From The Editor:
his past August, just a week before the beginning of the school year, my friends took me to see the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams park. I’ve always loved lighthouses. They’re the one thing I don’t overthink, as they exist with the simplest purpose and always work to fulfill it: to guide us lost ships. By the time August decided to slouch over I had spent 5 months vegetating/atrophying in my room at home. My happiest moments were the Mondays when my brother and I took off in the tomatored 2011 Honda Fit we’ve come to add close to a hundred thousand miles on and orient our vessel towards lunch. My favorite place was Driftwood Deli, the closest thing Palo Alto has to a cultural institution, and a place I worked at for a summer after high school, taking sandwich orders and sorting drinks inside the walk-in fridge. I’d order a BLT and he’d get the Heaven on Earth—a roast beef melt—both on Dutch Crunch, a Bay Area specialty. Sebastian’s favorite was Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels. We’d get two lox specials on everything bagels before finding a curb or a bench to sit on and wonder if there’d be any providence this week that would lift us out of our monkish isolation. We’d look at the cloudless California sky and think about our plans for the indifferent future. They’d be miniscule any other year, but a trip to the foothills or to the beach at Half Moon Bay suddenly became the adventure of a lifetime. There’s another lighthouse in Pescadero, an hour south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1, called Pigeon Point. I would go there, I decided. Sebastian had online summer school. Bummer. My Highway 1 song of choice is Nowhere Man. At Pigeon Point, the information signs recount stories of prohibition-era shipwrecks, of how the beacon used to be the only point of reference for bootleggers who would hit a rock and drunkenly sink to the sea floor. In those moments, I thought, the lighthouse didn’t matter. Only the vast, incomprehensible, and unforgiving ocean.
I like to picture the bootleggers, inebriated off of profit and adventure, confident after having survived the journey from Vancouver to the California coast, ready to unload their Canadian rye whiskey to the voracious patrons of the illicit economy. There was no thought of the ocean, only the lighthouse and the promise of security. But the light couldn’t save them from the very same water over which they’d made their fortune. We’re distractible creatures that praise the individual, that which stands out against a rolling blue ocean or the vast void of night. But when we’re actually confronted with the lack of a subject, when we hit a rock and are suddenly consigned to spend months idly in our bedrooms, we come upon something that’s been forgotten. It’s not always about the subject, in fact it rarely ever is. No person is an island and no plan, no matter how well-laid or world-historical, is a lighthouse. Mann tracht un Gott lacht. In this issue, we take a look at the oceans in our lives, the negative space. The space in which what we need to live is carried out, the invisibility of our breaths, the provenance of our meals. How much can we take away from something and still have it retain its identity? How are the places and people we don’t see—either through misplaced volition or ignorance-turned-complacency—in fact the most important parts of our lives? We’ve all felt so much painful absence this year, so we’ve attempted to peer into the ocean and describe it for its ephemeral beauty. It’s time to stop focusing on the lighthouses. Life happens in between the meals. So put down the spatula, go outside and find your existence. Feel the breaths you take echo in the rustling leaves and in the crashing of the waves. Look into the negative space. You’ll be surprised by how capable a navigator you are. Sail on, ye stately ships, Nico Borbolla, 10.25.2020
gusto team FALL 2020 | ISSUE 4 Editor-in-chief Nico Borbolla Managing Editor Sofia Frias Features Editor Mary Oâ€™Boyle Features Associate Editor Lauren Rabbottini
Essays Editor Lauren Blaser Essays Associate Editor Gillian Mahoney Mucho Gusto Editor Valeria Gutierrez Mucho Gusto Associate Editor Prashanti Kodali Head Copy Editor Anna Costantini Creative Manager Ngan Tran Associate Creative Managers Maia Rosenbaum Eileen Shelton Media and Marketing Manager Beatriz Gras Media and Marketing Associate Jacqueline Geller
Contributing Writers Maya Floreani, Karina Kavanagh, Astrid Langoe, Emanuel Louime, Jen Lozano, Antonio Mata, Lilly Mathieu, Kristina Poydenis, Alicia Ross, Annie Ruoff, Hanganh Vo, Allison Vuono Contributing Creative Carolina Arguello, Emily Finn, Jamie Kim, Brandon Portillo Media and Marketing Team Analida Duran, Eleni Krupinski, Claire Spielmann Copy Editors Katie Giordano, Bella Greene, Gabi Prostko, Annie Pugliese, Ashley Trotter 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS 4
Kitchens Aren’t Real
Half of Me is Across the Ocean
14 A Space for Us Nico Borbolla
17 Block by Block Mary O’Boyle
23 For The Missing Ingredients
Valeria Gutierrez and Prashanti Kodali
26 Food Waste for Thought Sofia Frias
30 Spare Ground
Kitchens Arenâ€™t Real
The Essentials Are More Bare Than You Might Think Words by: Lauren Blaser Photos by: Jamie Kim, Maia Rosenbaum, Eileen Shelton and Ngan Tran
“What’s in a name? If we call a ‘kitchen’ by any other name, would it still serve its same culinary purpose? Arguably, the answer is yes.”
