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.
Confession: I have not yet seen David Simon’s heralded television series, “The Wire.”Or “Treme.”
[Insert gasp here.]
I know, I know. This represents a serious gap in my pop culture cred. But just because I haven’t seen his shows doesn’t mean I’m not aware of Simon’s genius. So the recent New York Timesarticle on the second season of “Treme,” set in post-Katrina New Orleans, caught my eye.
The article reports on the culinary tradition emphasis of season two, with plot twists that involve the fate of a featured character, Janette Desautel, head chef of the fictitious restaurant, Desautel’s. After temporarily shuttering Desautel’s, she heads to New York City to seek work.
Two cities, two culinary personalities.
Last summer, I collaborated with portrait photographer Nisha Sondhe on a piece for Saveur Magazine called “Requiem for an Oyster.” The photo essay featured chefs from New Orleans in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the impact on seafood that is the cornerstone of NOLA cuisine. Despite the challenges of the one-two punch of Katrina and Deepwater, Sondhe encountered optimism in the face of these challenges.
Does this optimism feature in “Treme”?
Clearly, it’s time for me to tune in and watch to find out.
Tom Kevill-Davies spent nearly 800 days pedaling from New York City to Rio in search of foods that tickled his taste buds. He found many and wrote about it on his website, The Hungry Cyclist. He recently published a book, One Man : One Bike : One Huge Appetite And 15,000 miles To Ride and was interviewed by Daisy Dumas in the UK’s The Independent.