Spaghetti was seen as exotic in my grandparents’ day in age. Hummus was strange and vegan-centric when I was in college. Guacamole grossed a lot of Americans out a few decades ago. I don’t need to point out that they’re now proud staples of the American diet. But just imagine what our plates would look like if we had closed the door on immigration years ago.
This is something that hits home to all of us. Food is powerful, it engages us in a visceral way every day. Especially in the digital age, where we might consume more food photos, recipes, articles, videos, podcasts, etc. than real calories. So I asked a number of fellow food content creators such as bloggers to focus on immigration as a theme in their posts in a couple weeks, this Presidents’ Day, February 21st. I am truly excited to read—and cook next—what they have to share.
Everyone is welcome to celebrate immigrant food in their social media of any kind, and include the hashtag #ImmigrationIsTasty, too.
Of course, “immigrant food” is predominantly what we eat, see, drink and digest however else already. The restaurant community too knows well that today’s “New American” cuisine is really shorthand for “globally-inspired,” and that our plates are all the better for all the waves of immigrants who have made our food—and broader culture—such a diverse and colorful place. So let’s celebrate the contributions that our families, neighbors and selves have made to our foodscape. Especially now, in the wake of the executive order from President Trump on immigration from certain countries.
I am so grateful that I’m surrounded by immigrants, including my mother, who inspired me to write a cookbook about the land of her origin. I love that everyone I interact with at the stores in my immediate neighborhood are immigrants, and from wildly different countries. I’ll never forget the time my nearest bodega owner gave me some gochugaru from her own personal supply in the basement. Or when my co-worker inspired me to make soup e jo. Or when my friend Louisa Shafia taught me how to make delicious tahdig rice at a dinner party. Or the South Indian-inspired gazpacho that my friend Chitra Agrawal made for a cook-off I once threw. And so on, ad infinitum. Immigration is the ingredients of what we call our nation, and its cuisine.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed many food bloggers who don’t usually share political opinion sharing it—as well as people who don’t usually protest protesting on the streets. I sense an urge to do something, and on a holiday where we might have the day off—Presidents’ Day, which may be awkward to celebrate otherwise—an opportunity to. I say let’s make goulash. Or stroganoff. Or pho. Or dumplings, ragu sauce or anything you can think of, really, to roll up your sleeves for and cook. We have a pretty good grasp on a wide-ranging world of deliciousness in America, and let’s not forget that’s thanks to immigration.