he first and only time I used Excel this summer was to make a spreadsheet titled “Apartment Accessories!” Listed in the left column were all of the items that my roommates and I deemed non-negotiable for the kitchen. We each typed our name next to whatever we owned, or were willing to buy. Muffin tins. Tea kettle. Chip clips. It was the first form of bonding that we experienced: arranging a kitchen. Well, preparing for our kitchen. Or, were we creating a kitchen? The way a person chooses to fill this space says a lot about them—their lifestyle, their food preferences, their socioeconomic status. Kitchens speak volumes about a person’s life, but they are mere skeletons containing the soul of human consumption, the bare necessities. Merriam-Webster defines a kitchen as “a place (such as a room) with cooking facilities.” The Cambridge English Dictionary tacks on an element of cleaning, defining the space as “a room where food is kept, prepared, and cooked and where the dishes are washed.” Cooking can be complicated, but only if you want it to be. A source of heat is one of the few true necessities in a kitchen. Even a lowly underclassman college dorm, infamous for its “kitchenette,” still has a microwave, offering the chance to reheat snacks and drinks. Truthfully, a heat source could be pared down to its most raw state, fire itself, and offer the same results. Kitchens also require a spot for food to be kept, but the storage situation depends on a number of factors. In colonial America, families hung pots and pans from ceiling rafters. In the Food and Wine test kitchen, circa 2020, expert-level chefs keep every style and slight variation of pot and pan carefully arranged in spacious drawers and cabinets.
Not all kitchens are created equal. In a quirky design feature—or flaw—on the part of our architect, my bedroom doors open directly into the kitchen. If I plugged a rice cooker into the wall of my bedroom and steamed a bag of Jasmine grains on my desk, would that not technically make my bedroom an extended cooking space? One of the first memes I saw reads When the teacher thinks you’re doing work but you’re actually making pancakes. Underneath is a grainy photo of a girl hiding an electric griddle behind her binder. A late breakfast prepared on a desk: here, a classroom becomes a kitchen. A car on a road trip performs similarly. Food is stored and later distributed among the passengers, after minimal preparation is completed from the seat. The place where food is made contributes to the aesthetic appeal of the process, but at the end of the day, these are mere walls surrounding the magic that happens within. Walls, quite honestly, aren’t even necessary. Over 2.4 million TikTok users follow menwiththepot, whose feed (pun intended) consists of cooking videos staged entirely outdoors, over a fire. Their tools aren’t extensive—the most common appear to be a cartoonish, curved knife, a cutting board, and a steel pot or two. The creations they throw together in a campfire-style setting would be impressive in a professional kitchen. Focaccia bread. Spit-fired meats. Hand-rolled ravioli. My roommates and I haven’t prepared a meal to hold a candle to their decadent plates, and I doubt we will before the year is up. Still, I love our kitchen, and these two men seem to love theirs. Focusing too deeply on the “room” itself would be like buying show tickets based on the set. It might be ornate, or it might be a bit run-down, but the events that happen there are what matter most. When I consider the way my life will proceed, future kitchens often play a central role in the montage. A sweet space with a balcony looking over a European city. A cozy one that only allows single-file movement. One day, a room large enough to host chaotic family gatherings. It’s not the kitchens I yearn for, though. It’s the good fortune to be able to spend time in France, and rent a small apartment with a charming tiled kitchen. It’s having a significant other to squeeze past, teasing “Behind!” as I swiftly maneuver a hot pan from table to stove in our galley kitchen. Sipping coffee and leaning against a granite island with my sister, getting nostalgic about time passing. I actually might have watched that last scene in a Hallmark movie, instead of dreaming it up myself. After I arrived in Brighton with my three roommates, we carried cardboard boxes of plates and pots and cutting boards to our designated kitchen, painted a dark shade of pastel green. In the weeks that passed since that late-August afternoon, what began as the eclectic space I happened to be sleeping next to has become my favorite spot in the house. Not because of the random accessories we happen to have; the ancient dutch oven I brought, or the cabinets which tower so high that our shortest roommate needs a stool to access them. All of the best moments just happen to occur there. What’s in a name? If we call a kitchen by any other name, would it still serve its same culinary purpose? Arguably, the answer is yes. Humans nourish themselves daily, and in order to do so they must squeeze every last drop out of the whichever spaces they choose to dedicate to food.
Half of Me is
Longing for the Taste of the Philippines
Words and Photos by: Gillian Mahoney
he crunch of the thin and crispy egg roll wrapper rang in my ears with each bite of the lumpiang shanghai. The savory pork melded with the sweetness of the minced carrot and onion. I wasn’t used to having rice for breakfast—my typical morning meal consists of cereal, oatmeal, or whatever I can throw together with minimal effort—but I soon realized it was the perfect vehicle for the delicious pork-filled egg rolls.
In fact, every time I went to the Philippines with my mom, rice was a staple. My family ate it with every meal. My grandmother, or “Lola” in Tagalog, gets hungry quickly if a meal is missing rice. She often got up just as sunlight began poking through the windows to prepare breakfast. We paired rice with just about anything from Lola’s inventory—scrambled eggs with tomato or pork leftover from the previous night’s dinner.
