We all have one particular food so wedded to our sensibilities that it has the power to resurrect the past. During the years I worked in professional kitchens, the foods many of the other cooks and I longed for weren’t the risottos scented with saffron or the rabbit braised with fresh truffles we were preparing for the award-winning menus. Rather they were someone’s grandmother’s potato salad, an aunt’s famous gingerbread, a mother’s meatloaf. A piece of the past is what we really wanted to eat. — Lynne Christy Anderson
When Lynne Anderson hung up her chef’s jacket, she turned to a career in teaching. Her first class was a roomful of immigrant adults, many of whom hadn’t been in a classroom for decades. Searching for a common language, Anderson discovered that “the language turned out to be food.”
And that also planted the seed for Lynne Anderson’s recent book, Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens. Anderson visited the kitchens, and broke bread with immigrant families from Haiti, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Sudan, Latvia, Morocco, Chile, Ireland, Vietnam, among other lands. “For the last few years, I have had the great privilege of hearing these stories and learning about the roles that food plays in the lives to those who have left almost everything behind….These wonderful meals came out of kitchens that, for the most part, were devoid of high-end stoves and fancy appliances. Rarely was there a cookbook or measuring cup in sight. Here, the cooking was done by feel. In backyard gardens, vegetables were harvested for dinner, or grape leaves and mushrooms were collected at coveted foraging sites….And finally, when the harvesting, shopping, and cooking were done, there was the breaking of bread at kitchen tables.”
This is a beautifully written book, full of wonderful stories that span cultures and generations. Plus there’s recipes!
Given the vital intersection that exists between food and the land, we keep looking for books on the common language of food. Here’s just a few related titles from the Land Library’s shelves:
The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst, Hidden Kitchens: Street Corner Cooking, Kitchen Rituals, & Visionaries (Stories & More from NPR’s The Kitchen Sisters) by Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson, Arab/American: Landscape, Culture and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts by Gary Paul Nabhan
The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber (an American/Jordanian memoir), Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity by Jeffrey M. Pilcher, The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food & Family by Laura Schenone