The Kitchen Sisters Present… Stories from the b-side of history. Lost recordings, hidden worlds, people possessed by a sound, a vision, a mission. The episodes tell deeply layered stories, lush with interviews, field recordings and music. From powerhouse producers The Kitchen Sisters (Hidden Kitchens, The Hidden World of Girls, The Sonic Memorial Project, Lost & Found Sound, Fugitive Waves and coming soon… The Keepers). “The Kitchen Sisters have done some of best radio stories ever broadcast” —Ira Glass. The Kitchen Sisters Present is produced in collaboration with Nathan Dalton and Brandi Howell and mixed by Jim McKee. A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.
Here's the Latest Episode from The Kitchen Sisters Present:
Nancy Pearl—she’s been called “one of the 10 coolest librarians alive.” She’s the bestselling author of “Book
Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason,” and a regular commentator about books on NPR’s Morning Edition. She’s the creator of the much loved and imitated If All Seattle Read The Same Book project, encouraging everyone in the city to read the same book at the same time. And then, of course, there’s the Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure with amazing push-button shushing action.
A brilliant and entertaining storyteller, Nancy reveals how she became the “five-inch tall, plastic, non biodegradable librarian action figure with amazing push button shushing action.” She talks about her childhood library in Detroit—how it changed her life and provided refuge from her dysfunctional family. She gives tips on how to select books for people, and explains her Rule of 50 about when to give up on reading a book. She also talks about how “our leaders should be readers.”
Raised in Detroit, Michigan, Nancy earned her master’s in library science at the University of Michigan and became a children’s librarian at her hometown library. She moved to Oklahoma with her husband, professor Joe Pearl, and raised two daughters while earning a masters degree in history. In Tulsa she worked in an independent book store and the Tulsa City-County Library System. In 1993 she was recruited to join the Seattle Library where she later became executive director of the the library system’s Washington Center for the Book.
In addition to Book Lust, Nancy is the author of several other books including: Now Read This: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction 1978–1998 (and Now Read This II 1990-2001); Book Crush: For Kids and Teens; Book Lust To Go, Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers; and her novel, George and Lizzie.
Among her many awards, including the Library Journal’s 2011 Librarian of the Year Award, Nancy Pearl is the recipient of the coveted Kitchen Sisters’ Keeper of the Day Award (and trophy) presented at the American Library Association’s Conference in January 2019, at a special party sponsored by EveryLibrary, the national political action committee dedicated to the future of libraries, and Biblioteca, which connects libraries and their communities in new and effective ways.
Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure is part of The Kitchen Sisters’ series, The Keepers, about activist archivists, rogue librarians, historians, collectors, curators —keepers of the truth and the free flow of information. Heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, on The Kitchen Sisters Present podcast, and at kitchensisters.org.
The Kitchen Sisters Present is part of PRX’s Radiotopia, a collective of some of the best podcasts and audio storytellers on earth—radiotopia.fm
“From the very beginning the intent was that the American people needed to be able to access the
records so that we would be able to hold the government accountable for its actions.” David Ferriero
We talk with David Ferriero, the 10th Archivist of the United States, about the the beginnings of the National Archives under Franklin Roosevelt, stories of early “Keepers” like Stephen Pleasonton, a brave civil servant who saved the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as the British burned Washington during the War of 1812, and the Map Thief who utilized dental floss to steal treasures from presidential libraries and special collections.
Ferriero talks of some of his favorite artifacts in the National Archives — a letter from Fidel Castro to President Roosevelt requesting a $10 dollar bill, and a letter from Annie Oakley to William McKinley volunteering to rally 50 women sharp shooters to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
Selected as Archivist of the United States in 2010 by President Obama during the time of his Open Government Initiative, Ferriero has worked to make the system more transparent and accessible to the public. He talks about his early career and influences — from his first library experiences in a tiny branch housed in a flower shop in North Beverley Massachusetts, to serving as Director of the New York Public Library.
