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Hidden Kitchens
KSP #80 – Thad Vogler: A Short History of Spirits

KSP #80 – Thad Vogler: A Short History of Spirits

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Thad Vogler, creator of San Francisco’s Bar Agricole and Trou Normand, travels the world in search of hand made spirits — rum, scotch, cognac, mescal — and the hidden stories of the people and places behind these spirits. His bar is like a library, each bottle rich with story. “Any bottle of rum you take off of the shelf, you have to think about the Caribbean, about the African diaspora, the indigenous culture, the merchant cultures, the colonizing European country, the sugar plantations controlled by the French…”

Thad has just come out with a new book — By the Smoke & the Smell: My Search for the Rare & Sublime on the Spirits Trail. It’s a beautiful book — part travelogue, part memoir. We talk with Thad about his life and philosophy, about the impact of prohibition, alcohol as agriculture, tracing ingredients to their source, and the bar as a kitchen.

We also talk to Russell Moore, chef and owner of Camino in Oakland. Russell worked for more than 20 years at Chez Panisse and when he opened Camino he asked Thad Vogler to create a locally sourced, non-GMO bar that reflected his kitchen.

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Episode 79: Pati’s Mexican Jewish Table

Episode 79: Pati’s Mexican Jewish Table

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A walk through Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden with chef and cookbook author Pati Jinich, host of the Emmy and James Beard nominated PBS series Pati’s Mexican Table and resident chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington DC. Pati talks about her Jewish heritage, growing up in Mexico, immigration, life choices and how she found her way into the kitchen.

Episode #74: What is it About Men and Meat and Midnight and a Pit?

Episode #74: What is it About Men and Meat and Midnight and a Pit?

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Barbecue, burgoo, mopping the mutton, the fellowship of stirring. Hidden Kitchens stories of conflict, competition and resolution in the backyards and fire pits of our nation. From the all night communal roasting rituals in Owensboro, Kentucky, to the cotton fields, German meat markets, and chuckwagons of west Texas. We hear from men’s cooking teams, African American Trail Riders, Willie Nelson and his bass player Bee Spears, Stubb Stubblefield… And we contemplate David Klose’s BBQ pit on the moon.

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The Kitchen Sisters Present Ep #73: The Sheepherder’s Ball

The Kitchen Sisters Present Ep #73: The Sheepherder’s Ball

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In the 1930s and 40s, hundreds of Basques were brought to the western United States to do the desolate work that no one else would do—herding sheep. Alone for months at a time with hundreds of sheep the Basque’s improvised songs, baked bread in underground ovens, carved poetry and drawings into the Aspen trees, and listened to the Basque Radio Hour beaming to Idaho, Washington, Colorado, California, traditional music and messages between the herders out in the isolated countryside.

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“You say Basque to a Westerner and you think sheepherder,” said Mark Kurlansky, author of The Basque History of the World. “In Basque country very few people were shepherds. The seven provinces of Basque country are about the size of New Hampshire. No one has huge expanses of land there.”

“Teenagers were ripped up out of their communities back home, brought to a foreign land, with a foreign language, put up on top of a mountain … crying themselves to sleep at night during the first year on the range,” says William Douglass, Former director of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada.

Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator who repressively ruled the country for nearly 40 years, made life miserable for the Basque people, suppressing their language, culture and possibilities. The result was a massive exodus, and the only way to come to the United States for many Basques was to contract as sheepherders. There was a shortage of shepherds in the American West, and legislation was crafted in 1950 that allowed Basque men to take up this lonely and difficult job.

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Francisco and Joaquin Lasarte came to America in 1964 from Basque country in northern Spain. Each Lasarte brother had his own flock, and they rarely saw each other or anyone else for months on end. Mostly they ate lamb and bread cooked in a Dutch oven in a hole they dug in the ground.

Hotels like the Noriega in Bakersfield, CA were home in the winter months for these isolated men. They piled into these Basque boarding houses that sprung up in Elko and Winnemucca, Nevada, and Boise, Idaho. The men ate family style — big bottles of red wine, accordion music, conversation and card games.

