A Slice of Home

For Christmas one year, my mother got me the book The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way To Live Well and ever since then, I’ve wanted to go to Copenhagen. All my cozy dreams came true when my roommate and I booked a weekend trip to the city of thick scarves and warm lattes. 

We spent our days wandering around on cobblestone streets, exploring places like Nyhavn, Amalienborg Palace, Freetown Christiania, and Strøget. We sat for hours in tiny cafes and restaurants like Bottega Barlie, eating breakfasts of soft boiled eggs, cheese, and sourdough bread with freshly squeezed orange juice. 

And while we loved immersing ourselves in everything Danish, when we passed by The American Pie Company on Skindergade 25, we couldn’t help but follow our noses inside, floating inside to get closer to the smells of freshly baked pie escaping through the open doors. 

Tucked away on a street corner of a historic Copenhagen building, the pale blue walls of the tiny bakery were lined with pie tin decor, rolling pins hung by the large windows facing the bustling streets, and a large red neon sign “PIE” greeting you as soon as you step into the shop. It’s cozy, in true Copenhagen fashion, with families and friends sitting at the little wooden tables, as servers with trays of pies and coffees bustle past. The glass case at the front of the store held the real attraction. Freshly baked pies lined the shelves, ranging from savory meat and veggie to seasonal sweet pies that change every three. Each one looked better than the next, and with witty names like “Yo’ Mama’s Apple Cinnamon Pie” and “Scout’s Honor Fudge Brownie Pie” it was impossible to walk away without getting a slice (or two).

The American Pie Company started in 2015, the first American pie shop in Denmark. Established by Erin Eberhardt Chapman and Dorte Prip, the two women were the perfect pair to create this culture blend. One from Wisconsin and one from Denmark, they teamed up to create what they called “a home away from home” in Copenhagen; a spot to come and get a slice of nostalgia and a coffee. Homemade daily in their kitchen, located in the shop on Skindergade 25, the pie is phenomenal, and during a 6 month stay away from home, it was exactly what I needed to cure any homesickness that had found its way into my abroad experience. Not only can you buy a slice to eat in, they offer “take and bake” pies, and baking lessons for those looking to expand their culinary skills. 

During our visit, my roommate and I ordered a slice of “Grandma’s Rhubarb Custard Pie” and “The Danny Boy” , a Bailey’s Irish Cream and Chocolate pie that is only available through the rest of March for St. Paddy’s Day. Rich, creamy, and perfectly flavored with that sweet tang that makes rhubarb pie so delicious, each bite made me happier than the last, and I found myself saddened when my plate was clean. Our lattes were delicious and cheap, and at our tiny table in the window, we sat laughing and people watching as we listened to blues music over the speakers like what my grandpa would play for me as a child. 

There’s something about a slice of pie that brings out the inner child in everyone. An American classic, it was a little life preserver of familiarity in the great unknown of Europe. That was the inspiration behind the creation of The American Pie Company, and it fulfills its goal. Big fluffy scarves, oversized sweaters, and warm candles are all important aspects of Hygge, but sometimes to feel truly cozy, you need a little slice of home.

Cover Photo Courtesy of TheAmericanPieCo


Not Your Mom’s Cooking, but Kuya’s Cooking: Culinary Neo-Tradition and the Immigrant Experience

A neo-traditional Filipino catering business feeding Filipino-food- first-timers.

I come from a long line of wives and mothers whose special talent was to measure with their eyes and fingers. The sangkap (ingredients) and ways of cooking are a coalition of cultural shortcuts, learned experience, and a certain kind of cohesive awareness – of knowing when to take the adobo out when it smelled just right, and measuring the rice-water ratio by using the first fold of your middle finger. You could call this generational – having some mystical, oceanic undertones of your ancestors whispering in your ears, of what spices to put and how much – for your food to taste like home.

But, to say that the culinary intuition is generational is an understatement. I realized this sentiment soon enough – when I took a whole day to get to know first-gen immigrant Aldrin Agas, and others I encountered in the greater- Boston area.

Aldrin is the chef/owner of Kuya’s Cooking – a byproduct of his culinary passion, and the hope to bring representation of Filipino food to Boston.

Both his parents (hailing from the northern Philippine province of Pangasinan) moved with dreams of opportunity in the land of the free. With his father being a cook for the U.S. Navy during the 1980s, the culinary life rubbed off into  Aldrin’s love for cooking. A few years later, the impact of food would lead Aldrin to shift his career path from pre-med to hospitality.

Kuya (ku·ya, /ˈko͞oyə/) the honorific used to call an older brother was the root word of the name Kuya’s Cooking. A welcoming, warm, and hearty name for food you can call home. Chef Aldrin does his best to embody his home, but not in textbook ways.

Whilst common Filipino empanadas require minced potatoes and hashed meat filled to the pastry’s brim, Aldrin incorporates soupy yet tender picadillos in his. Its rich juice does not cancel out the crust’s structure, but complements it – softening its interior and maintains its exterior texture. 

