In a primary season with sharp language around immigration, two articles beg to be read widely. Both feature programs that use the shared experience of food to strengthen the bond between immigrants to their new hometowns.
The first article profiles Hot Bread Kitchen, a top-shelf bakery committed to producing high-quality loaves of all kinds. The brainchild of New York baker Jessamyn Waldman-Rodriguez, Hot Bread Kitchen employs recent immigrants and trains them in all aspects of the bakery: from making dough from scratch to pulling fresh-baked loaves out of the oven at the perfect time. Not only do their breads sell to some of the fanciest restaurants and shops in the city, all of their bakers are placed in full-time positions after completing training.
Two hours south by train from New York sits Edible Alphabet, a project under the care of the Free Library of Philadelphia and in partnership with Nationalities Service Center. This program offers a new twist on English language training by blending language acquisition with cooking. Ingredients are the vocabulary lesson and each class ends with a shared meal. NPR recently showcased some examples of dishes, all designed for affordability and the varied tastes of Philadelphians, wherever they come from.
Baking—and breaking—bread together is a form of welcome. Given the less charitable sentiments that keep surfacing in the bluster of the primary season, I pledge allegiance to programs like Hot Bread Kitchen and Edible Alphabet who happily celebrate many flags.
Photo by Evan Siegle of the Green Bay Press-Gazette
You know you’re in Maine when on Saturday you go to a Lobster Bake (two lobsters, a baked potato the size of a Nerf football, roasted onion, corn on the cob, roll, salad, and watermelon for $26–no one starves) with live entertainment that does a decent rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama and a silent auction that offers the gamut of possible loot: from Cheese Nips to Ski Boots.
Then on Sunday you take your leftover lobster (they give you two, after all) and make Lobster Rolls and then reduce everything that’s left of your lobsters down into stock–even though it makes your entire home reek like a roadside Lobster Pound. The Lobster Roll recipe I used called for lime juice, and man did it make that dish sing.
Lime juice: it is the key to all happiness.
Happily, my haunt in Maine is an easy drive to Portland. Sure, some folks head to Portland for lobster, or one of the many eateries that are causing sensations across the land. Me? I go for the bakeries. I’m a sucker for anything that gets baked in an oven: bread, cookies, brownies, pies–I’ll take ten of each, thanks. Some of my favorites are going to get a nod on Saveur‘s website soon, so stay tuned.
With bread on the brain, my curiosity was immediately whetted when I read about baker and restaurant owner J.R. Schoenfeld, who keeps the locals fed and happy in upstate Wisconsin. Schoenfeld has founded an initiative called The Seven Loaves Project, and the story goes something like this: Schoenfeld traveled as part of delegation to Rwanda and was moved to establish a bakery that would not only serve to supply fresh bread to far-flung villages that are distant enough from bakeries in the main cities, but would also build job training opportunities for village residents.
This is a great example of the transactional becoming transformational–and through bread! No matter the product, it can be a tool for change.