Across the Ocean When I first visited the Philippines, I approached each family dinner with hesitation. My aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered around the table in Lola’s kitchen, sometimes scooping together rice and meat with their fingers or using forks to slide food onto their spoons. I quickly imitated them, taking a fork and spoon in each hand. Laughter erupted from the relatives surrounding me as someone joked in Tagalog. With each visit, the meals became routine. I could sense the joy around me even if I didn’t pick up all the words. I found comfort in the homemade food and energetic conversations. I’ve come to miss the aroma of steaming vegetables and soy sauce from pancit canton noodles, but that’s not the only thing I long for while back home. I miss gathering at one table and passing plates around. I miss crowding in the sidecar of a motorcycle with my cousins and blazing through the busy streets of Manila. The streets were always packed with cars at night, and palm trees stuck out over colorful buildings and houses. But even then, I could never hold on to the same feeling of normalcy that comes with being at home. I’ve only experienced the Philippines as a vacation.While my mom and I spent our days lounging at the beach or shopping our way through the giant malls, my family members went to work. Even Lola managed her own store. My mom always warned me not to talk on taxi rides so that the driver wouldn’t charge us extra when he heard me
speaking English. I’ve never gone through the typical week that Lola spends at her store or Tita Nat, my mom’s sister, spends at the office. My family knows Manila’s busy streets and colorful buildings by heart, but I look around with the mannerisms of a traveler. I am an observer, constantly taking in new sights and smells, always treading a step behind as my family speaks a different language. With each visit, I need to readjust to the 13-hour time difference. The heat sticks to my skin like a thick blanket. To my mom, each trip to the Philippines is a return home. But while there is a faded familiarity in the food and faces, I feel divided into two parts: one half embraces my Filipino family, the other stays back in the US, leaving behind an air of unfamiliarity. Although I was a foreigner in the place where my mom grew up, meals shared with family and friends always gave me a feeling of belonging. When we sat shoulder to shoulder at the table surrounded by fading sunlight and humidity, or felt the blast of air conditioning while sipping smoothies in restaurants, I felt like I had a place—even if I couldn’t pronounce some items on the menu. Aunts and uncles switched to English upon greeting me. Tita Nat encouraged me to put some more food on my plate. Over time, I approached meals with excitement instead of apprehension as I grew closer to my relatives and embraced this other culture. When I hesitate in front of the new sights and tropical landscapes, familiar meals reassured me that I belonged.
It’s the sense of warmth and family that I crave most when the Philippines are thousands of miles away. The lack of rapid Tagalog and trying to keep up with my mom’s translations. The absence of Lola’s rice with eggs and tomato for breakfast, which would lure me into the kitchen each morning. The joy of scooping up rice with my hands and touching food that was made with love. My mom and I try to recreate this by making lumpiang shanghai ourselves at home. On one summer evening, we gather the ground pork, carrots, and onions on the counter. My mom begins to season the meat and I chop the vegetables into tiny pieces. She always makes sure to fry a small patty to test out the flavor before we fill the wrappers. I taste a small piece of pork and note any lack of seasoning. Before long, our hands are full of egg roll wrappers and the bowl of meat as we take our assembly line to the couch. With one eye on the television and another on the food, we take a spoonful of filling and line it up in the center of the wrapper. We dip our fingertips in water to glue the delicate edges together. When we’ve formed enough egg rolls, my mom drops them in the oiled pan as I stand a few feet away to shield myself from the hot splatter. We know it’s not the same as Lola’s home cooking. I feel a sense of familiarity in Boston. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived. But I know that there are some experiences from Manila that my mom and I can never fully replicate. Back in Boston, Filipino restaurants are like gold mines. Authentic ingredients are treasures that my mom and I hoard away and preserve for as long as possible. But when we do get the chance to enjoy
some lumpiang shanghai, or make pan de sal from scratch, it’s like catching up with an old friend. We pick up right where we left off. It’s as though nothing has changed at all and that time apart has gone by in an instant, just like how smells connect to memory. One whiff of egg rolls frying or pancit noodles mixing with sauce floods my mind with snippets of this faraway country. One taste reminds me of my family laughing around me. And that’s part of what the absence of Filipino food means to me. Lack of physical connection doesn’t mean loss of emotional connection. I’ve spent so much time focusing on how these experiences aren’t present, but really, they’ve been there this whole time. They’re nudged to the back of my mind, waiting to be unlocked by kneading ube-flavored bread dough.
The feeling of belonging still lingers back at home whenever I have meals with my dad’s side of the family. Due to the pandemic, we see each other less and less. Instead of sitting at one big table, we are spaced apart. We sit outside and wear masks in order to see each other. But just like in the Philippines, there is a duality to what I feel. The familiarity of gathering with family has turned upside down. We can’t embrace each other. We laugh, but we can only smile with our eyes. The space and time apart from family makes me long for the closeness of my relatives on the other side of the world.
“One whiff of egg rolls frying or pancit noodles mixing with sauce floods my mind with snippets of this faraway country” While my mom and I don’t miss Filipino food every day, it’s the first thing we think of when we travel to a place with more access to it. When we feel close enough to home, getting Filipino takeout brings us even closer. Sharing these meals is most important when I feel like I’ve almost forgotten about this other half of my identity. I don’t see it all the time, but with each bite of rice or noodles, I realize what I am missing. When the Philippines and my family are across the ocean, I know that a part of me is absent. But I also know that it’s not completely gone when I’m at home. My mom and I can connect with our family by sharing the same experiences at home. When we share food made with that same longing for this faraway country, we are whole again.
A Salad without Vegetables Ingredients:
16 oz Brussels sprouts, halved 2 eggplants, cut into Â˝ inch slices lengthwise 1 green zucchini, cut into Â˝ inch slices lengthwise 1 yellow squash, cut into Â˝ inch slices lengthwise 1 red onion, peeled, quartered, with some root attached 2 bell peppers, halved, ribs and seeds removed 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces 8 oz sliced white mushrooms 3 tbsps olive oil Salt and ground pepper to taste 1 can of chickpeas
Preheat the grill to medium heat. Boil the Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes. Wash and cut all vegetables.