Your typical adobo would consist of loose broth mixed equal  amounts of soy sauce and white vinegar, with a mind’s amount of salt, sugar, and spices. The pork would be cut in a cubed fashion – for ease of eating. Aldrin emphasizes the importance of  surface area for his adobo – thin and ergonomically-dimensioned slices to marinate the meat. And instead of the soy sauce-vinegar soup of the home-cooked adobo, Aldrin thickens this concept into a sauce to enrich the tenderness of the sliced pork. Though lime-calamansi wings are not in the palette of traditional Filipino cuisine, its incorporation of a non-native Filipino flavor and the familiar acid kick proved that the zest of both can work together.How kind of Aldrin’s ancestors to whisper to him such an awesome, genius recipe for chicken wings.

Somehow, the ancestral whisperings do not always invite themselves in snug kitchens, sometimes there is an absence of it. Homesickness – with no other possible words to describe it. What remedy is there when your mother and the karinderya (food stall) lady are oceans and continents away? 

I used to think that this curse only befalls the zeroth generation immigrants such as myself – who decided to move to the U.S. for a period of time, chasing dreams too far from home. But, it befalls those who have never had a taste of home too.

I asked Aldrin if he knew how to speak Filipino. His parents never taught him how. He thought he didn’t feel the need to speak Filipino when he’s already in the States.The same narrative goes upon meeting and conversing with his friends from his time at Yale. Though with an obvious non-native accent, the very sound of “Kamusta ka?” (How are you?) had a tone fit for home.

“Our parents never taught us how to speak in Filipino…” a first-gen Filipino immigrant and a regular of Kuya’s Cooking, told me, “Now you have a whole generation of Filipino (immigrant) kids who are now adults, and want to learn how to speak the language!”

To study abroad and to have grown up speaking the mother tongue – knowing all the different Filipino terms I used here, and so much more – it never occurred to me to be as big of a privilege before I encountered Kuya’s Cooking. To have been so familiar with home, and what is away from it, is a big deal to those that have only been given the taste of one. Circumstances are a banquet of experiences, and there is grief at both ends of a table. But, the truth remains that there is a table: and there is food.

Food allows us to connect with one another no matter where we are situated in the world – may it be in the Philippines where Filipino food is an everyday blessing, or in the Northeast where Filipino food is a rarity. But, to say that the only reason why we have this food is because we pass recipes from one generation to another is an understatement. Culture, in food and language, is passed because we chose to pass it on – we choose to strive for home, represent it, and to share it. Much like Aldrin and all other first-generation immigrants holding their home, we all make decisions to uphold something that is both dear to ourselves and passed on to one another – may it be language, or a neo-traditional rendering of your mom’s adobo.

Cover photo courtesy of KuyasCooking


Hunt for the Best Nachos in Boston

Ava Nyman and I shared our first nachos at Cityside Tavern in Brighton. This was a modern platter: unique, refreshing flavors, punchy pickled onions, cotija cheese, and a cool sour cream sauce. They were served fresh on a metal tray, giving them a modern look that speaks to the restaurant’s claim of creating “comfort food with a modern twist.” 

“I love how the nachos can be an appetizer or a meal,” Ava said, “and the waiters and waitresses are very friendly which adds to the warm environment.”

For $16 you have a solid nacho platter to enjoy in a lively, high-energy setting. This was our first of many encounters with Cityside nachos. 

I’ve known Ava since freshman year. Throughout these two years together, we have eaten many nachos at many restaurants. This has come from planned dinner dates and spontaneous late-night adventures. The nachos I grew up eating at home were simple: tortilla chips with melted shredded cheese on top. Nachos were always one of my comfort foods and I appreciated that they could easily be thrown together at home. 

Nachos are a relatively new snack, meal, or whatever you want to call them. It was created in 1943 by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Stories claim that military wives came from the neighboring town, Eagle Pass, looking for a meal at his restaurant. Needing to whip something up quickly, he put shredded cheese on a tortilla chip with a jalapeño slice. There is a charm that comes from the spontaneity and simplicity of the nacho’s making; it has modest beginnings! Boston is home to many Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants, so it is not difficult to find nachos here.

Although most adaptations stray away from Anaya’s simple dish, nachos are a common appetizer at many restaurants. With a plethora of topping options, you will never find the same nacho at two different restaurants. Similarly, every restaurant has a unique vibe, which is an essential component of a dining experience.

In addition to Cityside Tavern, Ava and I found ourselves getting nachos at the Bebop, a restaurant and bar in Boston. This Irish pub sticks with relatively classic toppings, and a heavy layer of melted cheddar, beans, shredded chicken, plentiful salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. I suggest going here on a Thursday night when there is live music, usually performed by Berklee School musicians. In my encounters at Bebop, BC students gathered around the miniature stage and sang “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” There is a youthful energy and a warm environment that will have you dancing by the end of the night.

