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A Moroccan in Miami

A walk through my Miami neighborhood takes me past a Spanish melody echoing out of the Cuban restaurant, the faint chatter of a masked crowd waiting outside of the Japanese bistro, and the sight of fresh gyros being assembled through the window of my favorite Greek spot.  While many associate Miami with its Cuban presence in culture and cuisine, our city is home to many smaller communities that make up our melting pot. Over the past year, my family and I have been discovering Miami’s Moroccan community through our friend Maryama. Maryama grew up in Casablanca, Morocco and immigrated to Miami, Florida by herself at 25 years old. It was in Miami that she met and fell in love with her husband Amr and had three kids together. Maryama came to be a part of our lives after my mother, a nurse, began to care for her son. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Maryama as she shared her love of cooking and how she uses food to keep her Morrocan culture alive in a new country. 

Maryama celebrating her son’s birthday.

Caroline: How did you learn to cook?

Maryama: I learned to cook at home when I was growing up with my family. Cooking is all we do! It’s a big part of our culture. Cooking was my school. It’s how I learned many things. If we were home, we were cooking!

What were some of your favorite dishes growing up?

I loved couscous, of course! I loved to make bastilla, which was a baked pie with fish. These were very special dishes for us. 

When you moved to the United States, did you feel any pressure to “Americanize” and forget or hide your culture?

I did not feel that pressure in Miami. Even though I was adapting to a new country, I still wanted to keep my culture and was able to do so here. I would cook only Moroccan food for myself. I don’t miss Morocco a lot now, but I still feel connected to my culture. I travel back there to visit sometimes.

Were you able to make new friends and find a support system here?

Yes, I was able to make some friends. My best friend here is from my city back home, and we have a big group of friends. We would meet every couple of weeks, before Covid of course.

How do you keep your Moroccan heritage alive for yourself and your family?

I keep a Moroccan fridge and a Moroccan kitchen full of spices. I cook only Moroccan food for my kids, and I make sure that they have the same dishes I had growing up. I try to incorporate some of my culture into the decor in the house. For example, I have furniture from Morocco in the house. I also teach the kids my native language.

Couscous, a Moroccan cuisine staple.

Where do you buy your ingredients? Are there any good markets in South Florida that sell Moroccan ingredients? Is it hard to find ingredients sometimes?

Well, something I love to do is buy lots of spices in Morocco when I visit and bring them back with me (she laughs). But here, although I have not seen any specifically Moroccan markets, I have been able to find many Moroccan spices and ingredients in Asian markets, some Chinese markets and Indian markets like Big Bazar. Many of our traditional ingredients, such as ginger and saffron, can also be found in the average supermarkets like Publix and Walmart. I can usually find most of the ingredients I need to cook Moroccan food here.

Are there any good Moroccan restaurants in South Florida?

Although Moroccan food is not as present as other cuisines in the Miami restaurant scene, there are some Moroccan restaurants such as Dar Tajine and King David Cuisine. There are some restaurants that blend Moroccan cuisine with other cuisines such as French and Spanish, like Rouge and Boulud. Many Mediterranean restaurants offer Moroccan food options. Surprisingly, many Jewish restaurants here offer great Moroccan food. Some Jewish restaurants that offer Moroccan dishes are Shalom Haifa Kosher Restaurant and Subres Grill.

Has it been hard to pass on your culture to your children when you are living in a different country?

It has been hard to pass on my culture to the kids because of school and work. Most of the time, the kids are at school and I am at work. I work from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Even when the kids have a break from school, I don’t usually have many holidays off from work. Because of this, I don’t get as much time with them as I would like, but I try to teach them about my culture as much as I can. I try to show them my culture and practice my language with them. Learning my language has been hard because they mostly speak English all day in school, but I am trying. They cannot speak it very well right now, but they can understand a little better.

Finally, would you be able to share one of your recipes with me?

Yes, of course! I am going to write a couscous recipe for you.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today!

Of course!

. . .

There are people like Maryama all over the U.S who immigrate here from around the world and bravely face a new country, culture, and language. However, they still find different ways to preserve a piece of their heritage, as Maryama does with her cooking. Food gives us the power to take our culture with us wherever we go, and provides us the comfort of home in new, unfamiliar places. Through food, we can also learn to appreciate cultures that may not be our own and embrace people like Maryama, who make our country so wonderfully eclectic. 

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A Petri Dish for Employee Exploitation and COVID-19 Cases

With shelves empty of the traditionally easy to find toilet paper and aisles barren of baker’s yeast, grocery store aisles across the country were filled with palpably tense air, as stressed shoppers braced for the unknowns of stay-at-home orders and uncertainties within their lives. With an unprecedented increase in demand for large quantities of everyday items, manufacturers began to experience the effects of the consumers’ frenzy. “There is not a supply shortage, but it does take some time for the manufacturing process and our supply chain to catch up from the significant spike in demand,” stated the interim president of Giant Food, an American supermarket chain. While many producers quickly bounced back from the increased demand, the meatpacking industry has struggled to process its normal quantities due to the temporary closures of plants resulting from high numbers of positive coronavirus cases amongst plant employees, a predominantly immigrant population. The outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in meatpacking plants not only threaten the meat supply chain, but more importantly place many immigrant employees at risk of contracting COVID-19 or facing severe financial repercussions. 