2 tbsp soy sauce 2 tbsp honey 4 tsp hoisin sauce 4 tsp minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves) 4 tsp minced ginger 2 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp ground pepper
Toss all the vegetables, into a large bowl, sprinkle them with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill the vegetables, turning them occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes or until they are charred and tender. Remove the vegetables from the grill and place them into a serving bowl along with the chickpeas. For the dressing, mix the soy sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, minced garlic, minced ginger, olive oil, and ground pepper together in a small bowl. Combine the ingredients together until the olive oil fully emulsifies. Pour this glaze over the grilled vegetables and mix until evenly distributed. This recipe serves around 8 people. Enjoy!
A Mac & Cheese without Dairy Ingredients:
1 cup macaroni or elbow pasta 1 - 1 ½ cup unsalted cashews 1 ½ cup coconut milk 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp onion powder 1 tsp salt ¼ tsp chili powder ½ tbsp vegetable oil ¼ cup bread crumbs ½ tsp dried parsley ½ cup nutritional yeast (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Cook the macaroni or elbow pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water for 5 minutes or three-quarters of the suggested cooking time. Remove the pasta from the water. Place the cashews in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes or until they soften completely. Blend the spices and salt, softened cashews, nutritional yeast, and coconut milk until the sauce is smooth and silky. If you prefer, replace the nutritional yeast with some additional softened cashews. Evenly distribute this sauce over the partially cooked macaroni in a large casserole dish. Heat the vegetable oil on medium heat until it begins to sizzle. Add the breadcrumbs and dried parsley and cook until the breadcrumbs turn light brown. Evenly spread the breadcrumb mixture over the pasta. Place the “macaroni and cheese” in the oven for roughly 10 minutes. This recipe feeds roughly 8 people, and can be stored in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Enjoy!
Words by: Nico Borbolla Photos by: Ngan Tran
Look up and breathe
he beehive is a temple to meaning and those that lead their lives with purpose.
The rigid hierarchy of honeybee society is reflected in the architecture of the hive itself. Nurse bees fill a cell in the hive with food, where the queen lays an egg. The worker, nurse, and queen bees then repeat this process building upwards and inwards, and the resulting edifice is a spiral, the perfection of which can only be found in the natural world. In the beehive, there is no ennui. A drone’s purpose is to reproduce. The worker bee secretes wax, pollinates and collects nectar, and builds the hive, and the queen is there to propagate the cycle. The beehive, an impenetrable labyrinth for any would-be predators, is an ode to what we can achieve when we work together while living individual, meaningful lives. A worker bee would doubtlessly launch itself at an invading beetle, hoping to sting it, knowing it will die in the process. Where the bee dwells, its purpose is illuminated. We can’t say the same about ourselves. Our minds flee from subject to subject, desire to desire, without much of a clear idea of who we are or what we’re becoming. We know only one thing and that’s the destination. We’re always told to value the journey yet we lack the architecture that delineates that path so clearly. We don’t live with the intimate security of a hive. We reside in that uniquely human fear of the unknown. We chance glimpses of this absolute certainty, a doubtless love of one’s own existence, in every jar of honey.
2. I haven’t dined at a restaurant indoors for a long time now, and to eat outside is thrilling. Inside a restaurant, my attention is at the jurisdiction of the proprietor: the music they choose to play, how close to the kitchen they choose to seat me, how high the ceilings are, what type of furniture they’ve chosen, and whether the hum of the kitchen conquers that of the other diners, or vice versa. These are carefully curated decisions that people are paid high sums to make, all in an effort to reroute my consciousness towards the concept of “yummy.” The aesthetic—and its ability to make or break a meal—is holy. Outside, though, restaurants are powerless. Sure, they can erect space heaters and set fancy chairs, but they can’t control whether a cloudburst foils my dinner plans. Nor can they control whether a particularly aggressive dog finds its mark in a fellow diner. On the other hand, maybe a painterly sky streaked in pinks and oranges makes the dinner an irreplicable experience of serenity and beauty. Maybe none of this matters because the two people sharing a meal also share a bond that renders even the most difficult of circumstances impotent. When freed from the shackles of curation and instead presented with the infinite space and invisible force of the outside, the meal takes on a different meaning. A napkin lifted through the air by the rising wind proves the existence of a force that resides in the intangible. Usually the outside of a restaurant is a nowhere space, a connective road between our home and our destination. But it’s in the nowhere places that we live our lives. And it’s in the farms, the warehouses, the refrigerated trucks, and the kitchens where the meal is made, not on the table. Inside, the mind is trapped and rerouted and thrashed around like a pinball through different stimuli. But outside it stretches, like a dog in repose, towards everything that is. It’s the phenomenological idea of intentionality, that our minds are at every moment extending towards something, trying to grasp the nature of its existence. Of our existence.
3. The worker bee flies on its way to collect nectar from some faraway azalea and on its journey gazes down. It surveys the world with omniscience. In the complete knowledge of its own purpose, it is afforded the luxury of looking down upon the world without consciousness, seeing it as it is. But when we glide above it all on an airplane and look down, we don’t just notice fields and forests; we identify enclosed farms, national parks, designated areas. Oceans for surfing, roads for driving, tractors for plowing. It’s only when the tractor breaks down, the road is closed, and when the tide rises beyond our control that we perceive it like the bee does: a thing and nothing more. Unlike the fortunate bee, we aren’t afforded total clarity by looking down on the world, surveying and accounting. Instead, if we look up we can see the everyday infinite and finite in the sky and the clouds it produces. As Michael Imperioli says, the mind is a cloudless blue sky. Every day we see it but don’t recognize the infinity of it, its boundless intentionality, stretching across the entire world and universe. The clouds, sometimes sauntering across the sky and sometimes racing to some unknown finish line, are like our thoughts—wandering unknowns born out of an infinity that will soon recede back into it.