Sunset Cantina in Boston is similar to Bebop in its approach to nachos, with plentiful toppings of cheese, beans, and jalapeños. These nachos are heavier due to a thick layer of melted cheese, contrasting with the lightness of Cityside’s nachos. The environment is slightly dark, lacking the more upbeat energies of the Bebop and Cityside Tavern. I would recommend the other two restaurants over Sunset Cantina.

Our most recent try was 730 Tavern in Cambridge. Ava and I tried these nachos after a long night so they were much needed, and they pack the punch! With flavorful chicken and plentiful jalapeños, you will not find a dull chip in this bunch. The light crema adds a refreshing tang that tops everything off this $20 platter. Additionally, the servers are attentive and the restaurant and bar are always quite busy. The dark wooden interior parallels the comforting nacho platter. 

Overall, I would deem Cityside Tavern’s nachos to be the best due to their eccentric flavors. The restaurant’s energy is unmatched and its proximity to BC is a huge plus. Ava puts Cityside at the top, too, stating that the Bebop is a close second on her list. My hunt for the best nacho remains where it started: at Cityside Tavern. But there are endless spots to try in Boston, so my hunt will continue!

Cover Photo Courtesy of Cityside Bar

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The Appetite of Gentrification

We often hear the “Whole Foods effect” of gentrification. A new farmers market, a Starbucks, or a hip fusion restaurant are all indicators of gentrification in our cultural lexicon. Yet when we talk about gentrifying neighborhoods, the conversation is focused on property values and cost of living, both of which are incredibly important to the topic of housing accessibility. On the other hand, gentrification strips away culture and community of the original residents, often communities of color. Food isn’t just sustenance, but a medium for socialization, for creating and building identity and culture. When neighborhood demographics change, so does our palette.

So how central is food in the process of gentrification?

The Process of Gentrification

Firstly, what is gentrification? Speaking to Lizzy Barrett, a Boston College 2019 graduate and the director and producer of an upcoming documentary called “Divisible” about redlining in North Omaha, Nebraska, she sees gentrification as a two step process: firstly, the targeting of often formerly redlined areas of low-income and minority neighborhoods by property developers; and secondly, the rising property value and cost of living that displaces the original residents of that neighborhood.

“Because of [redlining], today these [neighborhoods] are normally looked at as low income or low resource areas. They tend to have higher vacant lots, higher abandoned buildings, [and] bigger food deserts,” Barrett said. “This sets the stage for cheaper land. Developments are starting to look where to expand after the more desirable neighborhoods have increased prices or there is nowhere near to build, so they start to look at these inner cities because it’s cheaper to build.”

When real estate developers start to propose large scale luxury apartment buildings, commercial mixed-use buildings, co-working spaces, and higher cost food and dining, the original residents are left out of the equation.

“The main problem is when you’re putting housing developments and businesses that are not aimed at providing housing, resources, or rental properties that businesses already in that community need for development or help to get started,” Barret said. “Instead you’re offering new developments to people outside that community coming in.”

From 2000 to 2013, 135,000 residents have been displaced from their homes in gentrifying areas, most of whom are Black and Hispanic populations.

“There are less restaurants in formerly redlined areas and in areas that haven’t been gentrified yet,” said Barrett, “because there isn’t this tax base that can support them to the same level when you are in a more densely populated, higher income area.”

If there is a lack of interested food businesses in low-income areas, what does access to food look like?

Food Deserts: A National Problem

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

Source: McKinsey & Company

“Redlined areas tend to be food deserts where there is limited access to nutritional foods that one can afford,” Barrett said. “It’s not just how far away it is to a grocery store or where to go eat at a restaurant, it’s also how nutritious is the food available at those locations, and is it within one’s buying power.”

Food deserts are areas in disproportionately high poverty areas where residents have a lack of access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly fruit and vegetables. According to the USDA’s most recent food access research report in 2017, 12.8 percent of the US population were living in low-income and low-access areas. Within this group, 19 million people, or 6.2% of the country’s population, are in food deserts with limited access to supermarkets and grocery stores. Food deserts correlate with higher health risks such as coronary heart disease. But it also can be traced back to the historical neglect and racism of housing policy. 

Barrett’s documentary, “Divisible,” focuses on the long term impacts of redlining specifically in North Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha remains to be one of the country’s worst examples of wealth and income inequality among racial groups, and is still highly segregated by racial lines. In the city alone, the average income for the bottom 99 percent is $64,051, whereas the top 1 percent has an average income of $997,691. North Omaha has historically been and still is predominantly Black, whereas West Omaha remains predominantly white. Downtown Omaha, on the other hand, sits between these divisions. 

“As you go North from the downtown area, you start to see less and less restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops; and there’s entire neighborhoods where you can’t walk to a grocery store. You can’t walk to a coffee shop or to a restaurant,” Barrett explained from spending months in North Omaha to shoot for her documentary. “The only restaurants within the area are drive-through fast food restaurants that don’t have the same nutritional value as other establishments. This is what we call a food desert.”

