suddenly, agents from Homeland Security Investigations rushed in.
"I heard someone shouting, 'Don't move! Don't move!' It was ICE," says Jose Antonio Ramos, a 29-year-old Mexican cook working illegally, in Spanish. ICE stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "I was in shock. I was complying with their orders, but they were mistreating us," he says. "They pointed guns at our heads. They pushed us on the floor and handcuffed us. They brought in dogs."
Beefy federal agents hauled out computers and cash registers while local news crews filmed. The raid of La Divina and three other restaurants under the same owner became one of the nation's biggest immigration worksite actions in recent years.
In all, 14 workers have been charged with civil and criminal immigration violations. Twelve more workers were found to be in the country illegally, but they were released because they didn't meet the government's enforcement priorities. The owner and his two managers are charged with harboring unauthorized immigrants. The federal criminal complaint alleges the trio provided workers with housing and transportation, paid them in cash off the books and avoided income taxes.
While Mucino is out on bail and reopening his restaurants one by one, most of his illegal workforce is out of a job and facing deportation. This was the aftermath of the raid despite an ICE statement that they were targeting the abusive employer, not his employees."