“Food bloggers are among the city’s most adventurous explorers, venturing to far-flung neighborhoods and filing dispatches that chart the evolution of cuisine on the city’s fringes.” — Kirk Semple, New York Times, June 8, 2013
Perusing a recent New York Times article on New York City’s new immigrant enclaves – which is overall a good read – I was surprised to encounter the quote above. The author’s intent is complementary, but something about it felt unrecognizable to me, a person who spends a good deal of their free time reading about food in Queens.
Thankfully, the narrative of the “explorer” and “discoverer” has been all but extirpated from the lexicon of Queens food writers – if it was ever there to begin with. The discovery narrative, with all its awful associations with colonialism, at best promotes the silly notion that anything that is already existing, flourishing, and thriving, can be “discovered.”
The diversity of Queens and, by extension, the diversity of Queens cuisine, is both an historical fact and an ever-evolving present day reality. Its roots stretch across all the oceans, continents, cities, towns and villages of the world. And Queens writers know this is not something to be charted, but rather something to be understood. Because the map already exists, along with the rich community, familial and individual histories that flesh it out.
Moreover, most of the Queens food bloggers and writers whom I admire live in, or within a short distance of, the neighborhoods about which they write. In place of venturing and filing dispatches, they are more often expressing deep appreciation of their surroundings, and composing love notes to the places they call home.
What I have learned from reading my favorite Queens writers is this. There is no far-flung, and there is no fringe, but rather one hundred thousand centers of things. Life revolves like so many planets around so many suns, in a tightly packed universe too beautiful for our words.