Food for Thought: How cooking causes social change

Mia Lubrani | Staff Writer

Sept. 29, 2022

The Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies held “When Cooking Becomes Political: Documenting Spaces of Resistance by Latinx Chefs” presented by Cristina Carrasco, a professor and researcher at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tuesday night.

The McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and the Gumberg Library also helped organize the event.

Dr. Lucía Osa-Melero arranged the guest speaker. Duquesne’s Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies helped to facilitate and plan this discussion. The Migration Club also co-sponsored the event.

“A lot of people see food for the surface level but there is a deep history and context behind it. This made me realize the historical significance and cultural tie that all foods hold for every culture,” said Kendal Nasiadka after the presentation ended.

During the event on Tuesday, Dr. Carrasco reminded everyone that food is a huge part of culture, comfort, tradition, memories, family, connection, inclusivity and so much more. Her presentation focused around her research into food studies, Latinx identity, food policy, social justice, and non-profit organizations. She currently teaches collaborative classes at UNC that combine food with sustainability, immigration, climate change, and even voting rights.

She is working with Pupusas for Education to host a beneficiary event at the UNC campus for Latinx and Hispanic Heritage month.

Along with informing us about Pupusas for Education, a nonprofit food truck organization helps to provide scholarships undocumented students, she showcased the stories of chef José Andrés and chef Cristina Martinez.

Chef José Andrés is a chef, humanitarian, founder of World Central Kitchen, restaurant owner, and undocumented activist. He has been devoted to feeding the hungry and uses World Central Kitchen (WCK) to travel around the world and help struggling communities. Their organization also sponsors smaller nonprofits around the globe. Andrés tries to spread awareness how the US food industry relies on illegal immigrants and Latinx workers.

Andrés is even featured in the new National Geographic documentary, We Feed People. His constant devotion to helping underprivileged demographics and advocating for undocumented citizens in the U.S. has aided in spreading awareness.

Food can serve a political purpose and open doors to new cultures. Carrasco also mentioned Chef Cristina Martinez. Cristina Martinez is an undocumented immigrant currently running two businesses in Philadelphia. She crossed the US-Mexico border to find economic stability, escape domestic abuse, and provide a better future for her daughter. Since then, she runs the extremely popular South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico. Martinez was also featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table in Season 5 Episode one where she speaks on her personal journey and acts as a voice for other undocumented immigrants.

It is important to recognize and advocate for the undocumented communities and underprivileged groups of people because of our shared humanity. Every person deserves equal opportunity and access to a safe environment.

“Being silent about injustice is being complicit about it,” said Dr. Carrasco.

WCK also sponsors Crave Philly, a nonprofit food service that provides meals to hungry people around Philadelphia on a weekly basis. Their local organization offers insight into how even small ideas can help change.

Carrasco’s informative discussion allowed students to walk away with a new appreciation for cooking and how it relates to politics.

“The presentation really helped me appreciate the connection between food and culture in my life, as well as the impact it has in the lives of others,” said student Teresa Englehardt.