Cooks Who Care

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Live and learn with lessons from Behind the Stove. | #morethanacook | Open House at La Calaca Feliz on 01/23 - Taco Bout It:

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Let’s give them something to taco ‘bout.
@lacalacafeliz Open House tonight from 4-6.
Be there or be ⏹.
Details & registration in bio!
Who can resist Taco Tuesday?
Stop by this week’s Open House @ @lacalacafeliz.
Tacos, new friends, a delicious break in the day.
Link in bio for details & registration:
“I wanted to tell the story about my first memories being in a kitchen. I remember being little and sitting under the kitchen table and watching my dad make french fries. He made french fries last night. It was the first time we made it together in a long time, I had forgotten how to make them that way… It’s something that’s always stuck with me. I still love french fries. I like them homemade. My alter item is my dad’s apron but the apron is from my mom’s side of the family. Every time he cooks he puts on that raggedy apron. I was watching it last night, watching the pockets fall off. I know that apron can’t go anywhere because there are so many memories tied to it, so many grease stains on it, the tears are from one of us grabbing on the pockets and reaching in to grab whatever the heck my dad would keep in his pockets… He still cooks every night. We’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing the past 30 years. I really appreciate it. Food brings folks together... If I don’t see my siblings all week, I’ll see them on Sunday when they pass me the potatoes.”
#behindthestove with Khaliah Pitts of @phlakitchen and @our_mothers_kitchens
“A lot of those folks would not have eaten that stuff… I wouldn’t have eaten a lot of that stuff. Like the mieng. It’s a sticky rice lettuce wrap from Laos. It was on our survival menu which is the one I worked on. That’s a dish that was really different for a lot of people. That welcomes conversation. The more you can put the story behind the meal and see why these things are significant, the more it means to you and the more ready you are to accept those nutrients into your body… We grew up in this very linear world where everything has its place. When you’re in school you learn science then you learn math then you learn English. They’re all separate, you don’t really connect those dots. The more you get to bring things together, the more you get to figure out how your world is shaped and how it can be shaped… You don’t know how much a culture can change just by thinking differently.”
#behindthestove with Khaliah Pitts of @our_mothers_kitchens and @phlakitchen
A lot of things go on in a kitchen. Khaliah Pitts, @phlakitchen collaborator and Co-creator of @our_mothers_kitchens, can attest to that. We learn, make memories, do work, share the product of that labor, and through it all create a space worth returning to. In the second part of our feature on @phlassembled kitchen, a food educator speaks about creating traditions #behindthestove.
“I think they were surprised it was happening in a museum... That’s something that has long been talked about in this city. Those relationships between bigger institutions and the community. That conversation just gets louder the more change happens and restoration happens in the city. At this point in time -for a lot folks that I knew personally that came in- they were like, ‘I never would have come here at all.’ And not just because they didn’t know about it but because they didn’t have a good feeling about it. About what the museum represented to them as a community member. The whole exhibit was really about bringing voices that were normally not heard into spaces like that and sharing them across the city. Everybody has to eat. It’s an easy way to engage people. Then once you’re in that space and you see the juxtaposition between those crisp lines of the museum and all these familiar and real, tangible things that are there for you to interact with… it changes your perception of what life can be. Spaces that you didn’t think were accessible... why can’t they be? Why can’t they be an accessible space for everybody? I think that was the cool part for me. I thought the art museum is not for people like Khaliah. Why would people want to hear what I have to say?”
Too busy grinding to get in the room? Episode 48 of Beyond the Table rewinds our Philly panel of food entrepreneurs sharing their how-tos for starting a rewarding food business.
Check in with chef Will Johnson Jr from @miaandmecatering, Lee Wallach from @homeappetitphilly, and Judy Ni of @getbaod.
“This project and some of my work in recent years has been trying to dig and look back and reconnect to where I’m from. I contributed to the project by bringing my restaurant skills to the table because the rest of the group has much less restaurant experience. But I learned so much just from hearing their stories, working with them… I provided red cabbage and apple salad. (Most) of the ingredients… were ingredients from our region. Both sides of my family have been in the Philadelphia region for generations. I realized when I thought back to the foods I ate as a kid was how sometimes they were influenced by where our ancestors came from but it wasn’t explained to me. We ate sauerkraut but we also ate kielbasa and we have no Polish roots. I think back to my grandma growing up in Kensington and of course there was exchange happening between other immigrants and their neighbors. They’re learning from one another. By the time I come along, of course we’re just as likely to be eating Polish foods as we are things there were a coupon for in the Inquirer. So, when I was feeling sadness around not… having enough connection to my people’s foodways was being like… just like my grandma and my great grandma and all the generations- I’m a Philadelphia cook. What I make comes from the ingredients of our region. It’s informed by the foods and flavors that I ate growing up but it’s also influenced by the ingredients that are available in our region. The way that I cook is influenced by my neighbors and the exchange that we have with one another. So, one part of this was really celebrating foods from this region. And the resistance part of that is the resistance to our more corporate food system and foods coming from all over instead of supporting our local economy.”
#behindthestove with Kristin Schwab of @phlassembled Kitchen
(Check back next week for Part 2 of our feature on the @phlakitchen team)
“I was in the resistance group… We talked about what a resistance menu should do and what we wanted to curate in that space…. We were really inspired by folks from history who had fed social justice movements and fed freedom fighters. We really wanted to honor those folks who came before us and take a step in their shoes… To honor their work and do work in this day and age that was inspired by that history. Looking back on the project, one of the things that made me feel like we were doing the right work was that so many of Philadelphia’s freedom fighters were in that space... And the Reentry Think Tank. All these different folks who do work thinking about how people get out of prison, how to support them, and how to have stronger communities and resources for them. They had their gathering as part of Philadelphia Assembled and it was one of our busiest days. That was hard. We’re grinding in the kitchen. Sometimes we’d be like, ‘The most amazing panel is happening right now and I wish I could be listening’... but moments like that I realized my role is to be making the food right now and making sure everyone is fed. To look out and see people not just eating but having conversation together around the table and continuing their work and feeling nourished and fed, that to me is one of those moments where I feel like I’m in the right place. Which feels… it’s hard to describe.”
“We put out a call to home cooks from all over the city.” Kristin Schwab’s love of food carries her from kitchens to museums, inspires her from behind stoves to radical community building. For 3 months in 2017, Kristin and a group of likeminded cooks created a meeting place within the @phlassembled exhibit. @phlakitchen welcomed the city to revisit its relationship with history and renew its understanding of food through a series of 3 menus: How do we feed Survival? How do we feed Resistance? How do we feed Victory? #behindthestove
“That call was inspired by Ntozoke Shange’s cookbook ‘If I Can Cook, You Know God Can’… we were reflecting on our roles as cooks who do social change work. We wake up in the morning and we’re like… I’m a cook who wants to make the world a better place. A more just and equitable place. Often, we feel confident about the work we’re doing. We’re building community and we’re bringing people around the table to have hard conversations and we’re helping people communicate across differences. In the moment after the election, we were like… are we doing the right work? Are we making the world a better place through our cooking? There was this moment of introspection and checking in with ourselves… She (Shange) asked how do we concentrate our freedom, how do we celebrate our victories... what do we want for dinner? That’s my version of it. That’s not exact. But that’s what stuck with me. We had been brought on to offer a menu that -just like Philadelphia Assembled the exhibit- shared Philadelphia’s stories of resistance and resilience… After it was like… Alright. The work within the walls of a museum can have purpose. In this time, in this moment. We are doing the work we need to do as cooks.”
Sttttrreeettttccccchhhhh out your weekend.
Monday (01/15) we’re doing yoga at @amritayoga215.
Register for an insta-karma boost: All proceeds donated to @core_gives to support industry families in need.
Link in bio!
Get it while they’re hot!
The first 3 hangouts of the new year coming your way:
01/10 - Power of Design w. @forkspoon_designstudio
01/15 - Yoga for Good at @amritayoga215 to support @core_gives
01/23 - Taco Bout It at @lacalacafeliz
Details and registration in bio!
Rounding out our review of an amazing year of interviews and #beyondthetable experiences: For co-founder and  @chefmcampbell, Episode 29 really hit home. In ‘Work, Live, Love,’ Maria interviewed industry couples with whom she could easily sympathize.
“Having been in a relationship with a #Chef for over 15 years, I loved hearing other perspectives from work and relationships... the words ‘normies,’ ‘normal,’ ‘odd balls,’ ‘but it works’ were stated all around, all night. I have never heard people talk about it like that before. We were at colleague and friend Brian Oliveira’s spot @girardongirard. More people need to talk about living their lives and the careers we understand... Varnana Beuria (co-owner @chhayaphiladelphia) and her husband, Brett, resonated with me. V talks about how our culture normalizes busy: ‘You kind of feel like, I’m not working hard enough. I’m going to get left behind...’ No. I need time for my relationship, I need time for my kids. We don’t have [these] conversations enough... Just bringing them up is insightful to me.”
Do you see yourself here?