For 25 years, the voice of the Basque was Espe Alegria. Every Sunday night, sheepherders across the mountains of the American West would tune in to listen to her radio show on KBOI in Boise. Dedications, birthday greetings, suggestions of where to find good pasture, the soccer scores that her husband got off the shortwave from Spain, and the hit tunes from Spain and the Basque region. She would help the sheepherders with immigration issues, with buying plane tickets home, with doctor’s appointments. She did her show for free, but once or twice a year the owners of the sheep camps would give her a lamb. The family would take it home, throw it on the kitchen table, cut it up and put in the freezer.

The Sheepherder’s Ball was the highlight of the year in Boise. The men wore denim, the women wore simple house dresses. Lambs were auctioned off and proceeds given to a charity. Huge platters of chorizo and stew and pork sandwiches were served. The ball continues to this day every December at the Euzkaldunak Club’s Basque Center.

The Kitchen Sisters Present Ep #71: Hidden Kitchen Gaza

The Kitchen Sisters Present Ep #71: Hidden Kitchen Gaza

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Author and journalist, Laila El-Haddad takes us into the hidden world of Gaza through the kitchen. Interweaving history, personal experiences and stories of food, family and daily life, El-Haddad paints a vivid picture of her family’s homeland and some of the issues facing people living in Gaza and the Middle East.

We also hear from Jon Rubin, co-founder of Conflict Kitchen, a restaurant/art project in Pittsburg PA that sells food from countries the United States is in conflict with. One of the most controversial iterations of Conflict Kitchen took place in 2014 when their food and conversation turned to Palestine. The restaurant featured recipes from The Gaza Kitchen and Laila El-Haddad was an invited speaker.

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RECIPE

Dagga (Salta Ghazawiyya)
Gazan Hot Tomato and Dill Salad
serves 2-3

1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 to 3 hot green chile peppers (to taste), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (10 grams) finely chopped fresh dill
3 ripe, flavorful medium-sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and salt into a past. Add the chile peppers and crush until they are tender, followed by the dill. Using a circular motion, gently muddle the dill until fragrant. Add roughly chopped tomatoes and pound until the salad reaches a thick, salsa-like consistency. Mix the entire salad with a spoon, then drench it with extra-virgin olive oil.

This recipe is from The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey by Laila El-Haddad & Maggie Schmitt

Laila El-Haddad is co-author of “The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey” (with Maggie Schmitt) and author of “Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between.”

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #70 – The Egg Wars

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #70 – The Egg Wars

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A hidden Gold Rush kitchen when food was scarce and men died for eggs… We travel out to the forbidding Farallon Islands, 27 miles outside San Francisco’s Golden Gate, home to the largest seabird colony in the United States, where in the 1850s egg hunters gathered over 3 million eggs, nearly stripping the island bare, to feed the ever-growing migration of newcomers lured by the Gold Rush.

Today The Farallons are off limits to the public. Only a handful of scientists are allowed on the island at a time – it’s a sanctuary – the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

When we began working on The Egg Wars we were given permission to go out to the Farallones on one of the supply runs that heads to the islands two times a month. Senior Scientist Russ Bradley takes us out on the jagged granite cliffs to contemplate the murres, and into the 1870s lighthouse where the scientists live, isolated, for months at a time.

Special thanks to Point Blue Conservation; The Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

And many thanks to:
Russ Bradley, Senior Scientist, Farallon Program Manager, Point Blue Conservation
Doug Cordel, the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Eva Chrysanthe, graphic illustrator
Roger Cunningham, Skipper of the Selkie
Keith Hansen, graphic illustrator
Gary Kamiya, author of Cool Gray City of Love
Gerry McChesney, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Melissa Pitkin, Point Blue Conservation
Peter Pyle, Marine Biologist and Ornithologist, Institute for Bird Populations
Mary Jane Schramm, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Peter White, author of The Farallon Island: Sentinels of The Golden Gate
Pete Warzybok, Farallon Program Biologist, Point Blue Conservation

Support for this story comes from The National Endowment for the Humanities and The National Endowment for the Arts — Art Works.

