Mention in RENDER: Feminist Food and Culture Quarterly

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Photo from the USDA archives.

I am so happy to learn that a new publication, RENDER: Feminist Food and Culture Quarterly, has hit the stands. This one looks promising, folks. Inimitable food writer, folklorist and pie genius Emily Hilliard wrote a kick-ass piece on the newly and aptly dubbed “carnivorous gaze” of our patriarchal food media. Her essay, “All The Women Go Home Appreciating Where Our Food Comes From”: A Response to Modern Farmer’s “Chicken-Slaughtering Pinup Girls”, speaks poignantly to the alignment of women and meat as object. I’m flattered to have my Modern Farmer piece on women butchers cited in the article as an example of responsible journalism and representation. Thank you, Emily!

Triangle Chefs Cook What They Love – INDY EATS

Hey, neighbors! Be sure to pick up a copy of INDY EATS, INDY Week’s annual Guide to Dining in the Triangle. The slim magazine guide includes a comprehensive list of where to eat, fun feature stories and recipes from Triangle-area chefs.

I contributed four stories to the issue, all with recipes!

  • Chef Xiaoming Xu flexed her muscle and pyrotechnics in the Dim Sum House kitchen in Morrisville, offering a crash course in Szechuan cooking that left me both intimidated and inspired.
  • A shopping trip to Compare Foods with the owners of Durham’s La Vaquita taqueria, brothers Fidel and Antonio Rodriguez, revealed easy secrets to making Yucatan cochinita pibil at home. And I let them know I would never eat no pinche cow eyeballs.
  • My friend Eddie Bannout of Durham’s Baba Ghannouj Lebanese Restaurant helped me navigate the aisles of Taiba Market to recreate one of his favorite family recipes, a warming stew of chicken and succulent molokhia greens. And if you’re Eddie, a cigarette on the porch for dessert.
  • And Farmer’s Daughter April McGreger invited me into her home in Orange County, where she showed me how easy it is to pickle Jerusalem artichoke (that one boring root vegetable we never quite know how to handle). We also geeked out over the history of fermentation and the modern-day influence of Sandor Katz.

Pick up a copy at bookstores, restaurants and cafes throughout the Triangle or read it online.

The Interview: Sandra Gutierrez – The Local Palate

Interview with cookbook author Sandra Guitierrez in The Local Palate (August/Sept). Photo by Eric Waters.

Interview with cookbook author Sandra Guitierrez in The Local Palate (August/Sept). Photo by Eric Waters.

It was a pleasure interviewing chef, cooking instructor and cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez for the August/September issue of The Local Palate. We spoke about Sandra’s latest cookbook, Latin American Street Food (UNC Press) and the detailed history of Latin America, through conquests and resurgence, that shaped 21 distinct cuisines. Check out the issue on stands now, featuring beautiful photos by my friend Eric Waters.

Twelve-year-old tobacco farmers: the hidden battle against US child labor – The Guardian

Youth farmworkers are legally allowed to pick tobacco at age 12. Photo by Yesenia Cuello, a youth farmworker in North Carolina.

Youth farmworkers are legally allowed to pick tobacco at age 12. Photo by Yesenia Cuello, a youth farmworker in North Carolina.

Nearly every hot, humid North Carolina summer morning, 15-year-old Eddie Ramirez wakes up at 4am, slips on a thick, long sleeve T-shirt and boards a school bus with his mother in Snow Hill, North Carolina. The bus is cramped – not with students, but with up to 40 migrant farm workers on the way to work in a tobacco field.

Ramirez began this work – hand-picking tobacco for shifts up to 12 hours in his school holidays and sometimes during term – when he was just 12 years old.

He is among 141 youth farm workers featured in a report released Wednesday by international human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW), documenting child labor in tobacco fields in the southern United States. Eighty children come from North Carolina, with the rest from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

The 138-page report, Tobacco’s Hidden Children, reveals the dangers and harmful conditions of tobacco work. It emphasizes the US lagging behind Brazil and India, the top two tobacco producers in the world, who have banned children from working in their fields.

Read the full article in The Guardian here.

Mole and a movie: Vida Propia – INDY Week

Nora Mendez goofs off to calm her nerves before dinner service outside of Full Frame Theater on March 22.  Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis with Instagram.

Nora Mendez goofs off to calm her nerves before dinner service outside of Full Frame Theater on March 22. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis with Instagram.

Nora Mendez protects the secrets in her pot of bubbling chicken mole like one would guard a weapon. “Es mi machete,” she says. It is my machete.

“Campesinos in Veracruz used to say that if someone takes your machete, they might as well take everything from you: your wife, your family. It’s all you have and you have to guard it.”

Last night, Mendez, a cook at Dos Perros restaurant, blended her kitchen secrets into traditional moles for a community dinner outside the Full Frame Theater in Durham as part of the FARE Project .

The FARE Project combines documentaries with community food events. Mendez’s life behind the stove and beyond is featured in the documentary Vida Propia. Mendez and Duke student filmmaker Sarah Garrahan have been working on the project for two years. They met in August 2012 while both were working in the Dos Perros kitchen.

Mendez, 44, isn’t very guarded, neither on- nor off-screen. She is playful and gregarious with a goofy, sarcastic wit. The film draws you into an immediate camaraderie, highlighting life’s very raw elements—children’s celebrations, cooking with family, cooking at work, half-day road trips for a two-day vacation—to reveal a tiny slice of her reality.

“It’s good for a cook like me to have this, to show the hands preparing the customer’s food,” Mendez says. “It is giving us recognition in society, where we all coexist.”

“I am interested in highlighting the seemingly mundane moments in life that have the potential to speak to larger social issues,” Garrahan says. “I hope that audiences will find commonalities in Nora’s story. There are family dinners, birthdays, school and work. But I also hope that audiences will reflect critically on the treatment of immigrants in the United States.”