“Just North of the downtown area – reclassified as the North downtown area – used to have more industrial areas and a lot more vacant lots and empty properties. Old industrial warehouses are being renovated into apartments, business spaces, and into restaurants and into coworking spaces that are generally geared towards higher income, young professionals, and transplants from outside the city,” said Barrett. 

This isn’t to say low-income neighborhoods are completely devoid of a thriving food culture; in fact, the opposite is true. Food remains to be a cultural and societal connector. Long-time residents, mainly people of color, have established convenience stores, ethnic restaurants, and gardens to feed themselves. Think immigrant hubs like Chinatown. These establishments met the needs of the people that were ignored by mainstream retailers. 

But food deserts remain a pressing issue forgotten in legislation to improve inequality in the US. Despite needed access to nutritional food options, as more restaurant and grocery store businesses enter a gentrifying neighborhood, these establishments that are desperately needed in the area become inaccessible to original residents. 

In this sense, food becomes both the solution and the gentrifier.

Solutions for a Different Future 

At the core, gentrification reduces neighborhoods to a selling point. In doing so, erasing the history of neglect, divestment, and violent discrimination. The appetite of gentrification is profit (and hip $9 coffee). 

The solution is then to radically rethink urban planning and development. To truly uplift low-income communities and close the racial and income gaps in this country, legislators and city officials need to create and facilitate accessible opportunities prioritizing the residents themselves beyond a need for profit. 

“So it could look like subsidies to grocery stores that decide to be located in a lower tax bracket or an area of a city that is less densely populated,” Barrett suggested, “It’s also really important to support small businesses.”

Other possible solutions could be funding a city-wide health promotion program, establishing rent control to help mitigate rising cost of living, and supporting the growth of small businesses. Solutions should always have the intention to keep the current residents from getting displaced. 

“Lastly, one alternative that has been really popular in Omaha is creating community gardens, and helping people become self-sufficient and to provide food for themselves and their families,” Barret said. “But it’s important we don’t put the onus on individuals who have been stuck in it for the longest period of time.”

In terms of our own personal lives, always be cognizant of what’s behind our own consumer decision and its domino effect in displacing low-income communities of color. Find and explore neighborhoods on the cusp of gentrification and support their long-time small businesses and restaurants, rather than the newer establishments geared toward white, young professional palettes. 

Food will always be a signifier of wealth. An excess, a lack of accessibility, a revamping of a cuisine, or a concentration of fast food – each have their connotations to the wealth landscape. In many ways, a growth in “foodie” culture in these newly developed areas “is like a foot in the door for gentrification.” As a food magazine, we have to be conscious of what we’re reporting about, the stories we’re telling and the stories we’re leaving out. Gentrification isn’t just the displacement of people, but an eroding force against minority cultures, and that includes their culinary histories. 

Follow “Divisible” on Social Media, @divisiblefilm

“Divisible” is a documentary film focusing on the history and current impacts of redlining in the United States. This film highlights the specific case of Omaha, Nebraska to illustrate the overarching issue of redlining and show how this practice continually affects and harms people in cities across the nation. The interwoven narrative of “Divisible” is told through a collection of interviews with individuals who are experts, either through their profession, their lived experiences, or both.

Lizzy Barrett, the director and producer of this documentary, graduated from Boston College in 2019. She began working on “Divisible” in 2020. The film is in its production phase and is slated to come out July, 2023. Help spread the word out about “Divisible” by following and sharing their social media pages. Learn more about “Divisible” here.

Cover photo courtesy of Medium

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FoodTok: A Generation of Food Critics

I spent my nights scrolling through TikTok, in the weeks leading up to my semester abroad, determined to alter my algorithm to show me all the cool places to eat, drink, and dance in London. I’d search things like “food in London”, “drinks in London”, “best restaurant London” and I’d be met with hundreds of videos, all showcasing various food hotspots around the city I was going to call home for the next few months. There I was, in my bed in DC carefully curating a list of all the spots I wanted to try without even touching down in the country yet.

TikTok has become the go-to for food reviews, drink recommendations, recipes, and all things food related. It’s a platform that has become a one stop shop for foodies to share their experiences. My parents rely on things like Yelp or TripAdvisor, platforms made specifically for rating and reviewing businesses. I used to use these as well, spending time looking for the best reviewed restaurants in my area But, I found the majority of people leaving reviews were not in my age group, they were people like my parents. While I love them, we don’t always have the same taste in what’s fun or good. TikTok became my sole destination for restaurant recommendations and reviews. I can’t really remember the last time I used something like Yelp to help me with planning my nights. 

When talking with Olivia Strong, 20, she echoed similar  sentiments. 

“I definitely would say that I use Tiktok instead of Yelp or even just a google search. It’s way easier, and the video layout gives you a much better feel for a place as well as a review. ”

 With videos made by people I can relate to in terms of age and taste, you’re given an inside look into a restaurant before you make a reservation. TikTok is easily accessible as well; so while it may not be coming from expert or professional food critics, it’s people like me, going out and exploring a city, and appreciating good food. That’s really all anyone needs. TikTok provides a refreshing and youthful approach to food reviews. It’s entertaining as well, making it not only informational but enjoyable to search through. In my first month abroad, I’ve already found some of my favorite places through simply scrolling. 