When the Smithfield Foods facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota closed in April due to positive novel coronavirus cases among employees, approximately 550 livestock farmers lacked a plant to process their livestock. As the Sioux Falls facility accounts for 4 to 5% of all pork produced in the US, its closure greatly reduced the supply of pork in grocery stores and restuarants. Soon after the South Falls facility, multiple other meatpacking plants closed as a result of the spread of COVID-19 among their employees. 

Workers in a Smithfield Foods facility- Photo courtesy of New York Times.

Although the various closed meatpacking plants are not physically close to one another, it isn’t shocking that multiple meatpacking facilities experienced large numbers of concentrated cases. Working elbow-to-elbow to utilize all the space in a factory, “some workers had as little as three feet of space at the cutting table.” These close quarters led to 28,303 confirmed coronavirus cases and 102 coronavirus-related deaths among meat-packers as of June, 26 2020. 

There is a long history of documented mistreatment and unfair working conditions among meat-packing employees. In Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Sinclair sheds light on how poorly the employees are treated by highlighting the experiences of a recent immigrant to Chicago who began working as a “shoveler of guts” at a meatpacking factory. Addressing the back-breaking labor, low wages, lack of soap and water in bathrooms, and transmission of illnesses, Sinclair hoped this story would lead to reform of the treatment of employees in the meatpacking industry; however, public outrage focused more on explosive information regarding the lack of sanitary practices in meatpacking. This led to the passage of the Meat Inspection and the Pure Food and Drug Acts of 1906, which were major strides for improving the safety of consumers. Despite the major improvements in the quality of meat, the treatment of workers, specifically immigrants workers, did not improve.

The thousands of positive coronavirus cases among meatpacking employees reflect an industry that has historically thrived off of mistreating a vulnerable population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30% of meat and poultry packers are immigrants. This percentage does not account for the number of undocumented immigrants who also work in meatpacking plants. In addition to being exposed to potentially unsafe work environments and intense physical labor, immigrants already are at risk for worse health outcomes, often due to lack of access to adequate healthcare. Without access to COVID-19 testing, workers continue to go to work until their symptoms physically prevent them from doing so.

When the Center for Disease Control reported in April 2020 that positive coronavirus cases were emerging in meatpacking plants across 19 states, the industry responded by increasing preventative measures; however, the number of cases among employees has only continued to rise. This drastic increase in positive cases follows President Trump’s Executive Order on April 28, 2020, which invokes the Defense Production Act to label meat packing plants as “critical infrastructure” and thereby encourages meat- and poultry-packing plants to stay open amidst the pandemic. This order comes as an attempt to decrease the impact on the meat supply chain and prevent a shortage of meat across the country.

While the executive order only encourages meatpacking plants to stay open, many are offering large bonuses and raising hourly wages to incentivize employees to come to work. JBS USA, a leading producer of meat and poultry products in the United States, has begun to increase salaries by $4 per hour with a $600 bonus. While workers who remain home for health concerns do receive normal or slightly decreased salaries, the increase in wages from JBS USA and many other meat manufacturers provides an opportunity for increased financial security during the economic downturn. This has led many immigrant employees to continue working at the plants, posing a risk to themselves and others. 

In an interview, Achut Deng, a Sudanese immigrant who works at the aforementioned Smithfield Sioux Falls Plant, discussed how she supports her 4 sons and 5 family members who live in Africa with the income from her meatpacking job. After being exposed to a coworker who tested positive for coronavirus, Deng was sent home to quarantine for 2 weeks. “Overtime is, like, $500 extra. $500. That, for me, it covered a lot of things,” Deng explained, noting the financial impact of only being paid for 40 hours a week, which was much less than the overtime she normally worked. Deng recently tested positive for coronavirus but is recovering well and focusing on her health. 

Deng’s story resonates throughout the immigrant community as many are not just responsible for financially supporting their own families in the US but also their families in other countries. Yet, many employees have not had the same experience with their employers. At a Smithfield plant in St. Charles, South Dakota that closed only briefly to look into positive COVID-19 cases, a woman stated that she witnessed social distancing guidelines not being followed at work. “If I don’t go to work, they’ll say OK, but then I won’t have a job,” stated the woman. This puts many employees in a situation where they must choose between their physical health and the money they rely on to live.

The difficult decision and sacrifice to go to work that meatpacking employees are forced to make is only an issue because of the meat supply chain. With large manufacturers and processors of meat and poultry closing down due to coronavirus outbreaks, farmers have nowhere to send their animals to be processed. The enormous number of pigs that will be euthanized as a result of this may be the only option that farmers have. 

Photo courtesy of Ingredients Network

With more meatpacking plants opening as restrictions across the country are lifted, the amount of processed meat and poultry will soon increase and meet the demand of the country, yet this ability to process meat relies on the sacrifices and risk-taking of vulnerable immigrant populations. From the toilet paper industry to the meat industry, this pandemic has shed light on the need to restructure the supply chain so that it can withstand the unpredictable future.

If we as consumers are only able to obtain our desired goods at the risk of other human lives, there is a major flaw in a system that has been accepted and relied upon for far too long. The meat supply chain therefore needs to be restructured and redistributed throughout smaller communities, enabling local farmers and processors to play a larger role in the meat industry. 

With the frailty of the meat supply chain and its historic reliance on the exploitation of immigrant workers exposed, it is time to demand the fair treatment of all employees and the restructuring of these systems that harm society.

