Tag Archives: food



Image source: Instagram (Casa Adela)

By Melissa Fuster, PhD, Assistant Professor in Public Health Nutrition at Brooklyn College – City University of New York (CUNY) 

It was a hot and humid August morning. Adela sat in the back of her restaurant, peeling potatoes, with only a small fan to appease the heat. The TV was tuned to Telemundo, with Elvis Crespo singing for Monica Puig, the Puerto Rican tennis player who days before had just won the first gold medal for the island at the Olympics in Rio. Pepe, a mutual friend and local community leader, introduced us. She smiled, turning back to her potatoes and television show. By the time we arrived, she had already been working for a couple of hours, making the necessary prepping for the day’s service. The smell of garlic, mixed with oregano and onion, forming the sofrito base, filled the air announcing to regulars and passersby that something delicious is being prepared. We sat at her table, and Pepe got the conversation started by asking Adela about her early days in the city.

Adela first came to New York City in 1971 for a visit. Back then, she worked as a seamstress in Puerto Rico, later transitioning to working with her mother, selling fiambreras (lunch boxes) to factory workers. She moved to New York City around 1975. When I asked why she moved, she replied with a smile, “Ese salto lo da todo el mundo que quiere progresar” [That leap is made by everyone who wants to progress in life]. Upon arrival, she worked as a cook, but quickly transitioned to establishing her own place. She rented her first restaurant, El Caribe, on the West Side, which she later bought from the Cuban owner. When the building was condemned, she moved her business to the Lower East Side, where she later established Casa Adela in 1976. While an exact timeline of life events and places was not specified, the one thing that was clear while talking with her was the entrepreneurial success. At one time, she recalled owning three establishments, with the goal of passing two of them to her children. However, she ended up selling two of them, with her children being actively involved in the running Casa Adela today.

Continue reading

Using Food Recipes as Sources of Information for Changes in Food Preferences. Colombia. 1970´s – 2010´s.


Posted by Juan C S Herrera – PhD Student at Steinhardt / Food Studies and Food management at NYU

After three weeks in Bogotá, Colombia, I took a stroll through one of the city’s main roads, 7th Avenue. There you can find several food options ranging from international food chains to Colombian food corporations, as well as affordable local adaptations of international foods to traditional corn on the cob and fresh fruit vendors. The availability of food options is linked to the preferences of Colombian consumers.

Food preferences have changed over the last decades. The reasons underlying the changes can be found in the relationship between the macro economic, social, and political space and how those macro variables play a role in the individual formation of food preferences. At the macro level, one can find four major changes that affect the availability of food products and therefore influence individual’s food preferences.

Continue reading

Street Food in Mexico City: The Dirty, The Clean, The Tasty

Hayden - Mexico - Fruit juice stand in Mexico City

Fruit Juice Stand in Mexico City

One of the first impressions that I had of Mexico City upon coming here for the first time, seven years ago was that the metropolis was saturated with food.  In addition to grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes of all types, the streets themselves teem with places to eat. White metal stands line the sidewalks near major and minor thoroughfares, selling sandwiches, fresh fruits and juices, tacos, and antojitos (corn-based snacks such as quesadillas and tostadas).  Other vendors come early in the morning and set up tarps, coal-fired griddles, and a few plastic stools on street corners in residential and commercial areas, where they sell tacos, antojitos, and tamales.  Still other vendors are fully mobile, pushing carts, riding bicycles, or carrying baskets to ply their wares, often yelling out the types of products they have on offer (churros, roasted sweet potatoes, sandwiches, tamales, corn on the cob, sweet breads, tacos de canasta) as they weave their way through the city.  Street food, or comida callejera, certainly exists in other countries, but in Mexico it is particularly vibrant, omnipresent, and embraced as a part of the national identity.  People from most walks of life frequent street food stands, at least periodically, and many people depend on their products for affordable, nutritious daily meals.  Yet the majority of street food vendors, despite their iconic status and importance in the urban food landscape, exist precariously in the informal sector, where they are regularly declared to be problems by politicians and city residents alike.  Vendedores ambulantes (or mobile vendors) are commonly criticized in terms of public health, waste disposal, tax evasion, corruption, use of public space, or quality of life.  As an anthropologist, I am interested in the implications of these contradictory rhetorics and practices around street food for Mexicans, as consumers, vendors, and political actors. Continue reading

& after the Obrigação has been made…

Brazil - Barton - Work

a day or two after the 'work' had been done

It appears that someone had to make an obrigação to Exú either the night before I first saw this detritus, Saturday or on Friday. The alcohol, the adiga formerly filled with farofa de dendê and the fact that it has been placed at a crossroads are the overt clues. Obviously, this particular ‘work’ that had been done didn’t come at great cost. Hopefully, it did it what is was supposed to have done…