Photo courtesy of secretglasglow

While for the most part accurate, there are definitely places that blow up on TikTok that aren’t worth the hype. Being wary of paid promotions or partnerships when looking at recommendations can be a good way to weed through some of the duds. My favorite videos are the ones interviewing locals on what their favorite spots are. It was how I found the delicious little Italian restaurant Briciole that I took my parents to when they came to visit me. TikTok showed me the fruity sweet treat from Humble Crumble that my friends and I tried for the first time the other day and now have dreams about. My favorite bakeries, Jolene, and Buns From Home, were both TikTok finds. It’s made my food experience in London easier, exciting, and more enjoyable than relying on platforms of the past. 

As my abroad adventure continues, I’m excited to keep up my TikTok deep dives for the best food in the city, and who knows, maybe start making some reviews myself.

Cover photo courtesy of LondonxLondon


The Annual Cookie Party

My mom laid out my cookie options in front of me. On the right plate, I had what she called a “cowboy cookie,” a brown sugar cookie made with cinnamon, chocolate chips, and oats. On the left plate, I had a chunky, chocolate chip cookie, sprinkled with peppermint bits and oreo chunks throughout it, and dough made with oreo cream filling. I tried each one, chewing slowly and thoroughly. The Cowboy Cookie was the favored competitor, but the oreo peppermint cookie surprised and delighted me with its rich, but never overwhelming, sweetness. So, the oreo peppermint it was; the cookie would be my mom’s entry for the 2021 annual Christmas cookie competition, a party my mom and her best friend, Susan, have been hosting in our small hometown in Florida ever since I was little. Their holiday party mantra is that Christmas cookies, and consequently holiday cheer, are not meant to be enjoyed alone; the cookie party gives longtime friends the opportunity to share festive goodies and familial traditions with one another during a season where people often need it most.

Each December, several days before Christmas, my mom and Susan would host around thirty of their friends at our house. Every person was expected to bring a platter of cookies, with each entry being tailored to one of the two categories: taste or appearance. During the party, guests would meander about the different platters to taste and judge each cookie. Then, once their heart felt pulled to both a certain flavor and design, they would cast their votes for the superior cookies. Each guest would also come prepared with many tupperware containers to bring their favorites back with them. Winners in the past have been gifted new cooking gadgets, such as Christmas tree-shaped charcuterie boards or fake snow-dusted appetizer platters, but the real prize for many came from knowing that it would be their cookie that party-goers would be racing to box up and take home to their families; their cookies would be the star providing some fleeting Christmas cheer.  

The 2021 competitors were fierce. People had been saving recipes on Pinterest since last December, and perfecting their recipes for weeks. The taste category was ruled by nostalgic, but also wild flavors. Standouts from this pool were apple cinnamon-oat cookies, sea salt caramel pretzel, and lemon drop snowfall cookies. The real stars of the show, however, were the decorative category contestants for this year. One guest, Annie, created Ted Lasso-themed shortbread cookies. She had packaged each of them into their iconic pink boxes from the show, and had soccer balls and trophies to surround her platter of pink boxes. She then dressed as Ted Lasso and blew her whistle when people would try her cookies. Another guest had decorated her cookies so that they looked like candied apples. A third guest created beautifully glazed snowflake-shaped cookies and had built an entire display for her cookies, so that it looked as if they were sitting in a winter wonderland. Despite the dedicated competition, it was Ted Lasso who took the cake. 

The cookie party is my favorite winter event. The same, close group of friends continuously come together, year after year, to share some holiday cheer over delicious, festive cookies. My mom and Susan work hard to ensure they can provide a positive space for this sharing, as they know how many other people also cherish this event. They already have plans to pass the tradition of hosting onto myself and Susan’s daughter so that we can continue to spread and cultivate this type of Christmas spirit in years to come. I look forward to when my time comes to play a part in helping create such a cheerful environment for some of the people I love most, all through some Christmas cookies.

Cover Photo Courtesy of NY Times


Do Yourself a Favor, Call Your Mother

I love coming back to my hometown for Thanksgiving. I love seeing my family, seeing my friends from high school (plus all the people I thought I’d never have to see again, not quite as fun), but most importantly, I love going back to my favorite places to eat. There’s something beautiful about the nostalgia of returning to an old place I used to frequent before I went to college, the memories of high school-me jump out as soon as I walk through the door of the fast food chain I’d stop by after school, or the coffee shop I’d go to on the weekends with my friends. Coming back as I continue to grow up is like walking into a restaurant as a giant in a dollhouse, everything feels smaller, but it feels like home. 

So when I came back this holiday season, my first stop was to my favorite bagel place in all of Washington D.C. Located in an iconic bright pink building on the corner of 35th and O in the quintessential DC neighborhood Georgetown, “Call Your Mother” is a Jewish deli originating in the city with various locations around the District and into Maryland. 