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Bon Voyage, Adam Rapoport

Apparently, there are at least 59 ways to cook an egg. Moreover, over 27 million people are willing to watch some guy present all of them over the course of nearly half an hour. 

That’s what Bon Appétit’s most popular YouTube video looks like. Their other videos cook up recipes with a bit more complexity but haven’t received quite as many viewers, yet. Largely due to its Youtube channel, Bon Appétit has become one of the most recognized food media outlets circulating magazine stands and web browsers around the country. Today, they boast 6.5 million print subscriptions, 7.6 million ‘unique users’ digitally, and 11.4 million followers on social platforms.

As such, Bon Appétit has received recognition for the direction in which it has developed in recent years. Since 2010, the magazine and its offshoots have received 15 nominations and 8 wins for James Beard Awards (often called “the Oscars of the food awards”). In the near 20 years that these awards existed before 2010, Bon Appétit totalled only 4 wins and 8 nominees. 

This is in part due to the numerical expansion of media categories in culinary awards, which followed the incredible proliferation of media forms that are now prevalent in the mainstream; Bon Appétit has successfully taken advantage of such growth. While its print circulation has more or less remained the same, digitally, they’ve made great strides, with over 6 million subscribers on YouTube. Bon Appétit has garnered what other magazines strive for in terms of a digital following. 

Previous Bon Appétit editor-in-chief, Adam Rapoport

Perhaps more importantly, this growth largely occurred while Adam Rapoport held the title of editor-in-chief. Condé Nast—the global mass media company that parents publications from Vogue and GQ to Wired and The New Yorker—has been home to Rapoport for decades: before Bon Appétit, he was the style editor of GQ. Prior to his adoption into the Condé Nast family, though, he had food writing experience for a number of other publications, including the James Beard Foundation and Time Out New York.

Before Rapoport took over, Bon Appétit was, as a 2010 New York Times article about the switch in editorial leadership stated, “accessible, highly professional, and in the business of providing recipes, recipes, and more recipes, largely devoid of text and context.” Formerly based in Los Angeles, not yet in its New York office, it had been run by the same editor-in-chief, Barbara Fairchild, for over 30 years. 

While Rapoport’s leadership brought 10 years of shimmering success, its stardom recently came into question when freelance food writer Tammie Teclemariam tweeted a photo of Rapoport and his wife dressed as Puerto Ricans. The magazine soon received a great deal of scrutiny from the public and received uproarious reactions from contributors, editors, and readers alike. In response, Rapoport stepped down as editor-in-chief.

The photo of him was from 2004, his Instagram post from 2013. To some, this may not seem like a very serious issue—I mean, it was 2004, times were different then, and he’s apologized. No harm, no foul. Right?

The reason that this is such a big moment for Bon Appétit is because it came during an important movement in the United States, and it exposed so much more than one photo. In January of this year, chef and writer Soleil Ho wrote about the race problem in Bon Appétit’s popular Test Kitchen series, which some believe is “the most lucrative thing Condé Nast has.” In 2016, Bon Appétit faced a small but mighty uproar after posting a video in which a white chef explained the ‘right way’ to eat pho, a Vietnamese specialty. While either instance could—and should—have easily sparked the same amplified outrage, the photo of Rapoport came to light at a time when the public was more actively engaged in addressing racial justice. It caused a ripple effect that exposed racial disparities in Bon Appétit and Condé Nast’s office culture.

There’s been a lot of coverage about this moment for Bon Appétit. A plethora of articles feature the experiences of numerous Bon Appétit employees and the marginalization they experienced at Bon Appétit as discussed in interviews, Twitter threads, and Instagram stories. The many articles out there are very easy to find and clearly recount the details and the words that brought Bon Appétit to the place it is now—a place with increased transparency, unpleasant as it may be. Many of these articles describe the release of the photograph causing “a revolt among Condé Nast employees, many of whom described an entrenched culture of racial insensitivity.” 

Assistant food editor Sohla El-Waylly, a familiar face to fans of Bon Appétit’s test kitchen, found that the company’s response to the offense was initially disappointing. In a Sporkful podcast, she recalls the outrage developing slower than it probably should have. During a company-wide Zoom meeting in the immediate aftermath of Teclemariam’s tweet, at which Rapoport issued a brief apology, El-Waylly suggested that he resign. Only a few editors were active in the discussion, until she broke the others’ silence by rebuking it. 

Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen staff

Recent backlash against Bon Appétit’s racist culture and leadership not only reveals a need for change within the company but also serves as a gateway to observing a similar trend in the food industry and its media coverage. Though it is certainly not a new issue in the culinary community, the lack of diversity in media coverage has lately become a focus of food writers and chefs; in these discussions, more representation is often the most cited suggestion to improve. Chefs love to explore ethnic cuisines, but they have a tendency to take ingredients and elements of recipes from other cultures and whitewash them rather than acknowledge the cultural history that accompanies it. 

At this point, Rick Bayless and his empire of Mexican restaurants have already been brought up a number of times, but representation in kitchens and print is only the beginning. Last year, chef Kwame Onwuachi wrote about the lack of diversity among food critics, which can be seen in nationally recognized awards. James Beard nominees, for example, tend to be male, and they tend to be White. In 2016, 218 of the 341 James Beard nominations were White men. In the last few years, though, the James Beard Foundation has made efforts to address this with changes in representation, accessibility, and transparency. Even so, there’s still work to be done to equalize the playing field for the James Beard Awards. And just think: that’s only one layer of the equality that’s missing in critiques and evaluations of food figures. 

