‘Hate Immigrants, Love Their Food’

Churros (Photo by Rachael Bongiorno via Feet in 2 Worlds)

In a series of articles and audio reports, Feet in 2 Worlds takes a look at the paradox of immigrant cuisine in the U.S. – how Americans love to sample the foods of different cultures, yet seem far less welcoming of the immigrants who grow, prepare and sell those foods.

“Immigrants, Food and America’s Culture Wars” kicks off with an introductory article that discusses how and why food is a window on cultural crosscurrents.

Why food? Everybody eats, and unlike the language we speak, the religion we practice or the way we dress, what we eat and cook is arguably the most widely accepted way for us to express our culture. Through food we can trace where we have come from and where we are headed as individuals and as a nation of immigrants. Through food we can also glimpse how the society is coming apart in unforeseen ways.

To get a sense of how ramped up immigrant enforcement following Trump’s inauguration affected immigrants and their incomes, read the report on how Ecuadorean churro baker and distributor Alex (not his real name) saw business fall off markedly, and how Salvadoran Maria (not her real name) now sells elote (boiled corn) and atole (a corn beverage infused with cinnamon, sugar and milk) only from her home, while once she sold foods on the street and earned much more.

Read, too, about how a homeless refugee from Zimbabwe is earning money as one of many “chefugees” cooking a series of dinners dubbed “Displaced Kitchens.”

Tatenda worked as a caterer in Zimbabwe, and her events often feature her signature chicken stew with sadza —a Zimbabwean staple made from maize meal that’s similar in consistency to mashed potatoes. The bone-in chicken parts are braised with tomatoes, onions, and carrots. It’s a dish that summons strong memories of home.

“My father says he doesn’t make anyone cook chicken except me, so I wanted you guys to have that,” she told the diners.

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