4. I love eating in museum restaurants. The food is subpar at best, but the space endows it with an anachronistic sense of grandeur. It’s a space that was meant to evoke a sense of eternity and majesty for the art it houses. The Prado is a building barely suitable for housing the leonine horror of Goya’s paintings, not for overpriced coffee and pastries, but still it feels so important when I drink there. I feel as though I am a part of that long journey from A to B that the human race is on. I feel connected to the history of my Spanish ancestors, their rise from poverty to unbelievable riches and back to poverty. I feel the Habsburgs, the Bourbons, the Civil War, the present. I feel the entirety of human history in the empty space between my head and the ceiling of the Prado. All this from a cup of coffee. It could all be a big nothing. It is, after all, just empty space. But in that empty space my mind is reaching out and trying desperately to understand who I am and where I’m going. It’s so much easier to comprehend it when surrounded by so much beautiful antiquity. But is that experience any better than going to a beautifully incommodious bar, where the human overflow mirrors the joy and anxiety of the future of our species? That adventure, with its sticky floors, lager-laden aroma, and bone-rattling music reveals and intensifies a different part of us: the part that needs others, that finds ecstasy in eye contact, that craves recognition, sometimes finding it. There are no nowhere places. The spaces in which we eat imbue the food with their significance and give tangibility to the parts of ourselves that normally exist only in our endless thoughts. Thoughts that recede back into the vastness of the sky, propelled by the wind.
Block By Block An Incomplete Portrait of Afro-Caribbean Boston Words by: Mary Oâ€™Boyle Photos by: Ngan Tran
here’s just one way to travel the whole world and walk only a mile. If you’ve ever taken the B Line train straight down Commonwealth Avenue and into Boston, you’ve seen exactly what I’m talking about. Portraits of diners flash by through the window like scenes in a movie: a couple slurping up their last bites of ramen, new friends deciding between sushi and falafel, and old ones strolling towards the park clutching their favorite street tacos. Indulging in pad Thai one night and a gyro the next illustrates a coexistence of cultures that doesn’t happen anywhere other than on a city block. But, naturally, questions arise about who gets to inhabit the physical, social, and political spaces within a city. While certain communities dominate, others are forced to the spaces on the outskirts. Those that aren’t seen in our peripheral seemingly don’t exist. And yet, these communities are possibly the strongest in terms of unity and shared identity. This strength can be understood intimately and honestly by looking towards cultural food traditions. Boston has a rich and recent history of Afro-Caribbean immigration and influence. With the majority of Afro-Caribbean immigrants coming to the United States in the early twentieth century, Boston saw a sudden boom in racial, cultural, and culinary diversity. Caribbeanborn citizens make up the largest demographic of Boston’s total foreign-born population at 26.4% according to a 2007 study by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Of the 44,000 Caribbean-born residents, over three quarters have immigrated from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, or Jamaica. These communities have brought with them perhaps the most fundamental aspect of a culture: the food. The preservation of cooking techniques, ingredients and spices has kept these communities unified and has given this city an opportunity to understand who they are and where they come from. The rest of Boston, however, has yet to realize this opportunity, leaving the Afro-Caribbean communities of Boston with little space to occupy in the mainstream.
Ali’s Roti (Mattapan) With its bright orange paint job and wafting aromas, Ali’s Roti on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan is hard to miss and even harder to forget. New and returning customers alike wander onto the sidewalk, dreaming of tender curried meats and vegetables wrapped in their delicate roti flatbread. A few traditional roti shops are scattered throughout Boston, offering the city a glimpse of the tastes and smells of Trinidad. Before venturing inside, I had never heard of roti. The smell of turmeric and allspice, however, were enough for me to abandon any hesitations about the unknown. “It’s just the bread, roti is just the bread,” explained Mike, a cook at Ali’s, while dicing dozens of butternut squash. Like many of the employees, Mike has worked at Ali’s Roti for 24 of its 32 years in business. “It’s like a flatbread that you wrap the rest of the food in,” he continued. Behind the serving counter, another employee rolled out the roti dough and transferred the paper-thin flatbread to cook on the flat-top. “It’s filled with all kinds of curried meats and vegetables like potatoes, chickpeas, squash, and cabbage. Really, it’s filled with whatever you have.” Although Trinidadians have made it their own, roti is rooted in Indian flavors and techniques. An influx of indentured laborers from India in the nineteenth century brought great cultural change to Trinidad. The humble, unleavened flatbread and the stewed deliciousness that it usually encases have become a staple in
the Trinidadian diet and are considered the fundamental street and comfort food. In Boston, roti is making its way from Trinidadian communities on the edge of the city to Boston’s lively downtown, and Ali’s Roti is leading the charge. With a second location on Tremont Street, Ali’s Roti has now opened the eyes of Northeastern students and museum-goers to the flavors of Trinidad. Seeing as they have such a solid customer base, it’s no surprise that Ali’s has found their niche. “I get here as often as I can. When I was moving around more, it was at least three times a week,” stated Victoria, a regular customer on her way out of the shop. “It’s just good, nourishing food.” The warmth and nourishment that the roti fills you with parallels the atmosphere of the shop itself. Although they’re currently empty, worn leather booths sit waiting for when customers can return. Newspaper clippings line the walls, singing the praises of the “Best Roti in Boston.” Perhaps the most warming aspect of Ali’s Roti, however, is the clear view of the kitchen where huge pots simmer on the stovetop and cooked roti is tucked into foil to keep warm. With steam wafting towards the ceiling and filling the entire shop, there’s no question as to why regular customers feel at home. “Our food represents the Caribbean and the people there and here,” Mike explained towards the end of our conversation. The creation of a community around this shared food experience surely makes smaller the space between “there” and “here.”