Posted by Scott Alves Barton — PhD Candidate in Food Studies at NYU

Riffing on Bean Fritters: Acarajé Stories

Barton - Brazil - Bean 1[“When did you begin? Who taught you? How long have you been working as an acarajé vendor? Do you also make Comida de Santo? Do you think your customers buy your acarajé because of quality? Or as reference to their heritage-memory-culture? Do they acknowledge belief in African religions such as Candomble? Is that their rationale for buying your acarajé? Or is it just, that it tastes good? What if anything is your relationship to the Comida de Santo?”]

Vivaldo Costa Lima, a former mentor, culinary anthropologist, ogan, and cultural leader of Bahia clearly identified acarajé as being a trope of Salvador and Bahian cuisine. Without acarajé and the women who sell them, Salvador would not be Salvador. Traditionally, these women were novitiates in various Candomblé terreiros. Some portion of their earnings went back into the terreiros to maintain the temples upkeep and overhead.

Barton - Brazil - Bean FritterThese black-eyed pea fritters cooked in smoky dendé oil are archetypical foods of Bahia and reflections of the African diaspora presence here.Cousin to a falafel they begin in similar fashion, as raw soaked beans, slaked of their skin or ‘black eye’, ground to a paste with a mortar and pestle, enhanced with grated onion and salt and then formed into an orb as large as a goose egg. Originally, once cooked they were split and spread with pimenta, a chili paste made from malagueta peppers, smoked dried shrimp and dendé oil . Continue reading

Tira Gostos: to take or savour pleasure, salty tidbits or appetizers

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Baianese: “Ele sempre fica um olho em acarajé”—‘He always has an eye out for acarajé’, overheard from a passing conversation as I walked to the bus stop.

Entering the heart of Reconcavo cane fields and street vendors selling bananas, farinha, artisanal crafts and snacks appear in vast quantities. Fecundity abounds. Much as I never see castrated dogs anywhere, the suppression of reproductive potential seems to be an anathema to this land. I see diaphanous pale violet flowers peep up through the vast rows of cane. A first harvest of cacao has been husked and set to roast over wood fires in Ilheus, Costa de Cacau despite the ever-present fungus that has seriously affected the national crop. Açai from São Luis do Maranhão has already begun to enter the markets, beginning in late March. Coconut and dendé, palm fruits for oil are ripe for picking. Mandioca is harvested as needed, since it keeps perfectly well below ground for years. There is a surfeit of papaya, growing weed-like everywhere and also various types of banana, some grown to shade other crops like cacau and café. Additionally the street carts and market shelves are filled with goiaba, acerola cherries, maracúja, mango, manga, graviola, cajá and caju . I had yet to see pitanga or cupuaçu, two of my favorites. Continue reading

Added Value, Contextualizing the ‘Bumba’

Barton - Brazil - Bumba-Meu-Boi sculptural mobile

Bumba-Meu-Boi sculptural mobile by Sr. Nhozinho, early 20th c Maranhense crippled folkloric artist

The addendum to the Bumba fest images from the last post is that in reality the discourse of race-class-ethnicity & miscegenation via the portal of colonialism presented as popular theatre offers many inroads for analysis. One key factor to consider is that this month long event, now stretched to nearly two months falls under the Juninha holiday cycle, June festivals for São João or St. John the Baptist, and in reality São João is a subtext or trope for Xango. Thus, hidden in plain view is a multiple conversation of church-society-power-African and Indigenous traditions and contentious subtle debate against the previously dominant paradigm, the Portuguese, with a fundamental raison d’être of Orixa worship and power illustrated via the double consciousness/double speak of syncretic appropriation of African cosmology deftly concealed in several layers of guises. Xango has been said to have been one of the Orixá who was a real person and not simply a mythic being. The third king of the Oyo kingdom, he was deified posthumously. He is identified as the god of fire, thunder, lightning and a father of the sky. He is a consummate warrior, identified with maleness and sexuality, he is alleged to have had three wives, the Orixás: Oxum, Oya and Oba. All of whom figure deeply into the mythic pantheon of stories and legends in the ontology of Candomblé, Santeria and Lucumi. Xango cults pervade northeastern Brazil. I often look at him since one of his favorite foods is okra, turned into Caruru or Brazilian form of Gumbo, which is a major component in the meals associated with my primary research, A Festa da Boa Morte in Cachoeira.

Posted by Scott Alves Barton — PhD Candidate in Food Studies at NYU