Starting out as a farmer’s market specialty, owners Daniela Moreira and Andrew Dana opened their first Call Your Mother deli in Park View, in 2018. They combine NY-style bagels with sweeter Montreal-style, creating the most mouth-watering combination of dough imaginable. With everything from breakfast sandwiches to traditional deli classics like tuna salad, everything is crafted either in house or sourced from local patterns like Logan’s Sausage, a company in Alexandria, Virginia. The deli is a community staple, a community favorite, and one of the best parts about returning to the area for the holiday season. They have a total of six stand-alone shops and one trolley in and around the area for every Washingtonian and tourist to enjoy. 

Like most stores in the Georgetown location, the building itself is one of the best parts of the shop. Upon arrival, aside from the line of people out the door waiting to order, you’ll see various people posing in front of the flamingo pink building. Windows adorned in flowers and mint green shutters come together to create one of the neighborhood’s most Instagrammable locations. But while the outside is adorable, what goes on inside is even better. I always go with my tried and true order: the meatless “Sun City”, an everything bagel with “‘bodega-style’ local eggs, american and cheddar cheese, and spicy honey” (Call Your Mother Menu). A pro tip: add avocado and the result will be the best breakfast sandwich in your entire life. As a big fan of breakfast sandwiches, this one will always take the cake as the best in the business. Made to order behind the counter, each sandwich is hot and fresh when it hits your hands. 

Call Your Mother deli is nostalgic, a reliable hometown classic that’s seen me from high school to my junior in college and beyond. It’s a place where I can go with my high school friends and catch up, it’s a place where my parents will always remember my go-to order, and it’s a place where I can go back in time for a minute. This holiday season, with all the hustle and bustle the winter months bring, Call Your Mother was an opportunity for me to slow down for a minute, a reminder that in the midst of all the craziness, the town I had left was still home. So as the year rolls to a close, I encourage you to take the time to call your mother, and if you find yourself in D.C., go and get a bagel while you’re at it. 

Cover Photo Courtesy of Maddie Sims


The Art of the Crab 

“What you want,” the aunty lingers behind me with hawkish eyes and a tight grip around her folded up paper pad with splatters of oil across the surface. 

“We need a little more time,” my Dad replies. The aunty taking our order huffs, shakes her head, and turns back to take another table’s order. With a repeated stern tone, she goes, “What you want.” 

This is part of everyday interaction in Singapore. To the point, no dilly dallying, and, above all, no “How are you?”. But you don’t need that hospitality. The energy of the steamy yet open air restaurant with shouts of Hokkien thrown this way and that will surely make you look past it. There isn’t any time for fake niceties. There is a mission to complete. 

Keng Ek Seafood is tucked into the corner of Alexandra Hawker Centre in Bukit Merah, Singapore. Off to the side of the check-in desk are rows of tanks full of an array of fish and, their speciality, crab. As a young girl I would tap the glass of the tanks, jolting the fish, some even splashing above the surface because there is quite literally no room to swim around. The crabs, however, were much calmer. Not even a pretend punch to the glass tank would elicit a single muscular movement from the crabs. Perhaps because they were bound up by zip ties. 

The crabs awaiting their impending deaths were the most peaceful component of this buzzing establishment. There is not a moment of silence in the spurts of Mandarin, Hokkien, maybe some Cantonese, bouncing between the aunties, the cooks, the customers, the children, the old grandpa who sits alone planting his barefoot leg on the chair with crab shells littered across his table. There’s a careful system to this organized chaos. Aunties serve around five tables each, running around plopping greasy hor fun noodles onto large round tables covered in plastic wraps, then wrapping the plastic covers up when the meal is over, encasing all the juices of bones and spilled gravy, revealing yet another layer of plastic for the next group to dine on only a few minutes later. 

It’s a wonder how we Singaporeans can eat piping hot food in an even piping hotter environment. But you simply can’t miss out on chili crab on this little urban island. Chili crab is a dish loved and cherished by everyone, a national treasure sitting beside the infamous Hainanese Chicken Rice. If anything, it’s a ritualistic practice. Keng Ek is a cult favorite in my family. We always order the classic chili crab and the salted egg crab.

Chili crab is an entire steamed mud crab doused in a chili and tomato-based gravy that seeps into every crevice of the shell. Eggs and a cornstarch mixture makes the gravy thick to a syrupy texture. The beauty of chili crab is that it’s served with the shell on. Most chili crab restaurants will hand you an apron and plastic gloves. But the bare handed labor of love that goes into eating chili crab could never be beaten. I remember my Mum picking every leg for tiny bits of crab meat with her fingers and placing them haphazardly onto my plate where I would douse them back into that gravy to soak up all that savory goodness. For a salted egg crab, my younger brother’s personal favorite as he would practically eat up almost the entire crab to himself, the decadent sauce comes from salted egg yolks, a golden sauce with a hint of curry leaf spice laced throughout. 