Pikliz International Kitchen (Somerville) “Bonjour” isn’t the first word you’d expect to hear in a Boston restaurant. “Comment allez-vous,” continued the customer in front of me. Dressed in a suit and tie, the man chatted with the employee at the counter in French and proceeded to order his lunch. No doubt he’d had this exact interaction dozens of times before. Unlike Ali’s Roti, Pikliz International Kitchen is tucked away among barber shops, Italian delis, and office buildings just north of Boston. The simplicity on the outside is mirrored on the inside, where a seating area composed of just a few stools and a counter allow the food behind it to shine as the center of attention. Lined up in front of the colorfully-painted door to the kitchen are all of the Haitian classics: beef patties, fried plantains, rice and beans, and stewed oxtail. As a result of almost 200 years of French influence and control, many of Haiti’s cultural traditions have French, along with African and Spanish, undertones. Haitian cuisine relies on a combination of historically foundational crops, like rice, yams, root vegetables, and beans, and French techniques, like using the spice blend épice and braising. Haitian immigrants to the United States brought all of this with them, sharing a culinary tradition that represents an intersection of so many different cultures. Another customer walked into Pikliz soon after the customer in the suit and tie ordered. After carefully gazing at the menu, she blurted out, “What kind of food is this, Haitian food?” to the man standing next to her. “Yup, the best Haitian food in Boston,” he replied. The woman, obviously unfamiliar with the dishes in front of her, proceeded to ask what each one was. In the same few minutes, Pikliz offered one customer a sense of comfort and familiarity and opened a door for another to a completely new cultural experience.
Island Style Jamaican Restaurant (Dorchester) Blooming murals and political artwork covers the benches and walls surrounding Island Style Jamaican Restaurant. Situated kitty-corner to the Four Corners/Geneva stop on the purple T-line, the restaurant could easily go unnoticed in the rush of commuters and the eye-catching street art. Island Style, however, is quite the opposite of forgettable. In fact, a line of starved customers extends out the door on any given Tuesday afternoon. After more than 17 years of being in business, Island Style has established itself as inseparable from its surroundings. With Jamaican classics and other Caribbean favorites, Island Style caters to a diverse group of diners. Piping-hot plates of curry shrimp and stewed tilapia are accompanied by Jamaican jerk chicken and bowls of coco bread. Along with the typical favorites, the menu consists of classics for the more adventurous eater. “The cow foot soup is what I get every time,” mentioned one regular. “I come at least twice a week to get the curry goat,” offered another after praising the restaurant for its soul-warming food. Like most Caribbean food, Jamaica’s cuisine has been influenced by a long history of colonization. The Spanish and English introduced a diversity of ingredients to the Jamaican ecosystem, such as sugar cane and bananas from Spain, yams and fish-salting methods from West Africa, and curry and ginger from East India. Staples in the Jamaican diet emerged out of this tangle of cultural influences, but they have remained constant since because of the creation of a new culinary identity. The powerful visuals that cover the entire block surrounding Island Style complements and emphasizes the beauty in the food. Painted along the sidewalk are patterns and flowers and animals in the brightest colors. The name “George Floyd” takes up a pane of glass at the bus stop, serving as a permanent reminder of the systemic racism that plagues our country. Portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Angela Davis greet you from the fence outside of the T stop. As you walk away from Island Style Jamaican Restaurant and near the end of the fence of portraits, you are left with the words of Maya Angelou: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Caribbean restaurants, tucked away in less familiar areas or between the few options that are familiar to the college studentâ€™s palate, are often overlooked. With food as such a foundational part of any culture, we overlook entire communities when we overlook food traditions. And yet, they are right in front of us, inviting salivating customers and hurried pedestrians to understand their history and value. This is where the overwhelming beauty of a city, of our city, lies. There is no defining of culture, only a continued understanding through the people and ideas and techniques and ingredients moving up and down the streets. You can see it throughout Boston, but only if you turn your head to look at what inhabits the space outside of your peripheral.
For The Missing Ingredients â€œThe whole is something besides its partsâ€?
s it possible to make your favorite dish without one of its key ingredients? Does chocolate cake really need flour? Is it necessary to add lettuce to salad? Does macaroni and cheese taste good without dairy? Is there such a thing as pesto without basil? The absence of these ingredients does not take away from the taste, texture, or aroma of the final product. These dishes are not defined by their key ingredients but instead by their textures, preparation processes, and your experience in consuming them. The chocolate cake is rich without the flour; the grilled vegetable salad is just as crunchy and even brighter than a salad with lettuce; the cheese-less macaroni is creamy and tasty regardless; and the pesto is still earthy without the basil. Aristotle speaks of a whole that is greater than its parts, and his words ring true in gastronomy: a dish as a whole is more significant than the ingredients which typically compromise it. Taking away one part of the dish does not diminish the final product. The following recipes all exemplify that the lack of an essential ingredient does not ruin a particular dish. It is important to think outside the box by focusing on these other factors and pairing unrelated flavors to bring the dish together as a whole. Food offers us endless possibilities; there is always a unique combination ready to please our palates.
