Coffee has long been a New York City staple and a treasured morning ritual for many of the city’s inhabitants. Aside from the usual chains—Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, among others—the city is famous for its plethora of hipster, local coffee shops. In the height of COVID-19, however, many of the city’s beloved spots have been forced to temporarily close. A recent New York Times article titled “Coffee Is One Routine New Yorkers Won’t Give Up” describes how customers and baristas alike have dealt with the crisis. Even with stay-at-home orders firmly in place, New Yorkers have clung onto their caffeine rituals in order to maintain a sense of normalcy in their daily lives.
Over the years, the meaning of barbecue has been distorted for many Americans. It has become synonymous with barbecue flavored Lays and Pringles, overly sweet sauces and backyard hot dogs on the Fourth of July, just to name a few. This article is not a critique of fried food or home-grilled franks, however. I love “barbecue” chips and frequently cook up hamburgers for my family on the grill. Yet however much I may enjoy these foods, they pale in comparison to true Southern barbecue cooked long-and-slow.
Many are saying that “it is not fair” what is happening to these restaurants. And they are right — it is not fair. For some of these owners, these restaurants are their entire livelihoods. But so much of this is not fair.
The sound of two different alarms pierces the quiet calm atmosphere of an early Mother’s Day morning, followed by distinct thumps and rustling as my dad and I quickly scramble to shut them off and drag my brother out of bed. All of us slowly creep down the stairs, trying not to disturb my mom’s well-deserved slumber as she slept, for once, without an alarm, knowing she wouldn’t have to wake up early and prepare breakfast as it was our turn now. Two hours later, we’ve set the porch table with fancy cutlery that rarely gets to taste a drop of food as it sits on display 364 out of 365 days a year, and with vibrant red roses plucked from the bushes in our front yard. On the gold-rimmed porcelain plate, we delicately place a heart shaped slice of homemade banana bread, still warm from the embrace of the oven and smelling sweet of raisins and maple syrup, accompanied by a colorful array of fresh and juicy fruits. From a gold-rimmed porcelain cup, emanates the nutty smell of cardamom and the earthy aroma of ginger stemming from my dad’s special chai recipe that he had passed down to me.
Significant changes need to occur to move towards an anti-racist society. One small, but impactful, step we all can take is to support Black owned businesses. According to a study by the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research, Black owned businesses have not only had a more difficult time accessing capital, but they have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Post noted the “number of working Black business owners fell 40 percent amid coronavirus.” As many small, Black owned businesses are struggling, it’s important to seek out and support them now and in the future. Numerous Black owned plant-based restaurants exist throughout the country.
In 2014, in what can only be described as some kind of mid-life crisis, I decided to turn our sprawling backyard in Northeast Ithaca into a small suburban farm. The disquiets and ponderings that activated this decision were these: an increasing awareness of the global environmental ramifications of industrial agriculture, the alienation we feel from the sources of our own food, the carbon miles embedded in each bite we take, the unfathomable suffering of the people who work to bring us our cheap food and the desire to have better control over the quality of the food I eat with my family. I was also interested in the slow carving up of productive farmland into small plots, and felt this “third space” of wasted land in the suburbs could be both scalable and transformative in the quest for a better, more immediate food system. At the deepest level, I wanted to understand the implications of my own manual labor and the labor of food production, the true costs of which have become largely a hidden externality in our lumbering, wasteful food production system. This was not some back to the land movement on my part, but rather a decision borne out of my moral discomfort with the food system in which I live, the social justice violence it entails, and how this system alienates us from our own hands and bodies and those of the people who do the manual labor of growing and harvesting and transporting crops.
As the murder of George Floyd has shocked the nation into protest and the realities of systemic racism are further exposed, it is important to consider just how deeply this racism permeates. As the farmers market pavilion in Ithaca opens for its 46th year and many home gardens in the upstate region finally begin to flourish after a long winter’s frost, it is incredibly important to consider the intersection of food and racial justice. Our country was founded on colonialism and inequality. These same inequalities proliferate into our current food system, creating vast disparities in access to food and land. As a growing number of movements seek to dismantle our current food system in hopes of erecting one founded on principles of sustainability, health and justice, we must also acknowledge that food justice is racial justice.
With all the disheartening news, events that give you horrific flashbacks and the nagging feeling that little progress has been made, it’s very comforting to have a nice, hot meal. This Kenyan chicken curry is the product of Indian diaspora into east Africa. Like the ancestors of Black Americans, tens of thousands of Indians were brought to African colonies by the English as forced labor to build the Kenya-Uganda Railway. Many died and many left after construction, but once the railway was open, so was trade. Indian emigrants took root.
When I jumped onto The Sun’s crew about a month ago, I fantasized about the wide range of topics which I could tackle within my first article. Maybe a bit naively, I imagined a stunning debut piece: Would I spend my time writing about modern diets, analyzing their benefits but also their downfalls? Or how about a piece exploring fusion foods and their prevalence in American society? Maybe it could have been as simple as a chef interview. I find myself in a very different place now.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has increased in the United States. This is particularly true for households with young children. According to Brookings Institute, which has been named “Top Think Tank in the World” every year since 2008, by the end of April, more than 20 percent of households in the United States and 40 percent of households with mothers with children 12 and under were food insecure. These mothers said, “The food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have enough money to get more.” The incidence of hardship among children as measured by responses to this question has increased 460 percent. At the same time, farmers are destroying their products.