We won! A Webby and a James Beard Award

We won! A Webby and a James Beard Award

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Martha and The Sisters

 

Yesterday was a banner day at The Kitchen Sisters. In the morning, we learned that we won a Webby Award for our Radiotopia podcast The Kitchen Sisters Present. In the evening, we were honored with a James Beard Foundation Award (the Oscars of food) for our NPR series Hidden Kitchens: War and Peace and Food, heard on Morning Edition.

We want to thank everyone at Morning Edition, NPR’s The Salt, and Radiotopia for supporting our work. And all the people we collaborated with across the globe on these stories. None of these projects would be possible without support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. We thank the staff of these important American institutions for all they do.

The Kitchen Sisters Present Ep #69: The Romance and Sex Life of the Date

The Kitchen Sisters Present Ep #69: The Romance and Sex Life of the Date

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In 1898, the United States Department of Agriculture created a special department of men, called “Agriculture Explorers,” to travel the globe searching for new food crops to bring back for farmers to grow in the U.S. These men introduced exotic specimens like the mango, the avocado, and the date. In 1900, the USDA sent plant explorer, Walter Swingle, to Algeria to study the date. As Swingle took temperature readings and soil temperature, he realized that the conditions were very much like those in California’s hot, arid Coachella Valley, sometimes referred to as the American Sahara. In order to market this new fruit and promote the region, date growers in the Coachella Valley began capitalizing on the exotic imagery and fantasy many Americans associated with the Middle East. During the 1950s date shops dotted the highway, attracting tourists. There was Pyramid Date shop where you could purchase your dates in a pyramid. Sniff’s Exotic Date Garden set up a tent like those used by nomadic tribes of the Sahara. One of the most well known date shops that still exists today is Shields Date Garden, established in 1924. Floyd Shields lured in customers with his lecture and slide show titled, “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.”

This story was produced in collaboration with Lisa Morehouse. Check out more stories from Lisa and her California Foodways project.

Notes from The Kitchen Sisterhood – Spring 2017

Notes from The Kitchen Sisterhood – Spring 2017

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Dear Friends,

The last time we sent you Notes From The Kitchen Sisterhood we were urging you to vote. It’s a whole new ballgame now with arts, culture, climate, healthcare, immigrants all threatened and the mother of all bombs bursting in air. All around us storytellers, artists, organizers, teachers, librarians, athletes, scientists are stepping up, rising to this moment. We wanted to share a few things from our world and the world of those we admire.

On the homefront, The Kitchen Sisters have a bit of a Trifecta at the moment and now we need to ask for your vote.

Our podcast, The Kitchen Sisters Present (until recently known as Fugitive Waves)was just nominated for a Webby Award for best documentary podcast. Please help us claim the title. Vote here, vote now!

We are also thrilled to say that we have been nominated for a 2017 James Beard Award for our latest season of NPR stories, Hidden Kitchens: Kimchi Diplomacy: War and Peace and Food.

And our TED Talk about Wall Streetthe self-schooled San Quentin inmate and stock market savant is now online. Take a look.

Forward ever,

The Kitchen Sisters
Davia & Nikki

Events we are going to / wish we were going to:

The Unplugged Soul: A Conference on the Podcast. The Kitchen Sisters, Benjamen Walker, Christopher Lydon, Jeff Emtman and a slew of other podcasters. April 14-15, Heyman Center, Columbia University.

Here and Home: A retrospective of the work of California photographer Larry Sultan. April 15-July 23, SFMOMA

Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to summit of Mount Everest and kayak the Grand Canyon, in conversation with Davia about his book, No Barriers, May 2, Lighthouse for the Blind, SF

Fake News Room: A response to Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s 1983 exhibition “Newsroom.” Artists include Jason Fulford, Jim Goldberg and Dru Donovan, as well as The Kitchen Sisters. Open now through April 29 at the Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco

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What we’re watching:

Mifune, directed by Stephen Okazaki

I Called Him Morgan, directed by Kasper Collin. The jazz tragedy of Lee Morgan, exquisitely rendered.

An Inconvenient Sequel. Al Gore’s climate change sequel. Truth to Power.