It’s difficult to acknowledge a toxic culture in a publication that is so well-recognized and successful as well as an industry that is loved by many. However, this should be seen as an opportunity for Bon Appétit and the food industry to improve by recognizing where they are flawed, intentionally or unintentionally, and fixing themselves. Chefs like Onwuachi and El-Waylly want other chefs and publications to give recognition where recognition is due, whether that be in recipes, awards, or salaries. Having been reprimanded by their own contributors, writers, editors, and staff for the ways in which they treat their employees, Bon Appétit has an opportunity to lead the way for a change in the food industry. 

So, this is a bit more than just a racist photo from a decade and a half ago; that was just the cherry on top. The food industry and the publications that cover it have been making this sundae for decades. There are layers upon layers of injustices to taste, and it’s about time for us all to dig in—bon appétit.

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The Gingered Peach is Here to Stay

LAWRENCEVILLE, NEW JERSEY – The mixers, ovens, and restless hands in the kitchen of The Gingered Peach haven’t slowed down despite no longer welcoming the typical lines of hungry customers. In fact, the bakery seems to be using quarantine to its advantage, further establishing their product as unparalleled and their voice as a call for change. The Gingered Peach occupies a unique position within the Lawrenceville community as a woman- and Black-owned business that works towards bringing Lawrenceville together to eat, grow, and commit to communal action.

The Gingered Peach has been supplying the surrounding area with pie, pastry, and pure joy for over 5 years. A smile spread across the face of local resident Kristen Heinzel as she recalled some of her favorite memories there. “For my family, it was a routine to make tea and bring back baked goods from The Gingered Peach on Sunday afternoons,” Heinzel noted. The fresh baked goods became the focal point of so many family memories for her.

“It’s pretty rare to find a small town bakery with so much charm these days,” remarked Nancy Mckeon, longtime patron of The Gingered Peach. Many locals wouldn’t hesitate to say the same. With its signature red paint job and striped awning, The Gingered Peach stands out as a place of warmth, happiness and unity.

When businesses in New Jersey were forced to abide by distancing restrictions as a result of COVID-19, food industry businesses were among the hardest hit. The Gingered Peach was no exception. However, owner Joanne Canady-Brown refused to let quarantine stop the momentum they’ve been building for years.

In addition to the unparalleled deliciousness that comes out of their kitchen, The Gingered Peach bears an important voice within my community. In reaction to the racist murders of George Floyd and countless others, Canady-Brown wrote on Instagram,

“As a Black owned business, it is in our culture to foster a workplace of inclusion and awareness… But that is not the reality outside of our walls.”

She went on to thank the local police department for “hearing me and opening up a dialogue of how we as a community can move forward from here.” 

Lawrenceville falls very much into the category of “small-town America,” and the close quarters make it rare for residents to mind their own business. This creates a community of individuals committed to understanding and supporting each other in word and deed. Canady-Brown has taken it upon herself to create space for conversation and encourage action. Owned by a Black woman and boasting a devoted customer base, The Gingered Peach has a voice that stands out among the rest. There’s no doubt that this is how and where change will happen.

Canady-Brown is no stranger to using her position in the food industry to fight for social justice. In 2019, she participated in the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) program. In a recent article, Canady-Brown found there “a network of [women] who made you feel comfortable and supported. No idea was stupid.” In an industry that leans towards masculinity, support from fellow women becomes so important for growth. Women giving other women tools for success is the future of the food industry, and Canady-Brown has made it clear that she wants to lead this movement. 

While they have used their voice to speak on national issues, The Gingered Peach has also committed themselves to local affairs, which is a true source of pride within Lawrenceville. When quarantine hit, the well-known brand King Arthur Flour started ‘For Goodness Bakes,’ an initiative “to help keep bakeries running by purchasing bread and pastries, that is then donated to people in need.” A suggestion of giving back to the local community was all it took for the small but mighty team at The Gingered Peach to pull out their donut fryer and buy up all the yeast that they could find.

Whether it’s through the impact of their voice on social media or the simple act of sharing one of their gooiest cinnamon buns, The Gingered Peach has discovered the secret to prosperity and progress: if you truly commit to improving your community, the people around you will not let you fail.

The Gingered Peach on 2 Gordon Ave, Lawrence Township, NJ 08648
Find their hours of operation and more information on their website here.

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Finding Russia Just Outside Boston

If you find yourself a bit tired of the Italian and Asian fare that covers our Boston culinary landscape, I suggest venturing to Brookline and Newton to discover a wonderful, hidden, culinary scene: the Russian food community. I discovered these hidden gems thanks to the recommendations of my Russian professor during my freshman year at Boston College. This past weekend, I had the chance to surprise my mother with a Russian food tour during her visit to Boston. I knew it would be a special surprise because she had a connection to Russian culture growing up; she had Russian family members, and her father worked in St. Petersburg, returning to her with treats and recipes to prepare at home.

