A Salute to Women's History Month
GastroSoul March Newsletter
In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share links to trailblazing women who are crashing through the male dominated food industry. These women are changing the narrative and paying homage to the women who have fed us since the beginning of time. While we owe so much to women in the past, let’s take a minute to look at women who are alive and well, speaking loud and clear about their mission with clarity and passion. PLEASE like and them, follow them and buy their books!
Jessica B. Harris
Dr. Harris, the author of 12 books, and countless articles chronicling the culinary influence of the Black diaspora. It seems like she has won every culinary award out there including the International Association for Culinary Professionals 2012 prize winner for culinary history. Her latest book, My Soul Looks Back is a memoir featuring her youth in the 1970’s when she was born in the right place and the right time to hang out with likes of James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Nina Simone. Asked why she wrote this book she stated “Remember when icons could preach and boogie? I think that’s an important thing. Yes, they were icons. Yes, they transformed the world for all of us. But they could also hang out, and suck some Scotch down. It’s important to know that they had that. They had that with each other. They were a tribe. They read each other’s stuff. They sustained each other. They did amazing things together. They were my tribe, too, but now they’re gone.”
I first heard about Grace Young when she was interviewed on an episode of The Splendid Table podcast about her book “Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge. In the interview she described how Chinese immigrants, isolated in Mississippi during the early 20th century, and longing for foods from China, improvised with local ingredients to recreate tastes from home. An activist to this day, Grace Young is on a mission to save the last few remaining Chinatowns in the US. Hit hard by the global pandemic, these neighborhoods, sustained by foot traffic and in-house dining became ghost towns overnight. Chinatowns all over the country suffered the added prejudice and xenophobia directed specifically towards Asian Americans during the pandemic. In collaboration with Welcome to Chinatown , Grace started the Support Chinatown Fund to help keep Chinatowns in business.
After a prestigious career as a top model, being awarded Emmys from 17 seasons judging Top Chef, authoring four books, you would think Padma Lakshmi would have no problem pitching a TV series about the contributions of people of color have made to food in America. You would be wrong. As she was seeking funding for Taste the Nation, door after door closed in her face arguing that the show was derivative, citing other food/travel series. A closer look at Taste the Nation reveals a stark contrast with narratives that focus on the usually white male adventurer “discovering” foreign foods. Lakshmi’s stories are told from the perspective of the immigrant and natives who create what we know as American food.
Ms. Schenone is the author of A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove. This brilliantly-researched book ties food and history together through letters, photographs, diary entries, cookbooks and family recipes. The result is an unflinching overview of women’s contributions to the American food landscape. Her lyrical prose guarantees that you will not be able to put this book down!
Ozoz Soko is the founder of Kitchen Butterfly, a forum that explores the multi-faceted discussions surrounding global foodways through the lens of new Nigerian kitchen, a movement that pushes the boundaries of traditional Nigerian cuisine. Her mantra “food is more than eating” is echoed throughout her scientific and historical research.
Jocelyn Ramirez founded Todo Verde, a catering company in Los Angeles that puts a vegan spin on Mexican and South American dishes. In an effort to help her community create healthy food and during the pandemic, Todo Verde is offering online cooking classes. Ramirez is also the co-founder of Across our Kitchen Tables , an organization focused on supporting women of color in the food industry, and she’s the author of the recently published cookbook La Vida Verde