Words by: Valeria Gutierrez and Prashanti Kodali Photos by: Ngan Tran and Brandon Portillo
A Pesto without Basil Ingredients:
4 cups tightly-packed leafy greens (spinach, watercress kale, arugula, mint, etc.) ⅔ - 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated 1 cup olive oil ½ cup of nuts of your choice (almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, etc.) 4-6 garlic cloves Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup olive oil ¼ tbsp lemon juice (optional)
Choose which greens and nuts you want to use to make this recipe. Different nuts pair well different greens. Through trial and error, I found that almonds nicely complement spinach and walnuts with kale or arugula. The possibilities are endless! In a food processor, emulsify the leafy greens, nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Do this for 3 minutes or until the ingredients are coarsely chopped. On a lower speed slowly add the olive oil to the food processor. Continue running the food processor until the oil is fully mixed in with the other ingredients. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. This recipe makes approximately 2 cups of pesto and can last for 2 weeks in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer. Enjoy!
A Chocolate Cake without Flour Ingredients:
½ cup water ¼ tsp salt ¾ cup sugar 18 oz (about 2 cups) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into small pieces, at room temperature 6 large eggs, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Grease one 10-inch round cake pan and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the water, salt, and sugar and stir until the salt and sugar completely dissolve. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside. Melt the chocolate until silky and smooth. Transfer the melted chocolate into a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat the chocolate and the unsatled butter together, adding one piece of butter at a time. Once incorporated, add in the heated sugar-water mixture and slowly beat in the eggs one at a time. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan. Place this pan into a larger and deeper oven tray. Fill the larger tray with boiling water until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake the cake in the water bath at 325 °F for about 45 minutes or until the edges of the cake are firm and the middle is still a bit wet and wobbly. Allow the cake to cool and chill overnight before serving.
Food Waste for Thought The Bites We Don’t Eat Words by: Sofia Frias Graphics by: Jamie Kim
n the full-bellied moments after a meal, as the buttons on our jeans grab tightly onto their loops, we think about the food that adorned our plates. We immortalize our meals in memory, sealing them in jars that open themselves back up when called upon by a familiar smell or taste. But what about the food that doesn’t make it to our mouths? Where do the naked cobs of corn, hairpin-sized fish bones, and cores of apples end up? Surely not preserved in memory with an airtight lid. Upon deciding our stomachs are satisfied, we scrape scraps of food from our plates and into the trash. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Well, not quite. It’s rare that we worry about the impact of the food we throw out. We bite our nails over disposable straws and plastic bags, but do we ever bat an eye when tossing out a half-eaten sandwich? It’ll break down quickly enough, won’t it? Isn’t food biodegradable? Yes, it is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe for the environment. Let’s follow our food scraps on their journey to decomposition. We start by stuffing neglected and inedible food into our trash bins until, like our pants at the end of a proper meal, the trash bag practically bursts at the seams. We twist and knot said trash bag to the
best of our ability and drag it to yet another receptacle, where it awaits its transport to the nearest landfill. It is in this landfill that, along with millions of others, our trash bag sits in a monstrous heap of waste. Once in landfills, our food decomposes through the process of anaerobic digestion, during which bacteria break down organic matter— the halved avocado that we left in the fridge for a week, for example—in the absence of oxygen. And what causes this absence of oxygen, we ask? The trash bag, which we so carefully double knotted, not only prevents our food waste from getting out, but it also prevents any O2 from getting in. Anaerobic digestion starts with bacterial hydrolysis, which converts carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into their basic components of sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids, respectively. Bacterial acidogenesis then transforms these basic components into organic acids. The organic acids are subsequently converted to hydrogen,
carbon dioxide, and acetate through acetogenesis. In the final steps of the anaerobic process, through methanogenesis, methane and carbon dioxide are released. Both methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gasses, and in the Earth’s atmosphere, they store and emit heat from the sun, which in turn warms the planet. Methane, however, is 28 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, and it accounts for 20% of the Earth’s warming in the last 260 years, according to National Geographic. In the simplest terms possible, methane is incredibly efficient in accelerating climate change. On a worldwide level, 30 percent of food is wasted, contributing to eight percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. explains Chad Frischmann in a Washington Post article, “The Climate Impact of the Food in the Back of Your Fridge.” While our food may only be on our plates for a few minutes, our waste lingers dangerously in the atmosphere long after we throw it away.
As we begin to feel guilty about the overripe bananas that we failed to bake into a loaf, letâ€™s acknowledge the fact that not all the food in our trash cans goes to complete waste. Our scraps, if sorted and treated, can be broken down by machines called anaerobic digestive systems. These digesters recover methane from the anaerobic process to be used for electricity, heat and fuel, according to the EPA. The solid components left over from anaerobic digestion can be recycled as fertilizer, compost, and soil additives. Molecular components of those bananas that we were quick to throw out may eventually make their way into our flower pots.