Our first stop was the lovely Bazaar on Beacon Street in Brookline. With Cyrillic signs and Russian speakers all around, it feels as though you have stepped into another little world. I could browse there for hours. They offer homemade dishes abounding, including cucumber salad, red cabbage salad, and paté. They have a wide selection of fresh seafood, as well as meats, cheese, fruits, and vegetables. 

My mom was delighted to find one of her favorite beers from years ago, the long-lost Pilsner Urquell, among their internationally assorted wine, beer, and vodka section. My favorite area of the store is found in the back, displaying Russian cookies of all flavors and beautiful jars of fruit preserves. My mother was only sad she didn’t bring an extra suitcase to take half of the store back home to Florida. The next time you need to go grocery shopping, consider skipping standard supermarkets and head to this brilliant shop full of surprises.

Our next stop on the tour was in Newton, for lunch at Café St. Petersburg. This is a cozy, colorfully decorated spot that makes one feel as though they are at grandma’s house––which we all know is where the best cuisine comes to life. A grand piano sits in the center of the restaurant for live music performances during dinner. The café boasts an elaborate menu full of traditional soups, salads, duck, steak, chicken, lamb, and seafood, with potato- and cabbage-based entrees for vegetarian guests. 

We began our lunch with the delicious St. Petersburg salad, composed of chicken, potatoes, carrots, eggs, pickles, cucumbers, and mayonnaise. I would return for that salad alone. The traditional and vibrantly colored borscht followed; a meat soup with beets, cabbage, and potatoes. This was accompanied by a pirozhok (meat pastry) and sour cream––the perfect comfort food for a cold Boston afternoon. We continued our feast with beef stroganoff (sautéed beef with cream and spices) and chicken tabaka (fried hen with garlic sauce). On the side were buttery, fried potatoes, and we ended with sweet, cherry-filled blinis. 

My mom was elated, and I left planning my next visit to Café St. Petersburg. I encourage anyone looking for a change to discover these tasty, charming spots for themselves! 

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Anti-Social Dining

William Batchelor

I never used to like eating alone in public. It made me self-conscious and uncomfortable. I was embarrassed that I didn’t have anyone to eat with. In many ways, dining out felt as though it was more about social interaction than the food itself. I think my fear came from those cliché high school movies where the new student sits alone at lunch and all the mean kids make fun of him. 

In my freshman year at Boston College, I never sat down to a meal at Mac if I didn’t have someone to sit with. Instead, I would walk timidly through the dining hall, grab food, and make my way back to Upper campus so I could eat in my dorm room. My food was usually cold by the time I returned, but it was better than the thought of sitting by myself.

This phobia lasted many years, but all it took was one meal to change my outlook on dining solo. I was in Hong Kong with my mum at the time, and she left me to explore the city while she caught up with friends. That afternoon, I found myself wandering the streets of Hong Kong’s trendy fashion district, Causeway Bay. After indulging in some retail therapy, I began to crave a hearty meal to warm me up on that chilly winter afternoon. I initially thought about grabbing something from a café, but then decided to go look for some traditional Cantonese dim sum. 

As I walked along the grungy streets of Causeway Bay, I noticed a sizable crowd gathering outside what appeared to be a Japanese restaurant. I followed suit; if people were waiting outside in the cold, the food was bound to be good. 

When I got to the front of the line, the hostess asked, “How many?” 

I sheepishly replied, “Just for one.” 

She nodded, and gestured for me to follow her as she walked through the restaurant. Since the signage was all in Japanese, I had no idea what I was about to eat. But as soon as I walked in, the aroma of pork-steeped ramen broth was unmistakable. To my surprise, however, there were no tables inside the space… only personal booths.  

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had stumbled into one of Japan’s most famous ramen chains, Ichiran. Renowned for its rich tonkotsu pork broth and thin handmaid noodles, Ichiran serves some of the best ramen you can find outside of Japan. Rather than having guests gather at tables together, diners sit at individual “flavour concentration booths” to fully appreciate the quality of the soup. 

There is very little human interaction once you get to your seat. I was isolated from all other customers, thanks to the dividers placed on either side of me. In front of my chair, a little window covered by a bamboo screen concealed the inside of the kitchen. At Ichiran, there is no menu. Instead, waiting for me at my booth was an order sheet that let me curate my perfect bowl of ramen. Firm noodles, extra spicy, with sliced pork, ultra rich broth and a soft boiled egg. I pressed the “service” button and seconds later, the bamboo screen was lifted, and two hands appeared. They retrieved my written order, and then the bamboo partition was lowered. 

Just minutes later, the screen rose once more, revealing my steaming bowl of ramen. The broth was opaque and cloudy with the noodles neatly arranged on top. A dollop of fiery red chilli paste sat in the middle of the bowl as mounds of scallions, sliced pork shoulder, and a perfectly runny boiled egg completed the dish. 

I grabbed my chopsticks and soup-spoon and began mixing the dish together, fusing the brightly-colored chilli paste into the pale broth. Then I began to build the perfect bite: a bit of broth, a little pork, a few noodles, and a chunk of egg. It was pure magic. The soup was silky with just the right amount of spice. The noodles were perfectly al dente with the right amount of chew. The pork was tender and the egg was perfectly cooked. I had never tasted ramen like this before. It was the perfect bowl. 

Before I knew it, I had eaten all the noodles and barely made a dent in the broth. Luckily, at Ichiran you can order more of anything as you go. I filled out another order sheet, requesting more noodles, and a second egg. I pressed the “service” button and had a new bowl of noodles and an egg at my table in a matter of seconds. 

