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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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05.01.06

Without Immigration, There is no Emeril

Bites: News and Miscellany


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immigrant chef

A chef marches in Chicago’s immigration rally

A brigade of Hispanic men in chef whites and paper toques walk arm in arm in downtown Chicago. Waving American, Mexican, Colombian, Polish, and Brazilian flags, surrounded by fellow marchers out to support immigrant rights, the chefs are backdropped by cardboard signs, saying “We Work Hard for this Country” and “We are not criminals, we are workers.”

For an hour, I watched roiling banners and pulsing waves of humanity march by the corner of Jackson and VanBuren Streets. The Chicago Tribune reported that there were at least 400,000 marchers. I don’t doubt it. From my vantage point, the immigrant rights march made the 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series parade look like a weekend gathering of girl scouts.

immigration rally

I admit, I was on my way to the library, and hadn’t really considered participating in the rally, yet I was sidetracked by the grand spectacle of peaceful American activism. Seeing those chefs marching reminded me of how much of a debt the food world owes to immigration. The produce upon our tables, the coffee in our pots, and yes, even the Big Macs on our plates are often cultivated, picked, cooked, and served by immigrants.

The picture below shows three guys watching the Chicago immigration rights rally from the window of a Chipotle Mexican grill. Some might suggest we owe “burritos as big as our head” and chimichangas to the hippies who traveled through Mexico in the sixties, but equal consideration should be awarded to the cultural influence of waves of hispanic immigrants.

chipotle

In fact, there is no bratwurst, no pad thai, no eggroll, and no pizza, true staples of Americana, without the infrastructure of immigrant-founded, multi-generation-operated restaurants in every town in this country. Emeril’s career began in a Portuguese bakery in Fall River, Massachusetts. Without immigration, there is no Emeril, and frankly, there is no me. My mother came to America from Poland in 1959 via steamer ship.

Hungry is a food site, not a political site, but in the end, we know and believe that the personal is political. We recognize that the immigration debate is complex. We don’t want to spew diatribes and cheap rhetoric, but if nothing else, we want to remind you of the importance of immigrants and the debt we owe. Unless you are Native American, your personal citizenship is a product of immigration, there’s no way around it.

On a food level, be conscious of the factory farms and food conglomerates that exact a taxing burden upon the backs of migrant field hands without just reward. Make sure your coffee is roasted from free trade beans. Even if you don’t believe in free immigration, by supporting free trade, you support the opportunity for a living wage for farm workers in their indigenous countries, which is often the very reason people come to America. Our rich food culture, and more importantly, our society will not prosper if we don’t focus on a solution to embracing and integrating immigrants effectively in our society. The first step can start with your palate. Think before you eat, and be a good consumer, and you’ll already have made a contribution.

Check out more pictures of the Chicago immigration rights march in this slideshow.

3 Comments on "Without Immigration, There is no Emeril"

Anonymous

Good post, but I should point out that Native Americans are immigrants too. Sure, it might have been 15,000 years ago, but immigrants nonetheless.



Janey

“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

This comes from the same man who in the above picture said that “Remember, remember always…that all of us are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”



Annonymous

What troubles me about this latest type of immigration is the lack of effort by immigrants to adapt to the United States culture. As a Portuguese American immigrant I preserve many of my cultural experiences around food, music, dance and even language when speaking with my parents. I don’t however expect the businesses and government organizations to also provide those same cultural experiences. When I go to a US business expect signs and forms to be in english. When I call a US government agency I expect the automated phone message to be in english. This is where the latest wave of immigration and the expectations of immigrants has stepped over the boundry of being a true american immigrant. All of us have to waste an extra 5 seconds pressing 1 for english becuase they say press 2 for spanish. All of us have to pay for the forms the US government has to create for the other languages because of immigrants who refuse to adapt. It is when people refuse to adpat in public forums and force their individual cultural that there begins to be radicalism. Look at the violence that has plagued France in the muslim community. This hasn’t happend in the United states because it has been a melting pot. The challenge now is that some of the new ingrediants are solid and not melting.



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