Thursday, June 6

Amy's Notebook: I Left My Heart In San Francisco

Amy Evans with Maria Carmen Del Flores of Estrellita's Snacks
Photo by Daniella Sawaya

 As the SFA's lead oral historian, Amy Evans gathers the stories of Southern food. Each week she takes us behind the scenes of her work.

Last month, I traveled to San Francisco for a new oral history project that is a collaboration with La Cocina, a non-profit organization whose mission is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs with a focus on women from communities of color and immigrant communities. After a spending a week with a handful of women who are part of the La Cocina program, it became abundantly clear that their stories are our stories. They are the stories of the Global South. And, of course, they are being told through food.

Here are just a few of the amazing women I interviewed.

Chiefo Chukwudebe of Chiefo's Kitchen
Photo by Amy Evans
I visited with Chiefo Chukwudebe, daughter of a Nigeria-born father and a Texas-born mother, who operates Chiefo's Kitchen. One of the dishes she makes is akara, black-eyed pea fritters served with warm sweet corn custard.

Alicia Villanueva of Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas
Photo by Amy Evans
Alicia Villanueva shared her pride for her Mexican heritage and her passion for connecting to people through food. She operates Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas, which launched in 2010. Her slogan is "My tamales are stuffed with love, and the best people are stuffed with my tamales."

And Maria Carmen Del Flores, who is featured in the photograph at the top of this post, has overcome a staggering number of odds to become not only a successful entrepreneur, but a beloved fixture on the San Francisco food scene. (This was also a fieldwork first for me, as Maria doesn't speak a word of English. Even so, her interview was a highlight of my trip. Many thanks to Daniella Sawaya for serving as interpreter!)

There are more incredible stories to share. I'll spend the summer processing all of these interviews to present in the fall as part of our symposium programming that celebrates women at work (I think I'll also try to brush up on my Spanish). In the meantime, take a minute to watch the video below of Maria Carmen Del Flores patting out some seriously fine pupusas at her booth that's part of the Heart of the City Farmers' Market in downtown San Francisco.