Prior to dining at Ichiran, I had never seen the bottom of a ramen bowl. I could never finish my servings because they were always too rich or filling. But the ramen there is perfectly balanced, and for the first time, I reached the bowl’s ceramic floor. I even debated ordering another round, but decided on the green tea ice cream for dessert instead.

Throughout my entire dining experience at Ichiran, I never felt uncomfortable or embarrassed. The anti-social dining concept took away the shame I felt from eating alone. With self-pity removed, I was able to focus my attention entirely toward what I was eating, as opposed to wondering what other people were thinking of me. By eliminating all social interaction, there were no distractions when I sat down for my meal. The only focus was the bowl in front of me. I tasted flavours I wouldn’t normally notice, and appreciated the quality of the ingredients. Throughout the meal I refrained from using my phone, just so I could sit with my thoughts and reflect. 

Although the social aspect of dining out is still what appeals to me most, my experience at Ichiran allowed me to embrace the idea of eating out alone. I realized I shouldn’t be concerned with how other people regard me in this setting. I now have no issue sitting alone on campus and eating lunch. I almost think of it as a meditative experience. I put in my headphones, listen to music, and enjoy my meal. It helps me clear my mind and reset for the day ahead. 

Photo by Eater NY

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Camping the Right Way

Emmalie Vanderpool

Fall in New Hampshire is a magical thing. It transforms the landscape to its greatest form as the leaves transition from green to gold, burgundy, and sunset orange. This year, my roommates and I planned a fall break trip to Lake Winnipesaukee, to stay at our friend’s cozy lakeside vacation home located in central New Hampshire. As we left Boston and its sea of industrial skyscrapers, the highway roads became flanked with tall trees and the wilderness marked our passage from the hustle and bustle of the city to the relaxed nature of lake living. The scenery was picturesque; the sun glinted off of the lake, the leaves rustled and fell around us, and the sight of stars and sounds of nature were almost startling after living next to the city for so long. We celebrated our first night with a dinner of cheese, crackers, and wine, and afterward roasted marshmallows in the wood-burning fireplace. Storybooks were never so close to coming to life as they were during our weekend away. 

Planning many little excursions, we got to shop in homegrown country stores, give ourselves heart attacks in a haunted corn maze, trek up a mountain to capture the perfect viewpoint of the lake, and end the trip with a group dinner at a restaurant called Camp. Nestled beside a candy store and small flowing waterfall, Camp fit right into the New Hampshire ambiance. 

The restaurant was themed to reflect classic summer camp, right down to the menu items and comfort foods, and it did not disappoint. We came equipped for the log cabin vibe and dressed mostly in oversized warm sweaters, ready to cover up the inevitable food babies that we were determined to leave with. Inside, the restaurant was reminiscent of a lodge. There were long wooden tables with names carved into them, red gingham curtains, wood-panelled walls, and a few stuffed animal heads which we avoided eye contact with as we ate our meal. It was warm, rustic, and loud with chattering patrons and happy diners. 

This was a celebratory event, bringing our girls’ trip to an end, so we splurged on drinks and appetizers. Our eyes lit up upon spotting the cheese-and-gravy fries, and the “Camp Crackers,” which consisted of a sliced cheesy flatbread with garlic and scallions–simple choices, but covered in enough cheese to satisfy everyone. The fries were served in a hot skillet; they were extra crispy but softened upon contact with the thick chicken gravy and melted cheese sauce. The crackers were salty and gooey, topped with a mixture of gorgonzola and cheddar cheese which worked quite well when dipped in the remnants of the fries’ gravy. The most memorable themed drinks consisted of a Honey Bourbon cocktail, a Boozy Hot Chocolate, and a Dirty Shirley Temple… all of which equally satisfied our childhood nostalgia and recently-turned-21 needs. After we collectively drained these, our waiter surprised us with homemade biscuits and whipped butter for the table. Of course we had no other option but to consume those as well. It was truly a glorious feast–and our main dishes were yet to arrive. 

The ordering process took some time due to the multitude of delicious choices; the menu was so perfectly crafted that it felt cruel to make us decide. Highlights from our final selection included the lobster mac and cheese, tempura chicken BBQ sandwich, veggie burger with curry aioli and pineapple salsa, bourbon-marinated steak tips, clam chowder, and falafel on naan bread. As our meals came out from the oven, we realized what a daunting task we laid out for ourselves; our stomachs whimpered in protest but we forged on. Uttering groans of dissent (which we silenced with more mouthfuls of food),we stuffed ourselves to fullest capacity on the piping hot and seemingly home-cooked meals. Everything was buttery, savory, and balanced, but certainly indulgent. My clam chowder was fresh and homemade, creamy and well-seasoned but not too thick. The biscuits were the perfect companion to the soup, allowing me to soak up every drop of the New England specialty. However, our night of eating still wasn’t complete. In celebration of our friend’s 22nd birthday, we received a complimentary order of Fireside S’mores. Held in a hot pan, the dessert was more of a dip, with a melted chocolate layer on the bottom and a toasted marshmallow layer on top. Strips of graham crackers were used to scoop it up. Full enough to burst, we knew by the end that we had made the very most of our camping trip. 

