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“People’s eyes would just light up. People felt so happy and excited, and they would open up to me and tell me what they ate, or what their grandma cooked, or what they knew about ancestral food connections between their family in South Carolina and the fact that they are African American. Or their family in China and the fact that they grew up in Vancouver. All of these things would just open up… If I am mixed and that got me to be who I am, then food is how I got to where I am.”
The stories of food and migration, and how the mixing of cultures are reflected in the food we eat, are fascinating. Food is about family, culture, identities, stories, and love.
That’s why I brought historian, food history expert, and friend Lex onto the podcast. Lex is in a Ph.D. program in history at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her current research is on indentured servitude in India during the time of the British Empire. But food was a part of her research for her Master’s degree at UofT, and her Ph.D. research often goes back to food.
Lex talked about being “mixed” between parents from two different cultures. She shared the story of the mixing of her two cultures in a truly unique dish: curry moose.
We talked about the census, and how the government categorizes people with unique and complex stories into checkboxes. Lex talked about how being “mixed” confused how she should answer the census – leaving the only option of “Other.”
We talked about Lex’s journey into studying food history. Lex shared the story of “dal puri” dish only found in Indo-Caribbean culture but with no similar dish in South Asia. We talked about the incredible story of the vanilla plant being brought by colonialism from Madagascar to Mexico and how it was a black enslaved man that figured out you had to hand pollinate the plant so it can flower.
This was a fun episode to record, and one of the most educative episodes I’ve done to date. Identity and the mixing of cultures – especially in food – is important to me and to this podcast. Thank you to Lex for coming onto the podcast. And I hope you all enjoy this episode.
Links that were referenced in the episode:
The film “Dal Puri Diaspora”
The story of vanilla:
The book Australiana: