Fair warning: incredible food porn (and some not-so-incredible food puns) ahead!
As a former New Yorker who aches for the city’s global food discourse, I devoured this cookbook. I’ve always loved cookbooks, but I rarely read them. There’s likely a beautiful name for this affliction in another language. (Ken Carbone’s recent post covers this from the design book perspective). Cookbooks typically sit on my shelf as art objects for perusing, finding inspiration, and mouth-watering imagery. Not, as it were, for reading.
I read every last morsel of Made Here.
In addition to a thoughtfully curated collection of recipes and beautiful photography, Made Here offers a moving feast through the history, human migration, and culture of New York City’s Asian communities—from Indonesian to Chinese, Japanese to Thai, Korean to Vietnamese. Readers will enjoy practical shopping tips, including a pantry shopping list for vinegar and oil, a primer on Chinese tea-making, and a rundown of where to buy delicious ingredients. Along the way, you’ll meet proprietors of some of the city’s most celebrated shops and restaurants encompassing 18+ cuisines from 24 NYC neighborhoods.
A Conversation Between Cuisines
One of the themes Made Here circles back to repeatedly is the beautiful thing that happens when traditional cuisines incorporate the ingredients and techniques of a new place. This book is a meditation on the blend of people and traditions that expand our collective food culture. This “conversation” expands our culture in a broader sense, too.
A language barrier exists, but under the spell of delicious food, spoken language becomes insignificant.Liang Liu, Night Market BBQ, East Flushing, Queens (translated from Mandarin)
The beginning might stem from a desire to give the community a strong sense of heritage and roots in a place far from home, like Grand Tea & Imports, a Chinatown institution for premium loose-leaf tea and cultural goods. Many new ingredients and tastes spark experimentation (like Nha Trang One’s use of Thai chiles and Chinese sauces in their Vietnamese soups). This experimentation inevitably leads to places like Falansai, with its buzzworthy Vietnamese Mexican menu, or Forsyth Fire Escape, whose menu reflects its owners’ Chinese, Thai, and Dominican (and Californian) roots. New Yorkers know something about the “egg and cheese” sandwich. How about one with hashbrowns on a sesame scallion milk bun a la Golden Diner? Then there’s a triple threat from Yo+Shoku: curry, udon, and short rib, er, borsch?
Driven, Created, and Supported by Community
The cookbook is produced by Send Chinatown Love, a New York-based, entirely volunteer-run organization whose goal is to provide relief to small, Asian-owned businesses impacted by the effects of the pandemic. That’s the simple explanation, but the organization’s website puts its mission more starkly: “Back in March 2020, we noticed how quickly small businesses were closing due to racism and xenophobia, weeks before the mandated closure. As it turns out, most immigrant-owned businesses were rejected for government loans due to application requirements that were inequitable to immigrant-run microbusinesses. That’s why Send Chinatown Love was born.“
Through various fundraising and events, the all-volunteer organization helps community restaurants weather the economic hardships through financial and resource investment. If you’re looking for a place to volunteer, SCL is always looking for help with strategy, product design, marketing, and operations.
Help Celebrate the Launch of Made Here
Made Here’s official release is November 3, but you can pre-order a copy of the book on Send Chinatown Love’s website. You can also pick up your copy at Made Here from a favorite local bookstore, including Kitchen Arts & Letters, Books are Magic, and in Los Angeles at Now Serving LA, and through many restaurant partners.
The launch party is on November 13 at The Red Pavilion in Bushwick. Come for readings from the book, small bites, music, a raffle, and community to toast this volunteer-created cookbook. Get your tickets here.