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Elevating the Ramen Experience

Emmalie Vanderpool

As assignment due dates grow closer and Uber prices continue to rise, I find myself less and less inclined to trek to the grocery store and continue to buy fresh foods. With the arrival of the autumnal season, cozy, warm meals become so enticing–as long as I don’t have to spend the time and money to consume them. Repeatedly, and embarrassingly, I find myself making ramen packets because of how cheap, easy, and delicious they are. As a beginner, I gravitated towards the chicken-flavored, Maruchan-brand ramen. This version is classic, an oily soup with a light poultry taste. I soon grew tired of the monotony of what was basically a salted noodle soup, though, and began to test out the spicier ramen packets in the international food aisle. 

As a rule of thumb, the best ramen packets are generally those with Asian lettering, as they often have a deeper flavor profile with more authentic soup bases and spice mixes. I am personally fond of the flavors which require you to drink two glasses of milk while eating them, so as not to burn your taste buds off. Most grocery chains carry the Shin Ramyun brand, which includes both a soup base and multiple spice packets to create a fuller, more complex broth for the ramen noodles. Liquid flavoring works to thicken the soup and gives it a strong beef taste, which complements the chewy ramen noodles by coating them in umami-goodness while they cook. The dry flavor packet is composed of spices and dehydrated green onion, mushroom, and carrot, which round out the soup with subtleties to cut through the beef. Vegetables add both flavor and a slight texture to each mouthful of noodles. The level of spice produced by using the entirety of the liquid packet and the spice packet together is not for the faint of heart, but it is easy to adjust to a less volcanic burst of flavor by portioning the packets as desired and not adding them all at once. 

Elevating the ramen experience by purchasing higher quality brands is one step towards ramen transcendence, but there are many other little tricks to crafting a dinner-worthy ramen noodle soup. The polished, Kylie Jenner-route would be to add butter, garlic powder, and a scrambled egg–but we can do better than that. I believe garlic is an herb passed down by cosmic entities to grace the food of humanity, so I’ll give Kylie that one. Rather than adding butter and a scrambled egg, though, I would suggest a form of egg that has a runny yolk, perhaps soft-boiled or  sunny-side-up. The yolk of the egg thickens the soup, makes it creamier, and flavors the ramen noodles, while the white of the egg adds texture and protein so that you can pretend it is a nutritious meal. Other protein sources like tofu or pork are traditionally put in Japanese ramen, and work very well with noodles and broth. Adding soup-friendly fresh or frozen veggies like mushrooms, white onions, green onions, or jalapenos can add more of a bite to your soup and make it a well-balanced meal (though, is health what ramen is really about?). Flavoring the soup with bonus spices like hot chili oil or chili flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, cumin, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha, or even a dash of maple syrup can help cater to individual flavor preference. 

I am a firm believer in eliminating ramen shame, and I encourage anyone looking for a quick, hot, and inexpensive meal during the colder months to explore this college-friendly food. Little adjustments can make ramen more substantial, and the soup is a great base for adding in meat, veggies, and spices, according to taste. To my fellow Maruchan-beginners: you can do better!

Photo: New York Times, Slow Cooker Chicken Ramen with Bok Choy and Miso

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Chaotic Cooking

Olivia Mosholt

Everything was at stake.

I looked down at my phone, then back up. Over and over I played the steps through my head. I had one chance, and I couldn’t mess this up. Otherwise, $14 were down the drain, and two dinners. To a college student on a budget, this was gold. 

Besides the monetary value, there was something more. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to bite into that first ball of tender, slightly crisp goodness, and feel it melt in my mouth. The way that they do when you buy them at a restaurant for $30, and you savor every bite of the four pieces on the plate. My roommates had to cook their dinners, too, and I had a meeting to attend. I knew it was time to start the scallops.

I got the sauce ready ahead of time. I chopped up a few garlic cloves, poured a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and squeezed a full lemon into a bowl (then proceeded to dip my hand in it to pick out the seeds). Of course I had a cut on my finger where the lemon juice stung–but warriors don’t cry. I put the mixture aside, and continued with my mission. 

I washed the scallops and patted them dry. I peeled off the little white flaps on their sides. Then, I said goodbye to the squishy, white, saltwater clams before me, and turned up the heat. To the pan, I added a couple more tablespoons of olive oil. I waited, and placed a droplet of water on its surface. The oil jumped a bit, so I put the scallops on. It was crowded, much like Disney World during spring break. In a panic, I picked up a scallop with my finger seconds after it hit the pan, and moved it to a plate. There was more room, but it was still too crowded. I followed this pattern two more times, all in a matter of seconds. 

“Salt and pepper!” The part of my mind responsible for remembering the steps was panicked. 

I almost forgot. Frantically, I ground up the two simple spices which make all the difference. Phew. I caught my breath while the scallops sizzled on the pan; the three I temporarily saved from the flame were watching idly by. They wouldn’t be safe for very long.

How was I supposed to know when scallops were ready to flip? Different Internet sources said anywhere from one to four minutes, or when the scallops didn’t stick to the pan. I waited until the bottoms were a light golden brown. Using a spatula, I poked at the creatures a few times, testing their mobility. I finally felt one move smoothly across the pan. I didn’t watch the clock, but trusted my instincts. I flipped them all. Waiting another several minutes, I finished cooking the batch and moved them to a deep plate. I poured some more oil on the pan, and added the remaining three squishy whites.