The origins of chili crab is a well known tale. In the mid 1950s, Cher Yam Tan wanted to reinvent her stir fried crab recipe by replacing her usual tomato sauce with a bottle of chili sauce. Like most national food treasures in Singapore, Cher Yam Tan’s dish began as a humble street cart dish. She and her husband would sell chili crab in pushcarts along the East Coast, eventually opening a restaurant in 1962 called Palm Beach. The dish became wildly popular, trickling to other restaurant menus across the country. One of which was Hooi Kok Wah’s restaurant, Dragon Phoenix, opened in 1963. Hooi Kok Wah was considered one of the “four heavenly kings” of Chinese chefs in Singapore. He created a more sour version of Tan’s chili crab by adding vinegar, lemon juice, sambal, tomato paste, and egg white. His creation became the more common version of Singapore chili crab.

The popularity of chili crab should not be underestimated. It’s recommended to reserve a crab ahead of time at Keng Ek Seafood as they often run out daily for the walk-in crowd. Truly, Keng Ek has one of the best crabs in the country. The sauce itself won’t burn your mouth, it’s a manageable spice with a slight sweetness and freshness provided by the crab. There’s a hint of vinegar but not overbearing where the dish is more sour than it is savory and sweet. The crab is incredibly tender with no lingering fishiness embedded in the meat. My mum no longer picks my crab meat for me. I’ve created my own routine. You have to know which part of the legs and claws to crack, where the hidden meats could be, and how to scratch every shell hollow. Even if there’s a centimeter long crabmeat left hanging on a stray leg, you slurp it up anyway. As you eat in focused silence, sweat beads on your forehead and down your neck as the Singapore heat starts to creep up that not even the meager fan above can save you. The best part is dipping golden mantou buns, these pillowy bread buns that can be fried or steamed and soaks up all the juices of the gravy. There should be nothing left on the plate but shells. 

Keng Ek Seafood will always hold a special place in my family’s hearts. Even during the pandemic, we remained loyal by ordering two whole crabs, picking it up at the hawker center, and driving back as fast as we could to retain the delicious warmth. Over the summer, my family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia for good. It was only fitting that our last local meal would be at Keng Ek after two years of closed in-person dining. As we strolled into Keng Ek, I recognized that stunning chaos, the smell of chili blazing my nose. The aunty in front of me snaps her fingers and says, “Have reservation or not?”

Cover Photo Courtesy of Recipes are Simple


The Art of the Tailgate

Last night, at the last real Boston College home football game (because that Thanksgiving game doesn’t count), with a hot dog in one hand and buffalo dip in the other, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at the fact that I would have to wait another year to do it all over again. Tailgating is nothing short of an art form. There’s the tents, the decor, the ambiance, the music, but most importantly, there’s the food. 

Something about the crisp fall air, the maroon and gold all around, the fireworks coming out of Alumni during kickoff, it’s a feeling you can’t replicate with anything else. And while football is all well and good, for me, the real event is off the field and in the parking lots. The food is what makes my game days. If you are unfamiliar with the joys of tailgating and the art of trying as many foods as possible before kickoff, consider this a guide to your perfect college tailgating experience. 

To start, the tailgate is going to differ depending on the time of day the game is. Morning and night games each come with their own different menus. During the day, when the game starts at noon and you’ve hit the lots by 9am, it can be hard to swallow a hot dog or a burger upon just waking up. But as you walk around, you’ll see parents with tables lined with mimosas, breakfast sandwiches, fruit bowls and baked goods of all kinds. Breakfast items as far as the eye can see. My personal favorites are an egg and cheese on a biscuit or a cheese danish. There’s more than enough to fill up your empty stomach before you stand out in the beating sun for the rest of the afternoon. 

Night games are a different beast entirely. With more dinner items than breakfast, you’ll find seltzers and beers in maroon coolers next to cars. Tables will be decorated with red bandana tablecloths and adorned with hot dog bars (featuring toppings like chili or mac and cheese), buffalo and french onion dip, loaded nachos and cookies and cupcakes piled high on top of one another. There are grills sending smoke wafting into the air, BC flags flying high in the sky, and everyone is ready to eat up and get to the game. 

The buffet style of a tailgate means that you can’t help but try every little thing on the tables. Filling plates and napkins with pregame snacks and treats is one of the greatest weekend traditions. In fact, last night I asked a few of my fellow tailgaters what was their favorite thing to fill up a plate with at a tailgate. One said calzones, an interesting but entirely valid choice. Another said a classic hot dog, an essential you can never go wrong with. One said pigs in a blanket, and another said a big slice of cornbread. It’s clear to see the variety that a tailgate spread can encompass, and how no matter what choice you make, there is no wrong answer. 

There’s a certain energy at a tailgate, one of excitement, positivity, and community. It’s the ability to move along from tent to tent, regardless of if you know someone or not, and have someone extend to you a red solo cup or a chocolate chip cookie. Parents all around, asking you if you’ve had enough to eat, ready to fill your plate with a burger or veggies and hummus. It’s one giant family dinner (or breakfast) and it represents one of the greatest parts of food, the ability it has to bring us together. So no matter what team you’re rooting for, you’ll always have a full plate. 