With a collection of about 13 billion pieces of paper, 43 million photographs and miles and miles of film and video and about 6 billion electronic records, Ferriero believes “we are responsible for documenting what is going on.” He says, “I think my favorite times are twice a year when we do naturalization ceremonies in the Rotunda and between 50 and 200 new citizens are sworn in in front of the Constitution. Just to see them experiencing the documents outlining the rights that are now theirs. Those are powerful moments.”
Dieter Koslick is is one of the film world’s most gregarious, hilarious and controversial Film Festival Directors. He’s put his stamp on the legendary Berlin Film Festival for 18 years and kicked up a lot of dust in the process. The Kitchen Sisters Present a portrait of Dieter, who celebrated his last Festival in 2019, and the Berlinale's dramatic history.
The Berlin International Film Festival, features some 400 films across 14 theaters across 10 days. The Festival unfolds across the first weeks of February and Berlin’s piercing cold is legend. For 18 years Dieter Kosslick, in his black Fedora and red wool scarf on the red carpet at theaters around the city, has been welcoming filmmakers and filmgoers from around the globe to film screenings film screenings that provoke, pay homage, compete, ignite.
It may come as no surprise but Bob Dylan is a Keeper. Bob and his team have been archiving his music, notebooks, paintings and journey for some five decades. Thousands of artifacts comprise this collection of American treasure. Bob kept just about everything — a massive private archive of a notoriously private person housed in storage facilities in New York, Minneapolis, Malibu and Jersey. So it made headlines when word got out that this secret archive had been sold and was headed to its new permanent, public home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A curveball nobody saw coming. Some archives are for scholars — devotees of a writer, scientist or historical figure. Some archives are tourist attractions. Few are part of a vision for the civic rejuvenation of a once thriving American city. Today, The Kitchen Sisters Present… The Bob Dylan Archive: A Curveball Comes To Tulsa, produced by The Kitchen Sisters — Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva, in collaboration with Olivia Ware and Samuel Shelton Robinson.
In celebration of National Barbecue Month, which is every month in our book, stories from C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield and his Blues Cookbook Cassette, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Nick Patoski, Robb Walsh, Tom T. Hall, Willie Nelson’s bass player Bee Spears and more.
On the gang-ridden streets of Chamelecon in Honduras, artists are protected and respected — exempt from the ongoing war that is driving families to leave their homes and seek asylum in the US. Producer Scott Carrier, under the protection of a hip hop artist, takes us to the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, a city known in 2014 as the Murder Capital of the World. This story is part of Home of the Brave, a podcast produced by Scott Carrier.
Today we honor pioneering filmmaker Agnés Varda, part of the French New Wave of the 1960s, who died on March 29, 2019 at home at age 90.
Varda broke ground in many mediums — features, documentaries, photography and art installations. Her work often focused on feminist issues and social commentary with a distinctive experimental style. One of her most recent films “Faces Places,” a collaboration with the activist French photographer JR, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Agnés herself received an honorary Oscar for her life’s work in
2017 and recently the Berlin Film Festival honored her with their highest award.
We interviewed Agnés for our story about Henri Langlois and the Cinémathèque Française, part of “The Keepers,” series — stories of activist archivists and rogue librarians.
Today, the Kitchen Sisters Present a short commemoration we produced for NPR and the full interview Davia did with her in her home in Paris in 2017.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the famed poet of North Beach, San Francisco, creator of City Lights Bookstore, publisher of the beat poets of the 1950s and 60s, champion of free speech and First Amendment rights. Lawrence is turning 100 this year, and we’re celebrating. From an Arbor Day tree planting ceremony in honor of Lawrence across the street from Via Ferlinghetti in North Beach featuring Alice Waters, SF Supervisor Aaron Peskin, and the Italian Consul General — to a sound rich journey with Lawrence to his cabin in Bixby Canyon, Big Sur produced by sound designer Jim McKee — poems, stories and deep history surround this legendary poet and activist celebrating a wild century of life.