Back to our rotten leftovers. In lower-income countries, Frischamnn tells us, little waste occurs on the consumer level, as people are more likely to be frugal with what they have. In medium and higher-income countries, however, the actions of consumers and markets are the main causes of food waste. While preconsumer food waste may be out of our control, minimizing the waste of what we buy is easier than we think. After simmering the remains of last nightâ€™s roast chicken into a stock, our most practical option may be to toss it in the trash. But the leftover white rice? Throw it into a saucepan with milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla for a quick rice
pudding. Baked or boiled potatoes? Knead in flour, eggs, and oil for gnocchi from scratch. Using leftovers doesn’t always mean eating the same meal twice. For the parts of food that can’t be eaten—think egg shells, cores and peels of fruits and veggies, teabags, coffee grounds, nut shells—start a compost box. We can also reduce our waste at the root of the issue by shopping for groceries more consciously. Pints of blueberries may be buy-one-get-one-free, but are we absolutely sure we’ll finish them before they start growing fuzz? Will the 20-ounce tub of hummus start to fizz before we can chop enough carrots to scoop it up? Cheaper bulk
items masquerade as good deals, but if we buy more than we can eat before our food turns, our money ends up in the trash with the bacteria-ridden blueberries. We often spend hours on our meals, dedicating time to planning flavor pairings, carefully preparing ingredients, and standing attentively before a stovetop or grill. Within these hours, we should be devoting thought and creativity to how we reduce our waste. When we put down the magazine, and pick up our next meals, we just might reserve a few seconds to change the way we interact with food after we eat it.
The Swift Transformation of Urban Agriculture
Words by: Lauren Rabbottini
Photos by: Brandon Portillo and Ngan Tran
eaning against a cold, porous, hundred year old stone wall, Zac Efron sipped the fresh water from a fountain while carefully paying attention to a Parisian urban planner explaining its innovative approaches to many urban concerns. While unpacking the many solutions Parisians had concocted, the topic and benefits of urban farming—a method of growing produce in traditionally urban and empty plots of land— was highlighted. In overpopulated cities that are nearly running out of land, urban agriculture provides a new way of transforming previously overlooked space into flourishing farms filled with local produce. Within the past decades, previous city dwellers flocked to the suburbs in the movement of suburbanization. This stark shift occurred in predominantly middle-upper class and white populations, changing the economy of
inner cities. Suburbanization led to many large grocery stores to follow in the wealthy and white populations and to move to the suburbs. In doing what may seem like a profitable business move, the flight of these large grocery stores to the suburbs led to many populations in the cities to not have access to affordable fresh produce, creating many food deserts scattered throughout the United States. “Geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance”, is how the Food Empowerment Project—a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness on healthy food options— defines food deserts. With the preexisting grocery stores relocated to the suburbs, many in cities were left with their local bodega or convenience stores to rely on to grocery shop.
Even in cities, grocery stores are still isolated from non-white populations, as public transportation may take an inordinate amount of time to reach these stores from various neighborhoods. With populations completely isolated from affordable fresh produce within urban areas, inner-city residents looked for alternative methods of bringing the fresh produce to their communities and neighbors. Gaining popularity in the 1970s in major cities, community organizations focused on establishing gardens to improve the landscape of an area while also providing locally grown food for its residents. With this history deeply rooted in community development, urban farming has become an integral part of producing and selling food to local communities. Urban farming is defined as â€œgrowing or producing food in a city or heavily populated town or municipalityâ€?, by Greensgrow, an educational urban farm in Philadelphia, PA.
While similarly driven to grow and produce locally grown produce, urban agriculture strays from community gardens, as it does involve selling and profiting on the grown produce. Regardless, urban agriculture offers a method of using space in cities to grow and enhance the diets of those in the area. With its goals rooted in bettering the cityâ€™s diets, urban agriculture achieves beyond this to impact the local economy, carbon footprint, and culture. Growing produce in an urban agriculture system allows the farmers to avoid middlemen and transportation in distributing their goods due to the local nature of the business. This allows for more of the profit to go directly to the farmers and to emit less carbon dioxide in transportation, as distances traveled are drastically reduced. While urban agriculture is not the perfect solution for all urban problems, it offers the unique opportunity to improve quality of life, both for humans and for the earth.
A fantastic example of transforming the surrounding urban area is located in Boston: the Urban Farming Institute (UFI) in Mattapan, MA, is focused on developing local methods of growing food and a healthy community. Aside from training farmers and educating the general population, the UFI searches for empty, unused lots within the city and transforms them into fully functional farms. By establishing a connection between the city officials of Boston, UFI established itself as more than just a community movement but rather an influential and integral member of the city of Boston. With many goals and aspirations, the UFI infiltrated all aspects of the city to better advocate for their long term goals of improving the health of the community and access to produce. As the UFI exemplifies a larger scale farm built within the city of Boston, many of these urban farms take shape on empty rooftops, truly bringing to life the previously ignored space. The Boston Medical Center, just a few stops from Boston Universityâ€™s campus, houses the first rooftop farm built on top of a hospital. By straying from the traditionally used empty lot, the hospital is able to move further towards its goal of being carbon neutral while also being able to provide its patients with fresh produce. To ensure no food grown on the 2,658 square-foot farm goes to waste, the hospital has a food pantry dedicated to providing nutritious aid to its lowincome or nutrition illness related patients. While urban agriculture can look very different from city to city, the local impact is not reliant on the magnitude or scale of the endeavor. This novel method of using overlooked land to increase access to produce and greenspace within an urban area enables urban communities to begin to tackle many issues in cities. This community driven push for instituting more sustainable growing tactics lets locals decide what space could be repurposed for the bettering of the community, enabling a completely grassroots method of improving underused spaces. Urban agriculture, specifically in Boston, highlights how transforming previously ignored and misused space into a more positive space positively impacts cities, communities, and Zac Efronâ€™s opinion of the city.
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