Tag: Sustainable Traditions: Immigrants in Today’s Food Culture

Sustainable, local, organic, artisanal – these terms help define today’s food culture. What do they mean for immigrants? Immigrants occupy every position in the food chain - from the farm to the table - yet their stories often go untold or are misrepresented. In the second annual Feet in 2 Worlds food issue we explore the intersection of immigrant food and culture with concepts from today’s food scene. It’s part of our mission to bring underreported stories from immigrant communities to new audiences on public radio and online.

Letter from From Executive Producer, John Rudolph: Whose Farm to Whose Table?

Introduction to this issue of the Feet in 2 Worlds magazine.

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Reclaiming the Taste of Home

Using the buzzwords of today’s food culture to describe immigrant experiences.

Radio

For African Cooks One New Jersey Farmer Has What They Need

Meet NJ’s African-born farm family in this multimedia feature.

Videos

What Mexican Chefs Cook at Home: La Comida de los Cocineros

A video that tells the story of the Mexican cooks at one of North Carolina’s most celebrated restaurants.

Radio

A Nigerian Mom and Her Son Explore Tradition and Nutrition

Listen to Michael Obadina’s radio story about exploring his family’s history and culinary heritage.

“I’ve Got My Goat” – Caribbean People in South Florida Maintain a Cherished Tradition

Providing milk, meat and a vital link to Island and Latin American cultures.

A Chef and a Frog Team Up to Teach Bronx Kids About Healthy Eating

A lifelong neighborhood resident with a mission to change her community’s food culture.

Artisanal and Affordable: The Queens Night Market Defies NY’s High-Priced Food Culture

Vendor at Queens International Night Market

Roll Play the Queens International Night Market. Photo by James Boo.

Hoi Nguyen, the 27-year-old owner of Roll Play, a food stand that offers “gourmet spring rolls” at the Queens Night Market, draws inspiration from his parents. After leaving Vietnam, they arrived in the United States with their 10 children in 1990, and ran a catering business out of their Boston home for 15 years.

“What was most memorable was the fun and joy that the experience of sharing a meal created for our customers, friends, and community,” says Nguyen.

Now, eight years after his father’s death, Nguyen is reviving the family’s culinary craft at the Queens International Night Market. He marks his food stand with the word “artisanal,” but acknowledges that’s less important than his cultural roots.

“I generally think restaurateurs use ‘local’ ‘artisanal’…simply because of the upward trending of these words, which benefits them by drawing in more customers,” says Nguyen.

Scenes from the Queens International Night Market

Scenes from the Queens International Night Market. Photo by James Boo.

At first glance, the Saturday night scene at the nondescript Queens parking lot where Nguyen sets up his stand seems like the scrappy offspring of a county fair. However, a closer look reveals the Queens Night Market’s unique advantage: hand-crafted, small-batch cooking that channels the personal history of immigrants.

In sharp contrast to other artisanal food markets and food festivals that have become a regular occurrence in New York City, the Queens Night Market sets a $5 price limit on every dish served.

“It was partly personal, partly business model in terms of getting people out, and also staying true to the mission of making it a community event,” says John Wang, the market’s founder.

The mission has struck a chord with the cooks who power the Night Market. More than half of the food vendors at this weekly event are first-time entrepreneurs, and almost all of them use food as means of expressing their journeys to New York.

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Myo Thway, who runs the Vendy-nominated stand Burmese Bites, has 20 of years of experience cooking for community food events and the occasional street fair. He works as a designer by day, but spends nearly two days each week shopping for ingredients and preparing his small menu of curries, noodles, and flatbreads.

 

The Queens Night Market’s $5 price limit for all dishes makes it tougher for Thway, Nguyen, and the other vendors to turn a profit, but low vendor fees help them defray their costs and embrace the market’s mission of inclusion.

“When I [was] doing the street fair I [had] an empty stomach. I was just working all day,” Thway says. “At the Night Market, everybody knows everybody else, so I eat their food and they eat my food. I like them, and also I like their food.”

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation, and anonymous donor and readers like you.

News

King of Coxinha: The Underbelly of an Artisanal Brazilian Snack

A documentary film explores the hard work of making a hand-crafted specialty food.

Scrappy Foods: Frugal Cooks Invented These 10 Beloved Dishes from Around the World

Luscious leftover dishes from immigrant kitchens with links to recipes.