As part of our series, The Keepers, The Kitchen Sisters Present an episode of the New York Public Library’s podcast The Librarian Is In featuring Eric Klinenberg, author of Palaces for the People about the power and promise of the public library and its critical role in the future of our society.
Eric Klinenberg believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. In his book, Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, Klinenberg calls this the “social infrastructure.” When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves.
Special thanks to The Librarian Is In, the New York Public Library's podcast about books, culture, and what to read next. Gwen Glazer and Frank Collerius interview guests, discuss the books they're reading, pop culture and the literary zeitgeist, and the world of libraries.
If you enjoyed this podcast, please write a review on iTunes. It's a great way to help new listeners discover the show. And please say hello on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For more information about The Kitchen Sisters — our podcast, our NPR stories, our events, our workshops, our T-shirt, and other news from The Kitchen Sisterhood — visit kitchensisters.org and sign up for our Newsletter.
Filmmaker Wim Wenders talks about his early influences — Cinémathèque Française, Henri Langlois, Lotte Eisner — and tells stories of Werner Herzog and the films that have impacted his work.
Ernst Wilhelm “Wim” Wenders, filmmaker, playwright, author, photographer, is a major figure in New German Cinema and global cinema. His films include Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, The American Friend, Alice in the Cities, Kings of the Road, Buena Vista Social Club, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, Pina, Until the End of the World, and many more.
We were gathering interviews for The Keepers story, Archive Fever: Henri Langlois and the Cinémathèque Française, about one of the earliest and most important film archives in the world, started in Paris in the 1930s, still thriving today. When we dug in to the filmmakers that had been shaped by this archive and its eccentric archivist, along with all of the French New Wave — Truffaut, Godard, etc. — surfaced the name of a filmmaker we have long admired, whose movies open the door of the lonely, the mystical, the musical, the landscape, with performances that tear your heart. Wim Wenders.
In our interview with Wim he told us about the impact Henri Langlois and the Cinémathèque had on his own filmmaking, but then the stories began to move in new directions — Lotte Eisner, Werner Herzog, and more. On the eve of the Academy Awards — an award Wim Wenders has been nominated for 3 times — we share his story. Produced by Vika Aronson and The Kitchen Sisters. Mixed by Jim McKee.
Special thanks to Tom Luddy, Robb Moss, Homi Bhabha, Haden Guest, Sophia Hoffinger, Brandi Howell and Nathan Dalton. And most of all, to Wim Wenders who has inspired us across the years.
If you enjoyed this podcast, please write a review on iTunes. It's a great way to help new listeners discover the show. And please say hello on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For more information about The Kitchen Sisters — our podcast, our NPR stories, our events, our workshops, our T-shirt, and other news from The Kitchen Sisterhood — visit kitchensisters.org and sign up for our Newsletter.
Best selling author Linda Spalding is a keeper. A keeper of her family history, a keeper of words, a keeper of truth. In this episode of The Kitchen Sisters Present, Spalding reads from her new book and talks about how discovering her family's dark history as slave holders inspired her novels A Reckoning and The Purchase.
“Writing historical fiction is a mug’s game,” says Spalding. “Are we recreating the past, or creating it? While writing, I am imagining things that never happened, trying to make it seem like they did, like they were part of the actual pageant of history, like they make as much sense as the history we all learned in school, some of which was also a fiction. While writing, I am leaning backward from my 21st century chair and hoping to smell things that no longer even exist, to create medicines and foods and conversations I have never heard or seen or tasted."
Other books by award winning author Linda Spalding include Who Named the Knife, The Paper Wife, Daughters of Captain Cook, A Dark Place in the Jungle, Mere and Brick a literary magazine she and a group of Canadian writers have been publishing for years.
Born in Topeka, Kansas she lived in Mexico and Hawaii before moving to Toronto in 1982. She has two daughters, Esta and Kristin Spalding, from her first marriage to photographer Philip Spalding. She is currently married to Canadian novelist Michael Ondaajte. A professor of English and writing, Spadling has taught at several universities including University of Hawaii, New York University, University of Toronto. She was writer in residence at Brown University and has taught creative writing at Humber College’s School for Writers.
