A big question I've been mulling over this summer: "What is the work of decolonization right now, in this cultural moment?" Merely compiling lists of BIPOC and reducing our work to our identities surely isn't even the start of decolonization? But that is most of what I've seen floating around the internet under that word, and something that I'll admit to lazily turning to as well. So whilst I toyed with putting together a BIPOC-only reading list, Alicia Kennedy phrased it best when she said- "stop making lists and simply engage with good work, keeping in mind one’s desire to platform voices traditionally marginalized by the cishet white patriarchal mainstream." To that end, this non-list (collection? ha.) centers origins, centers culture, and centers folks being able to tell their own stories with depth and nuance. In supply chains, decolonizing is redistributing money and capital; in writing, it is examining who gets to tell the story and be the expert.
So without further ado:
First, this past year has given rise to some excellent substack newsletters! :
1. From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy - reading Alicia's Monday essays and Friday interviews have become the bright spot of my inbox. She is the sharpest writer I know right now and I'll admit to being a bit of a fan girl.
2. Vittles by Jonathan Nunn - a weekly dispatch from London, born out of the pandemic. It has been such a refreshing series of stories about the British food system that I now eagerly await in my inbox.
3. Illyana Maisonet's Newsletter - from Sofrito to Caldo Santo, Illyana's recipes are fantastic and her memories of growing up in the Puerto Rican diaspora even more so.
4. Soleil Ho's SF Chron 'Bite Curious' Newsletter has been very good since her very first day on the job. Literally.
Second, you can find our big, fat Diaspora Bookshelf here! We'll be updating it and adding to it regularly, and would also love your recommendations! Show us what you're reading with #DiasporaBookClub. We prefer to support BookShop.org over Amazon, but some of our self published and Indian published favorites were missing on there so you can find a short list of those here.
Third, I compiled some of our favorite independent food magazines here.
Fourth, the food media reckoning of the past few weeks has been overdue and difficult to process, but there have been so many incredibly powerful stories borne out of it, which do give me some hope. Here are some favorites:
1. 'Black Women Are the Architects of Cuisine' in this country, which is why you should definitely be following Klancy Miller's forthcoming magazine 'For the Culture' that centers and celebrates Black women in food and wine!
2. Padma Lakshmi, as you've probably heard by now, has a new show on Hulu called Taste the Nation. I think it's interesting. But I think the conversations and critiques that it has spawned to be significantly more so. Khushbu Shah on 'Who Gets to Host Food Travel Shows' and Alicia Kennedy (again!) on Nation Building and Assimilation.
3.. Elyse Inamine, the Bon Appetit digital restaurant editor and one of my favorite home cooks on Instagram wrote a thoughtful, much-needed reflection on 'What Does It Mean to Be a BA Restaurant'.
4. I deeply appreciated 'It's Time to Decolonize Wine' and the Julia Coney call out that inspired it. This is required reading for us.
5. Phyllia Jay's ongoing reporting on 'Made in India' and the Indian textile industry continues to be much needed. Her NYT piece on 'Luxury's Hidden Indian Supply Chain' was groundbreaking and eye opening.
6. The Equality Lab's conversation on Black, Dalit and Sheedi Global Solidarities with Dr. Cornel West, Chandrashekhar Azad, Tanzeela Qambrani and moderated by Thenmozhi Soundararajan was a historic moment and what you should watch this weekend.
7. 'Why Can't I Cook What I Want and Like?' by Chef Jenny Dorsey as well as this piece on 'The Global Pantry Problem' addressing the complex issues of appropriation and ownership. I've been working on (read as: slowly chewing and largely stuck) a 'Decolonizing the Global Pantry' piece for a couple weeks now and can't wait to share once it's finished, but these are fantastic takes that really inform my own changing perspective.
8. Ruth Gebreyesus is one the best culture writers out there, and her piece on how 'Eating at Black-Owned Restaurants Isn't Going to Save Us' forced me to assess my own eagerness to jump onto the shallow allyship wagon.
9. Finally, this Juggernaut piece on 'The Murky History of South Asia' and how complex it is to find the right words for our identities. The line "South Asia has always been defined by other people’s empires" stuck with me and only furthers the call for decolonization.
OK! That's it for now! Off to make Nigel Slater's Beet Dark Chocolate Cake from Tender.
Those here hoping for a preorder update, we'll be sending out a final call for preorder address confirmations in the next 10 days! It's the final stretch! Spices are finally leaving India this week! THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE AND SUPPORT! :)