Century of Self, Adam Curtis’ 2002 BBC documentary.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

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What we’re making:

This year, we are embarking on a new NPR/podcast series called The Keepers–activist archivists, rogue librarians, collectors, curators, historians–keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections that they keep. Guardians of history, large and small. Protectors of the free flow of ideas and information. People afflicted with what French philosopher Jacques Derrida called “Archive Fever.”

We welcome your tips and suggestions for who and what needs chronicling.

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What we’re reading:

Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

True South by Jon Else

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin

Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

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What we’re cooking:

Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge. A people’s history of the modern South set on farms, in kitchens and at tables.

King Solomon’s Table by Joan Nathan.

The President’s Kitchen Cabinet by Adrian Miller. African Americans who fed the First Families, from Washington to Obama.

Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook by Elisabeth Prueitt

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Music we’re spinning:

Save the Country by Laura Nyro.

We recently attended the SF Symphony Pride concert, a staggering night of LGBTQ music from Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, Stephen Sondheim and more. What got us most was was when conductor Michael Tilson Thomas accompanied Audra McDonald singing Laura Nyro’s barnburner Save the Country. It is our new national anthem.

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Podcasts we’re pumping:

RadioPublic podcast app. Free podcasts!

S-Town from Serial and This American Life. You know you wanna hear it.

The many splendored podcasts from the Radiotopia collective

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Citizens we’re admiring:

Russ Kickinvestigative archivist from Arizona and founder of the Memory Hole. Russ finds and preserves documents the government tries to keep hidden. A keeper.

Magnus Toren runs the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur that has been closed since mid-February after Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge into Big Sur was damaged due to relentless winter rains. They’re now raising funds to open The Henry Miller Library in the Barnyard in Carmel, bringing Big Sur to “town.” They could use your support.

Years ago we recorded Brian Eno talking about the weekly Tuesday “Sing” he holds with his friends–not professional musicians, just pals, gathered standing around a table, singing a capella for a few hours. Times like these call for communal singing. As Brian says, “Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call ‘civilizational benefits.’ When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community.”

Graffiti artists in Ho Chi Minh City Pushing Back Against Official Censorship. “For many in Vietnam, the spray can is a tool of rebellion—illicit spray-painting is a way of defying restrictions in an authoritarian country where artists must have their work approved before exhibitions, shows are routinely shut down, and works deemed controversial are replaced by a black ‘X’ on gallery walls.”

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Subscribe to our Webby Award nominated podcast

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #66 – Sugar in the Milk: A Parsi Hidden Kitchen

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #66 – Sugar in the Milk: A Parsi Hidden Kitchen

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Niloufer Ichaporia King lives in a house with three kitchens. She prowls through six farmer’s markets a week, at least, in search of unusual greens, roots and seeds, and traditional food plants from every immigrant culture. She is an anthropologist, a kitchen botanist, a one-of-a-kind cook, a Parsi from Bombay living in San Francisco, and the author of My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking.

Niloufer is known for her ritual celebrations of Parsi New Year on the first day of Spring, when she creates an elaborate ceremonial meal based on the auspicious foods and traditions of her vanishing culture. The Parsi culture is some 3,000 years old and goes back from India to Persia. It’s estimated that there are now only 75,000 Parsis in the world. The prediction is that by 2020 the numbers will have dropped to 25,000.

This story also features writer Bharati Mukherjee, who passed away this last year, sharing her memories of the forbidden Bengali kitchen of her girlhood, with its four cooks and intricate rules of food preparation. And Harvard Professor Homi Bhabha, born in Mumbai to a Parsi family, who talks about auspicious lentils and the birth of his son.

RECIPES:

New Year’s Milk Shake (Falooda)

Niloufer Ichaporia King’s falooda, featuring basil seeds, rosewater, milk and vanilla ice cream.

Faludeh in Iran is a frozen dessert of wheat-starch noodles in a pre-scented syrup. Falooda in northern India is a dish of kulfi (rich ice cream) and wheat-starch noodles. Falooda in Bombay is a glorious milk-shakey affair in a tall glass. At the bottom, there’s a layer of soaked basil (Ocimum basilicum) seeds, tukhmuriya ni biya, with a slippery-crunchy texture that’s like nothing else. On top of the tukhmuriya ni biya is a layer of translucent noodles made of wheat starch. Both of these layers are seen through intense pink rose syrup, although amber-colored saffron syrup is an option. Milk appears to float over this foundation without disturbing it. For extra luxury, there might be a scoop of vanilla ice cream or kulfi. To eat the Falooda, you stir everything up with a long spoon.