Read my preview for the INDY Week here.

Jose and Sons – Ethnosh

Photo by Stacey Sprenz.

Photo by Stacey Sprenz.

I wrote this article to preview Raleigh’s second NoshUp at Jose and Sons. The events are presented by Ethnosh, a partnership between Face to Face Greensboro, Triad Local First, and Bluezoom Advertising that highlights immigrant-owned restaurants in the area through guides and events.

Jose and Sons
By Victoria Bouloubasis

Charlie Ibarra sits in his family’s newest restaurant, Jose and Sons, to tell the story of how he arrived at this very bar stool, turning his father’s dream into his own.

Jose Ibarra, Charlie’s father, is the inspiration behind the Ibarras’ newest venture. He is the one who, while on his vacation in Mexico, kept up with the Yelp reviews during the opening months, phoning his son to read the comments verbatim. Before Jose and Sons, there was Jibarra, an upscale Mexican eatery in that same spot. Before that, El Rodeo, a Triangle Tex-Mex staple started by Jose more than 20 years ago.

When Charlie was about 5 years old, he remembers squishing into the backseat of a car with his parents, siblings and uncle for a three-day adventure. With Jose at the wheel, the family fixated on the flat road away from La Mirada, California, Charlie’s birthplace, and toward a new life on the East Coast.

After two decades of laboring in a car parts factory, Jose gave up working for someone else for his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He emptied his 401k and piled his family into the car, which eventually led to the first El Rodeo location on Hillsborough St. More than twenty years later, there’s a steady business with various El Rodeo locations, and gradual transitions to extended family (who transformed them into La Rancherita). You can find him still working at all of those restaurants.

The Ibarras (L to R): Hector, Raquel, Jose and Charlie. Photo by Stacey Sprenz.

The Ibarras (L to R): Hector, Raquel, Jose and Charlie. Photo by Stacey Sprenz.

Read the rest of this entry »

True oyster cult – INDY Week

Leave the shucking to the pros. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis for INDY Week.

Leave the shucking to the pros. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis for INDY Week.

Our state’s recorded oyster history began in 1709, when British colonial explorer John Lawson reported back with a gourmand’s tale from North Carolina in his book, A New Voyage to Carolina:

“Oysters, great and small, are found in almost every Creek and Gut of Salt-Water, and are very good and well-relish’d. The large Oysters are excellent, pickled.”

Shuckers, some professional and others volunteer, worked for hours [last week at Motorco Music Hall]. Chris Davis was among the pros. He wore a bright blue, thick latex glove on his dominant hand, tied at the wrist with a kitchen cloth to get a steady grip on the palm-sized oysters. The towel doubled as a catchall for the grit and grime soon to splatter.

His free hand gripped an oyster knife, its blade angled and dull. The tip pierced into the oyster’s seam, sliding it along the shell like a zipper to unveil a wiggling delicacy deluged in salty water.

Read more about the NC Fresh Catch Winter Oyster Tour here. Catch it this Saturday, Feb. 15, at Cat’s Cradle.

Gratuitous shot of my friend Sarah chowing down. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Gratuitous shot of my friend Sarah chowing down. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Supporting Today’s Civil Rights Struggle Means Listening As Well As Speaking Out – Women AdvaNCe

Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Too often we demand Dreamer narratives, drawn-out explanations and neat, clean labels to justify political action. But if we aspire to be true allies, we must listen to understand the complexity of a reality that isn’t ours.

[…]

Today, while the words of Martin Luther King echo in our ears, we must realize that silently nodding our heads in agreement is not enough. Questioning and criticizing the nonviolent tactics of our neighbors, as we sit comfortably on the cushions of our privilege, is detrimental.

We must pay attention.

To read the full essay at Women AdvaNCe, click here.

Full of grace: St. Bart’s community lunch – INDY Week

"In here, we do church." Prep in the kitchen for St. Bart's community lunch. Photo by Jeremy M. Lange.

Longtime community member Henry Horton plays piano as the room fills with people, a diverse mix indicative of Pittsboro’s eclectic, small-town charm.

An older man leans over to a friend and says, “I get a kick out of seeing the young people here. I don’t think I was ever that young. Maybe I was, but I forgot.”

Local farmer apprentices with half-shaven heads and unshaven faces file in throughout the hour. They stand in line with the senior citizens who carpooled here together, dressed to the nines, suspenders taut and silk dresses pressed.

Some squeeze in at the tables set with colorful faux floral bouquets and real silverware hand-wrapped with paper napkins and placed at every seat. Others find a spot on the small outdoor brick patio, bordered by a cemetery with gravestones from the 1830s, when the church was founded.

A man named Dick walks around like he owns the place. He is 94 and wears an impish smile and long red apron that reads: Sexy Senior Citizen. “When you got it, you got it!” he exclaims.

Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Pittsboro offers a community lunch every Thursday, free to all. As many as 100 people show up for the meal, which is cooked by a rotating group of volunteers, with a different chef in charge each week. Click here to read the full story in this week’s INDY.

Be Our Guest Worker – The American Prospect

Photo courtesy of Luis Perez.

“I want everyone to know what’s happening,” says Luis Perez, a legally-employed agricultural guest worker in North Carolina. “People think we are coming here to a good place, but they should realize that this is not true. We haven’t been treated well in many camps. And to the workers who stay silent about what happens, they shouldn’t. They should work up the courage to say something about the way we are treated.”

H-2A guest worker Luis Perez shared his story with me over the summer. The result is a look at the uncertain existence of the legal migrant farmworkers that the agricultural industry relies on for cheap labor.

Read it here in The American Prospect.