Melvil Dewey, the father of library science and the inventor of the most popular library classification system in the world, was a known racist and serial sexual harasser. Forced out of the American Library Association, which he co-founded, his 19th century world view and biases are reflected in the classification system that libraries around the world have inherited.
Molly Schwartz of the Metropolitan New York Library Council and producer of the podcast Library Bytegeist visits Bard High School Early College in Queens to find out about how students there are rebelling against the Dewey Decimal System. She also talks with Greg Cotton (Cornell College), Barbara Fister (Gustavus Adolphus College), and Dorothy Berry (Umbra Search Project).
Folklorist and Professor Bill Ferris, a Grammy nominee this year for his "Voices of Mississippi" 3 CD Box set, has committed his life to documenting and expanding the study of the American South. His recordings, photos and films of preachers, quilt makers, blues musicians and more are now online as part of the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina.
Bill Ferris grew up on a farm in Warren County, Mississippi along the Black River. His family, the only white family on the farm, worked side by side with the African Americans in the fields. When he was five, a woman named Mary Gordon would take him every first Sunday to Rose Hill Church, the small African American church on the farm. When Bill was a teenager he got a reel-to-reel tape recorder and started recording the hymns and services.
“ I realized that the beautiful hymns were sung from memory—there were no hymnals in the church—and that when those families were no longer there, the hymns would simply disappear.”
These recordings led Bill to a lifetime of documenting the world around him—preachers, workers, storytellers, men in prison, quilt makers, the blues musicians living near his home (including the soon-to-be well known Mississippi Fred McDowell).
Bill became a prolific author, folklorist, filmmaker, professor, and served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is a professor of history at UNC–Chapel Hill and an adjunct professor in the Curriculum in
Folklore. He served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of
Mississippi, where he was a faculty member for 18 years. He is associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South.
Bill’s has written and edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films, most dealing with African-American music and other folklore representing the Mississippi Delta. His thousands of photographs, films, audio interviews, and recordings of musicians are now online in the William R. Ferris Collection, part of the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina.
This story was produced by Barrett Golding with The Kitchen Sisters for The Keepers series.
Paper airplanes, photographs of men in rows, birds nests, gay bar matchbooks, dolls hats —an untraditional take on what warrants our attention. As part of The Kitchen Sisters’ series THE KEEPERS, we wander through a curated collection of collections at the Los Angeles Central Library examining the role collections play in telling our stories.
As research for this project, Curator Todd Lerew visited over 600 museums, libraries, archives, and public and private collections, identifying those he felt told the most compelling and memorable stories.
We also hear from callers to THE KEEPERS HOT LINE —The Unofficial Archivist of Mt. Everest—Elizabeth Hawley; The Radio Haiti Archive; 19th & 20th century women scientists at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Glass Plate Collection; Christian Schwartz, 21st century naturalist and collector; Bobby Fulcher recorder and keeper of traditional rural Tennessee folk music and more.
We've got something extra for you today as part of the Radiotopia fundraiser that is happening now. You can join the Radiotopia community and support The Kitchen Sisters Present... and all of your favorite shows in this beautiful network at radiotopia.fm.
And while you're doing that, here's a little gift from us. A special Radiotopia "Hear the World Differently" bonus feature from our series, The Keepers: The Free-Range Archivist: Jason Scott.
After a devastating car accident that made his work as a janitor impossible, civil rights activist Eddie McCoy, picked up a scavenged tape recorder and began taping anyone and everyone in his town—from the oldest person on down—piecing together the little known history of the African American community in Oxford, North Carolina. Hidden stories of slavery times, sharecropping, the civil rights era and more.
Eddie McCoy’s recordings and interviewing style are like no others. With energy and passion, Eddie documented the lives of teachers, railroad workers, doctors sharecroppers in his community as far back as the end of the 19th century. A self-taught historian and avid researcher, he jokes cajoles, and sympathizes with his interviewees drawing out candid stories that provide a window into life in small, southern tobacco town of some 10,000 people.