This round, I didn’t waste any time. I ground salt and pepper like it was my duty. I was getting nervous; it wasn’t over. I still had the lemon garlic sauce. I was to remove the scallops, and pour my mixture over the flame while scraping up any remaining pieces in the pan. Then I was to add a quarter-cup of vegetable broth (I wasn’t going to use white wine; I’m a student and that’s a highly valued commodity), then let the mixture simmer. 

I looked down. The three remaining scallops on the pan were nearly ready. It was time. Suddenly my ears were ringing.

“You should always turn the fan on while cooking! Open the window! Shake a towel under the alarm!”  My roommate was yelling.

This would happen to me. 

Little did my roommate know there was no way in hell I was going to abandon my scallops in attempt to make the fire alarm turn off. I had already come so far.

“One second!” I shouted back.

I removed the remaining scallops from the pan, opened the window, poured in my concoction, and turned the fan on. Still, there was beeping chaos. I added the vegetable broth and moved the dial to simmer. Then, grabbing the dirty blue dish towel next to me, I ran to the alarm, and started waving my hand around. After what felt like an hour–in reality it was actually fifteen seconds–the alarm stopped. I darted back to my pan.

I was ready for this process to be over. I turned off the flame and combined the scallops with the pan’s contents. I tossed them around so they could soak up the garlicy, lemony, oily goodness. I placed the farrow and sauteed spinach (which I’d been simultaneously preparing) in a bowl, topping them with the scallops and lemon sauce so that the hulled wheat and veggies could soak up the flavor as well. I pierced my fork into a scallop. 

The scallops may have been evil for the trouble they put me through, but at that moment I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I was late for my meeting, or that my roommates were annoyed with me. A tired smile took over my face; it was delicious. I even had my roommate (a fellow foodie) try a bite. She didn’t mind the alarm after that. 

“Wow, this is better than scallops I’ve had in restaurants where you get three for thirty bucks.” 
Then I started beaming, because I didn’t have just three restaurant-level scallops. I had eleven. I planned to separate them into two meals, only putting five on my plate for dinner. Instead, I ate seven scallops, and after my meeting (for which I ran late) I came home and ate the remaining four. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Slightly crispy on the outside, and tender, buttery goodness on the inside. I was rich.

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Artifacts Of What’s To Come

How a BC alum created a new kind of cider for a new kind of world

Jake Mazar’s favorite apple is the Roxbury Russet. It’s a greyish, greenish apple, with a leathery skin. You’d expect it to be sour, but it’s sweet. Not an artificially engineered kind of sweet that Dole and Driscoll’s may dream of, but instead a soft, weathered sweetness. Another admirer of the Roxbury Russet is Nathaniel Hawthorne, who, in The House of the Seven Gables wrote, “But I suppose I am like a Roxbury Russet, – a great deal the better, the longer I can be kept.” Nathaniel Hawthorne was definitely a cider drinker.

Jake Mazar, CSOM ’08, decided to start a cidery after growing disillusioned with work in the consulting field. Together with childhood friend (and current Head Cider-maker) Soham Bhatt, who had been working in the biotech industry, he started Artifact Cider. “Something was lacking, and I wanted to do something on my own terms…we had a keen love of cider, something we’d been drinking for a long time, talking about for a long time. Soham started making some at his house in his garage, one thing led to another and slowly we decided to open up a company… and it’s kind of taken off from there.”

It begins, Mazar explains, with locally sourced apples. Once the blend is chosen and the apples are picked, the process begins to resemble that of wine-making. The fruit is crushed, pressed, and its juices begin to ferment, either with added yeast or with naturally occurring yeasts. It’s fermented for anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, and then aged until it is ready to be carbonated, canned or kegged, and finally consumed.

Given apple picking’s cultural ubiquity, it’s no surprise that cider culture has begun to reemerge in the Northeast. Due in no small part to the craft beer boom, where many have begun to shirk the Anheuser-Busch beverages in favor of locally-produced, small-batch brews, where cider has enjoyed a rebirth in the last ten years. As Mazar puts it,

“We’re interested not only what’s been done before, we’re interested in what can be done, what’s possible. Reinvention.”

And what serves as a better example of staying true to one’s roots while reinventing oneself than an apple itself? The Roxbury Russet has been in the Northeast for close to 400 years now, and it still manages to find new life every time it’s picked off the orchard, fermented for a bottle of cider, or regrown in a Massachusetts orchard.

Photo Courtesy of Jake Mazar
The Artifact Cider Orchard

Artifact’s name lends a bit of poignancy to this sentiment as well. Sure, the likes of John and Sam Adams might have enjoyed a Roxbury Russet some 250 years ago. They might even have had a glass or two of cider from those apples at the local taverns, taking gulps between discussing the merits of liberalism. So while cider, and the distinctly Northeastern apples that it can be made from, all serve as treasures of our past, they also remind us to look towards the future. I don’t think the Adams’ would have minded a blend of apples in their cider.

Although hard cider still makes up a mere 1% of the alcohol industry, the proliferation of cideries around the United States indicates that it’s not a flash in the pan, and has lasting value. Simply put, if cider can last 400 harsh New England winters, one could assume with confidence that it’s here to stay.

Artifact Cider can be found at Chansky’s Super Market and Gimbel’s Liquors.