Toad in the Hole

May 01, 2006

Arise, Ye Prisoners of Starvation!

Just in time for May Day, Immigrants' Rights Day, and a nice sunny weekend for a change, someone had the bright idea of throwing a civic International Food Fest in Berkeley, in the neighborhood where San Pablo Avenue and University Avenue intersect. There are in fact a lot of interesting "ethnic" food joints there, along with places like the Freight & Salvage where we hear music from all over, and lots of sari stores which are fun to look at just driving by, all those gorgeous colors in the windows and floating in the breeze outside the doors. Partial foodie list, because I'm sure I'll forget someone: Anatolian (Turkish, pretty much), Pakistani, Indian, Hawai'ian, Philadelphian, Mexican (plus other Latin American bits), Spanish (plus Latin American and Portugese bits), Jamaican, Chinese, "Middle Eastern" (Lebanese, Irani, Iraqi, Egyptian, Israeli, Palestinian, all in one store), Thai, and um Motorcyclo-American, which is basically pizza.

Now, you want to support immigrants, this is how to do it. Just IMO. Everyone go enjoy each others' food and music and dancing and and food and cute kids and puppydogs. And food. We do this ourselves on a regular basis. No condescension, no missionary stuff, no helping the poor Whoeveri families in their plight: food is as basic as you get, a pleasure to make and taste, and value for value is the best way to share power because everybody gets to be dignified and have fun too. (This assumes decent tips for the waiter and decent behavior towards retail workers, which seems rather more difficult a concept in some circles.)

Those Moroccan ladies were selling very nice cookies along with the fusion ("Mo'Rockin") band's CDs. Plus we got our requirement of kalua pig, which we'd missed last month because I had a date with the pruning students at the nursing home.

The Spanish Table was throwing a paella-for-forty demo

Paella, Spanish Table

and handing out free tapas. And I cruised the store taking foodporn pix, and pooh-poohing the English-only set (In a different context I suppose I'e be pu-pu-ing them. If I were feeling generous.):

Cheeses, The Spanish Table

because I accept cheeses as my personal savior.

And because our language and lives would be poorer without wonders like Bhooja King

Bjooja King Booth

which enterprise sells Indo-Fijian snacks, which seem to lie somewhere on the continuum between crackseed and chaat. I had a taro chip, which I think will be more enjoyable to repeat when I get the braces off.

Some people had booths there selling restaurant-type food but don't have restaurants, like the Puerto Rican family who posted this menu:

Puerto Rican menu

I got an organic business card* from them anyway, as they do catering. Who knows, there might be an occasion. *A scrap of lined paper with name and phone number. Hey, it conserves resources.

The first item there is rice with "pigeon peas," gandules, not really rice with wizards. Imagine my disappointment.

Up San Pablo, a Pakistani restaurant -- one of two in the block, if I recall correctly through the haze of that marvelously perfumed smoke, was making kebabs and other stuff on a sidewalk cooking rig:


I got more shots, but I hit my Flickr download limit last night, so they'll wait till I get back to the laptop for loading. And I guess I'll spend the modest sum to expand my account, since I for one am getting a kick out of this photo stuff.

Funny, how all of a sudden flying the flags of other nations is a big fat offense to some. We have a trio on the desk here; bought them from The Spanish Table over the years: a Basque one because we like the chow; one from St. Vincent for the sake of the parrot on it; and a pirate flag for theological reasons, in praise of His Noodliness.

And I do like all the colors available. Color makes my eyes happy.

Flags, Spanish table

Posted at May 1, 2006 04:23 PM


I thought it was so cool and it did feel good sharing food and fun. I bought some Pimento seeds at the Spanish Table. I scored big time because they sold out long ago but the woman found 1 package. I will share with you though. I wish we would have seen you there! It was my birthday celebration.

Posted by: Janis at May 1, 2006 09:26 PM

Well happy birthday!

If I can find space worthy of those peppers -- the little rumply green jobs they sell fresh sometimes, right? -- I'll gladly accept a coupla-two-t'ree seeds. Huh. I wonder if Chris might do better with them; it's hotter in Pinole and he has sun.

Posted by: Ron at May 1, 2006 10:05 PM

Wow, so jealous. Paella for 40...mmmmm... I have never seen anything like this in the greater Boston area, unless it was indoors, full of restaurant chefs only, and an event for which you had to pay a stiff admission fee, none of which has ever seemed fun enough for us to bother getting dressed and on the train.

I like your philosophy of festivals like this. Yes, everyone, come to this country and share your glorious food recipes with me, and I will welcome you with open stomach and show you some of mine, if you're interested. We can all be one big happy family, partying and dining in the streets together.

(sigh) If only.

Posted by: Sara at May 2, 2006 11:25 AM

Open stomachs all 'round, yes. Honest to the god of your chioce, I swear we'd all be better off if our favorite drugs ran more to capsicums than caffeine, and I speak as one to whom caffeine is like oxygen.

IME the interest does run all ways. We had an Iranian (Persian, to be precise) housemate some years back who had the habit of cooking when he was depressed or ill. That was wonderful. And he found he loved Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, which makes sense when you think about some of the flavorways, the sweet-and-sour and such, that both cuisines have.

I'm hardly a Pollyanna about human nature, but it's bullshit to maintain we don't all have great things to offer each other.

Posted by: Ron at May 2, 2006 05:42 PM

Food is the key to it all... The great thing about eating internationally at home as it were is that "international" food back where its home food tends not to be like what you eat at these fairs... Let me try and make that coherent though use of the example :)

Go to your local Vietnamese restaurant and you'll get a meal most Viet's in Vietnam *might* see once a year at Tet, or maybe at a wedding. Or at a gourmet restaurant, if they’re uber rich. Certainly not for dinner each night. Rather, food tends to be lacklustre soup, rice and a very small serving of a meat of some sort. Ditto Indian. Epically ditto Chinese.

And Thai food! (Actually… Thai food is one of the most globalised of all foods- Eg! tomatoes, ingredient number one, are from the Americas, but how many Thai dishes do without them? Makes you wonder what went into Thai cuisine before the ships arrived… anyhow. )

It's like immigrants take the food culture, filter out the crap, refine it a bit further, then serve you up the very best of the best. As it should be :)

Food… Just had a weekend in Bangkok, all I did was eat. And shop. And eat more. Man. Was it ever good.

Posted by: cc at May 4, 2006 10:29 AM