Falooda is supposed to be eaten on March 21, Navroz, the old Persian New Year’s Day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find it or eat it for the remaining 364 days.

The best places to find Falooda outside someone’s house is in Bombay’s beloved Irani-run restaurants, often named after British or Iranian royals. Rustom Jeejeebhoy, fountainhead of Parsi lore, used to tantalize me by describing the delights of his favorite Irani restaurant, the King Victoria, hidden away on the edges of the mill district, but he never found himself able to take me there or even come up with the address.

To make Falooda in the United States you need two common things, milk and ice cream, and two slightly more esoteric items, rose syrup and basil seeds. Rose syrup can be found in Indian or Middle Eastern groceries. I suggest the Middle Eastern brands, for a truer rose flavor. For total extravagance, look for exquisite organic rose syrup from Italy. Read the labels to make sure you’re not getting an entirely synthetic product. The basil seeds come from Indian or Southeast Asian markets. Buy the Southeast Asian ones; the Indian basil seeds are often sandy.

At Chez Panisse March 21 dinners, we serve Falooda in small glasses as a dessert drink. Instead of ice cream we use ice milk, which keeps things refreshing. Serves 6.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon basil seeds

2 cups (or more) water

3 cups (about) chilled whole milk or half-and-half

1/2 cup (about) rose syrup

1/2 cup (about) vanilla ice cream or ice milk

• Soak the seeds in the water for 1 to 3 hours. A tablespoon doesn’t seem like much, but the seeds swell up enormously.

• Line up your glasses, tall or short. First put a spoonful of soaked seeds in the bottom of each glass, 2 teaspoons or so for small glasses, 1 to 2 tablespoons for tall glasses. Then pour in the milk to within an inch of the top of the glass. Follow that with 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of rose syrup, depending on the sweetness of the rose syrup, the size of the glass, and your taste. It doesn’t seem likely, but specific gravity will cause the syrup to sink below the milk in a neat band. If you do it the other way around, the syrup and milk get mixed and the dramatic banded effect is lost. Last, put a little ice cream in every glass.

Excerpted from My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking by Niloufer Ichaporia King.

Eggs on Potato Chips (Wafer Par Ida)

“For years I thought that putting eggs on wafers, as we call potato chips in India, was a joke recipe, a loony fantasy or a way of lampooning our Parsi love affair with eggs. Then I tried it. In an ideal universe, your potato chips are homemade or fresh from one of Bombay’s several potato-chips works, where a vat of oil is always on the bubble or use the best of the commercial ones available to you. They shouldn’t be too brown or the dish will taste burnt.” — Niloufer Ichaporia King

Ingredients

1 tablespoon ghee, clarified butter, or mixture of vegetable oil and butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Ginger-Garlic paste (optional)

2 to 3 hot green chiles, finely chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

4 good handfuls of plain potato chips from a just-opened bag

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon (about) water

• Heat the ghee over medium heat in a sturdy medium skillet, preferably cast iron. Add the onion and let it soften, stirring occasionally, a few minutes. Before it browns, add the paste if you like and the green chiles, and as soon as the mixture looks cooked, add the fresh coriander. Crumble in the potato chips, tossing the contents of the pan to combine them thoroughly. Make nests in the surface of the mixture—they won’t be perfect hollows—and crack an egg into each. Pour a tablespoon or so of water around the edges of the pan to generate some steam, cover the skillet tightly, and let the eggs cook just long enough to set the whites without turning the chips soggy.

• Turn out onto waiting plates.

Serves 2 to 4.

Note: One of my authorities on Parsi food, Firoza Kanga, says, “Oh yes, wafer par ida. Delicious. Next time, try it with a little bit of cream poured over the chips before the eggs go on.”

Excerpted from My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking by Niloufer Ichaporia King.