A Brief Ode to Queens Food (and the people writing about it)

Where I live, Astoria NY

Where I live, Astoria NY

“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.

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4 thoughts on “A Brief Ode to Queens Food (and the people writing about it)

  1. You have said this so beautifully. I couldn’t agree more… though I, too, have fallen guilty of the mentality. Especially in news media, where you want to be the first to get a ‘scoop’ it can be so easy to equate ‘unreported’ with ‘uncharted’. My change in perspective has come with my increased knowledge and experience, and you are so correct. There are so many complex, rich, communities with that have thrived in Queens for decades, their roots going back sometimes centuries across the globe. My goal and job is not to ‘discover’ them–how arrogant to have that mentality. Instead, my *thirst* is to continually expand my own universe so that I can have the pleasure and honor of it overlapping a broader array of communities, cultures, and life experiences. When I make a ‘discovery’ it means that on a personal level, I have learned something new… Discovery in terms of my map becoming more complete for having learned a detail I didn’t know existed. Sort of like someone granted me a zoom function, so what looked like Queens on the map, suddenly became a neighborhood, then a specific street address, and ultimately a new personal experience for me. We are not the explorers or founders, but perhaps the cartographers–is that fair to say? Yes, the terrain is already there. But by sharing our stories and experiences, we reveal a map–a documented account of our experience in that world–so that others may experience our journey vicariously, or better yet, be inspired to take their own personal journey.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Bradley, it’s such a thoughtful analysis. You are one of my favorite writers, one of the talented individuals who is changing the language we use to talk about food in New York City. I am so personally grateful for your contributions and your words! xo

  2. Pingback: Another Year of Excellent Eating in Astoria and Queens at Large | tastoriaqueens

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