Reflections on Chinatown, A Year Later

Last year, I wrote a piece about Boston’s Chinatown. A year ago Chinatown was a ghost town, ransacked by the struggles pandemic living brought and beaten down by the bombardment of Asian hate that swarmed the media and the streets. I remember the crowds of old East Asian men huddled around chess tables under Chinese paper lanterns. I remember Cynthia Yee, a blogger and writer dedicated to depicting life on 116 Hudson Street in Boston’s Chinatown. She would greet everyone in Eldo Cake House like a familiar aunty walking into her nieces and nephews home, shouting brave Cantonese as she ordered egg tarts, char siew buns, and Hong Kong style milk tea. Eldo Cake House, a staple Chinatown bakery for 50 years, sits on 36 Harrison Avenue. The milk tea was wonderfully aromatic and cupped nostalgically with one clammy palm, and in the other a tender char siew bun with an aroma that would fill the small bakery of only three wooden tables. When Cynthia strides into the shop, a flurry of Cantonese choruses out of the ladies behind the counter, wearing their signature forest green aprons. I sat there, right in the heart of Eldo Cake House, with Cynthia Yee a year ago, laughing at the jokes about old misogynistic Asian men, shedding a tear about the deterioration of our culture, rallying over the fight to preserve Chinatown. 

But as I returned to Eldo Cake House just last week, I was met with boarded up windows and a meager laminated for-sale sign taped on its front door. 

Although it’s heartening to see Chinatown crowded once again, full of college students looking for their Asian food fix, or families wandering around to enjoy the nice fall weather, seeing the boarded up windows of Eldo Cake House was a gut punch, and a reminder that this neighborhood is changing. 

Eddie was the bakery owner of Eldo Cake House. He had a stern aura to him, the type molded by decades of heads down hard work. When I spoke with him last year, he recalled struggling with the rising cost of living, particularly in rent where he had to sell half the lease to another store in order to keep costs down. “Very hard, hard for everybody,” he said. 

Eldo Cake House had an unassuming exterior. Below the forest green banner are floor to ceiling windows, where you can look into the various pastries, buns, and fruit cakes. Eldo’s cakes were neatly slathered in crisp white cream, with an array of glistening berries arranged on top in floral and elegant patterns, hinting at the moist yellow sponge cake inside with layers of buttercream. But sweets aren’t all this bakery was known for. Those char siew buns were delicately crisp on the outside but pillowy soft in the middle, the pork marinated in this thickened sweet and savory sauce. We ordered two more. 

The story of disappearing beloved businesses like Eldo Cake House isn’t new, and it won’t stop here either. It goes back to a wave of urban renewal in cities across the country throughout the 1950s and 1970s. Cynthia herself is a victim of urban renewal. In 1962, the Massachusetts Turnpike and I-93 highways reaped a seam in the fabric of Chinatown’s homes and communities. Approximately 1,200 residential units were evicted and forced to scatter, most ended up in the Combat Zone. 

“I was evicted – because of the highway! I ended up in the Combat Zone because I was evicted from Hudson Street,” Cynthia said. “And that was a major trauma. My Indian friend who is a young writer said to me, “Dear Cynthia, how will you ever forgive a highway?” I said, “I don’t think I have.” That’s why I write, that’s my revenge.”

The Combat Zone was an area of Boston’s Chinatown characterized as a chaotic red-light district that flourished in the 1970s until it’s cleanup in the 1990s. “It was the end of my childhood,” Cynthia recalled. 

Cynthia lived in a tenant apartment never graced by sunlight. Neon lights of naked girls and live shows flowed through the trash-laden streets. Constant beats of strip club music reverberated through the walls, pierced by wailing sirens through the night. Every morning the granite steps to their house had to be scrubbed from the Combat pleasure seekers roaming the night before. Her story is only one of many iterations of displacement throughout the years. Chinatown isn’t the same village community Cynthia grew up in. 

Although the neighborhood’s population has increased by 43 percent between 2000 and 2010, the Asian population has decreased over 10 percent, and the white population has doubled. The consistent pushing out of Chinatown’s working-class residents is driven by a rapid rise in housing prices. In Boston specifically, Chinatown saw one of the fastest-growing sales prices in 2017, increasing by $285,000. With an average household of $26,280 for Chinatown working-class families, luxury apartments are simply not an option. Even affordable housing projects are unaffordable, as these projects are based on residents making 80 to 100 percent of Boston’s median income, which is much higher than the average in Chinatown. 

With such forces against Chinatown, gentrification not only changes the neighborhood’s demographic, it also disrupts Chinatown’s cultural history. 

I stood in front of the now boarded up Eldo Cake House. I wondered where Eddie went, whether he finally comfortably retired like he always dreamed of, or his business was driven to the ground like so many other local gems throughout the years. I walked a couple blocks down to buy a dozen egg tarts from Bao Bao Bakery, hoping this one won’t suffer the same fate. 

Cover photo courtesy of wgbh