McCoy’s more than 140 interviews have become part of the Southern Oral History Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
His story is part of The Kitchen Sisters series “The Keepers” — stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians. Keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections they keep. Guardians of history, large and small, protectors of the free flow of information and ideas.
Deep in the hidden archives of Harvard’s Houghton Library are the butter stained recipes of Emily Dickinson. Who knew? Emily Dickinson was better known by most as a baker than a poet in her lifetime. In this story a beautiful line up of “Keepers”— dedicated archivists, librarians, historians, Thornton Wilder, Patti Smith, and more—lead us through the complex labyrinth of Emily Dickinson’s hidden kitchen. A world of black cake, gingerbread, slant rhyme, secret loves, family scandals, and poems composed on the backs of coconut cake recipes and chocolate wrappers.
One of the most controversial, outspoken men of the last century, comedian Lenny Bruce spent much of his life in court defending his freedom of speech and First Amendment rights. His provocative social commentary and “verbal jazz” offended mainstream culture and resulted in countless arrests on obscenity and other charges. Over the decades, since his death from a heroin overdose in1966, Lenny’s only child Kitty Bruce, became his keeper, gathering and preserving everything related to her father’s life. We follow the saga of this collection from daughter Kitty's attic — to archivist, Sarah Shoemaker, who drove a van to Kitty’s house in Pennsylvania to gather this historic collection to take to Brandeis University. With the help of an endowment from Bruce's long time friend and supporter Hugh Hefner, creator of Playboy Magazine, and his daughter Christie Heffner, the collection is now cataloged and open for use by all. The archive comes alive in the story of this brilliant, pioneering, complicated man who paved the way for comedians like George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Lewis Black.
Keepers: people possessed with a passion for preservation, individuals afflicted with a bad case of Archive Fever. The Keepers continues with the story of one such man, Henri Langlois, founder and curator of one of the world’s great film archives, the Cinémathèque Française. Henri Langlois never made a single film — but he's considered one of the most important figures in the history of filmmaking. Possessed by what French philosopher Jacques Derrida called "archive fever," Langlois begin obsessively collecting films in the 1930s — and by the outset of World War II, he had one of the largest film collections in the world. The archive's impact on the history of French cinema is legendary — as is the legacy of its controversial keeper.
During the Depression, those horrible years after 1929, the Appalachians were hit hard. Coal mines were being shut down. Many people were living in dire poverty with no hope. In 1936, as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Kentucky WPA began to hire pack horse librarians, mostly women, to carry books to isolated cabins, rural school houses and homebound coalminers.
The routes were rugged and treacherous. The “bookwomen” followed creek beds and fence routes through summer heat and frozen winters — their saddlebags and pillowcases stuffed with Robinson Crusoe, Women’s Home Companion, Popular Mechanics. Many people were illiterate and the women often stayed and read to them.
The pay was $28 a month. Each woman was required to supply her own horse or mule, their food and boarding. When the program closed in 1943 as America entered World War II, nearly one thousand pack horse librarians had served 1.5 million people in 48 Kentucky counties.
This is the first episode in our new series THE KEEPERS—stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians—Keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections they keep.
We begin at The Hip Hop Archive and Research Center at Harvard. In the late 1990’s the students of Dr. Marcyliena Morgan, Professor of Linguistics at UCLA, started falling by her office, imploring her to listen to hip hop. They wanted her to hear this new underground sound and culture being created, the word play, the rhyming, the rapping. They wanted her to help them begin to archive this new medium. “Hip Hop *is *an archive," they told her. Dr. Morgan wasn’t an archivist and she didn’t listen to hip hop. But she listened to her students and saw a new kind of soundtrack emerging from the cracks.
Bit by bit she opened her office and her resources and began to collect the history and material culture of hip hop. Some 15 years later the Archive has gone from her office at UCLA to Harvard, where she and Professor Henry Louis Gates founded The Hiphop Archive & Research Institute at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute whose mission is to “facilitate and encourage the pursuit of knowledge, art, culture, scholarship and responsible leadership through Hiphop.” Along with gathering everything about hip hop for preservation and study, the Archive created the Nasir Jones Fellowship for scholarly research in the field, named for Nas, one of hip hop’s titans, and the “Classic Crates Project,” a collection that aims to archive 200 seminal hip hop albums in the same Harvard music library that houses the works of Mozart, Bertolt Brecht and Edith Piaf. The first four—Nas’ “Illmatic,” “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and “The Low End Theory” by a Tribe Called Quest have been inducted into the University’s Loeb Music Library.
You’ll hear from Professor Marcyliena Morgan, Nas, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Nas Fellow Patrick Douthit aka 9th Wonder, The Hip Hop Fellows working at the Archive, an array of Harvard Archivists, and students studying at the Archive and the records, music and voices being preserved there.
And we take a look at the Cornell University Hip Hop Collection, founded in 2007, through a sampling of stories from Assistant Curator Jeff Ortiz, Johan Kugelberg author of “Born in the Bronx,” and hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Caz, Pebblee Poo, Roxanne Shante and more.
In 2000 we received a call to the NPR Lost & Found Sound Hotline from Willard Mayes, a member of the Antique Fan Collectors Association, who was concerned about the vanishing sound of electric fans. Willard leads Jay Allison, Curator and “Keeper” of the Quest for Sound Hotline, to the Vornado Fan factory, Michael Coup and the Antique Fan Museum, where passionate collectors can tell the make, model and year of a fan by its whir.
Also, NPR producer Art Silverman plunges into the sound collection of one of America’s giant corporations — AT&T — exploring how this one-time monopoly chronicled its own history and sold itself to America.
Fish mongers recorded on the streets of Harlem in the 1930s. An 8-year-old girl’s impromptu news cast made on a toy recorder in a San Diego store. Lyndon Johnson talking to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover a week after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Sounds lost and found.
As The Kitchen Sisters prepare to launch their new series The Keepers, about activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors, historians and the collections they keep—they re-visit their own “accidental archive” of recordings amassed over the years.
And Voices from the Dust Bowl, produced by Peabody Award winning producer Barrett Golding for the Lost & Found Sound series.
In the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of people from Oklahoma and Arkansas traveled to California, fleeing the dust storms and poverty of the Depression.
In the summer of 1940, Charles Todd was hired by the Library of Congress to visit the federal camps where many of these migrants lived, to create an audio oral history of their stories. Todd carried a 50-pound Presto recorder from camp to camp that summer, interviewing the migrant workers. He made hundreds of hours
of recordings on acetate and cardboard discs. Todd was there at the same time that John Steinbeck was interviewing many of the same people in these camps, for research on a new novel called "The Grapes of Wrath." Producer Barrett Golding went though this massive, rare collection of Todd's recordings to create this story of the Dust Bowl refugees narrated by Charles Todd.
The story of the birth of the Grand Ole Opry on radio station WSM in Nashville, TN and the story of “Harmonica Wizard” DeFord Bailey, the Opry’s first African American performer.
WSM’s most popular show, the Grand Ole Opry, the longest running radio show in the US, started in 1925 as the WSM Barn Dance featuring a wealth of talent from the hills of Tennessee and all around the rural south—Uncle Dave Macon “The Dixie Dewdrop,” Roy Acuff and His Smokey Mountain Boys, Minnie Pearl and hundreds of others performed on the wildly popular Saturday night show.
Starting in 1928, the legendary “Harmonica Wizard” DeFord Bailey was on the show more often than any other person. In fact, one of DeFord’s most popular pieces, Pan American Blues, inspired the announcer to dub the show The Grand Ole Opry. DeFord suffered from polio as a child and started playing the harmonica when he was 3 years old. Four-and-a-half feet tall, always impeccably dressed in a suit, he had the uncanny ability of imitating and incorporating sounds into his harmonica playing—trains, animals, fox hunts. Because it was radio, the audience was unaware DeFord was the only African American among the all-white cast. But when he toured with the other Opry stars he could not stay in the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants. He had to sleep in the car. Sometimes Uncle Dave Macon would haul the back seat out of his car and tell the hotel DeFord was his valet so he could sleep inside his room.
The Pan American passenger train is a through line in this story. When we were working on Lost & Found Sound, a series about the history of recorded sound, we got a letter from a listener who said that “no collection of sounds from the 20th century” would be complete without the sound of the Pan American passenger train.
Every night at 5:08 pm from August 1933 until June 1945, listeners to the 50,000 watt WSM radio station would hear the live sound of the Pan American, Louisville and Nashville’s passenger train, as it passed the station’s transmitter tower. They actually had a guy out there holding a mic recording the train every night at 5:08—avid listeners all across the south and Midwest would set their clocks by it.
So we followed up on the sound. We went to Nashville to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Foundation, where there are some real Keepers and Collectors of Sounds and stories. And as usual, stories beget stories… the sound of the Pan American train whistle and Radio station WSM led us to the story of the birth of the Grand Ole Opry, the oldest continuing running radio program… which led us to the remarkable story of the Grand Ole Opry’s first (and for many years only) African American performer, Harmonica Wizard Deford Bailey.
The dramatic stories of three pioneering “Keepers” and environmental activists—Ken Sleight, Katie Lee, and Mark Dubois and the damming of wild rivers in the west.
Ken Sleight is a long time river and pack guide and activist in southern Utah who fought the damming of Glen Canyon and filling of Lake Powell from 1956-1966. An inspiration for Edward Abbey’s, Monkey Wrench Gang, Sleight is currently working on the campaign to remove Glen Canyon Dam.
Katie Lee, born in 1917, a former Hollywood starlet, ran the Colorado River through Glen Canyon long before it was dammed, and in 1955 was the 175th person to run the Grand Canyon. An outspoken conservationist, singer and writer, she spent her life fighting for rivers.
Mark Dubois, co-founder of Friends of the River, Earth Day and International Rivers Network, began as a river guide who opened up rafting trips to disabled people in the 1970s. Dubois protested the damming and flooding of the Stanislaus River by hiding himself in the river canyon and chaining himself to a rock as the water rose in 1979.
Russians preparing dinner for Americans in space? Sounds good to us.
There’s been a lot of jabber these days about creating a “Space Force,” a sixth branch of the US military to dominate outer space. Over the years we’ve talked with astronauts about what it’s like up there - about the food they eat and the teams they work with daily while orbiting the earth. It turns out they have other ideas about what can happen in space, like educating our youth and “gastrodipolmacy”— the use of food as a diplomatic tool to help resolve conflicts and foster connections between nations.
NASA astronaut Bill McArthur talks about the power of sharing meals with Russian Cosmonaut Valery Korzu during their six months together on the Space Station.
South Korea’s first astronaut, Astronaut Soyeon Yi, describes Kimchi Diplomacy in space, the Korean government’s efforts to invent kimchi for space travel, and the special Korean meal she prepared for her Russian comrades in orbit. Soyeon Yi, one of 36,000 applicants, became South Korea’s first astronaut in 2008. She talks about how she was selected and about the power of food: “Having kimchi in space, you are far from your home planet,” she says. “When you eat your own traditional food it makes you feel emotionally supported. I can feel my home.”
The Agave Goddess with 200 breasts; jimadors stripping lethal thorny leaves off agaves; farmers battling cambio climatico (climate change); distillers contemplating mono-culture production and the environmental impact of tequila; generations-old tequila makers versus globalization. Stories of tequila from the Tequila Region in Mexico and beyond.
Tequila does not only mean alcohol—it means Mexico’s culture, history and future. The biggest tequila companies are not Mexican anymore. They are internationally owned. The Tequila Chamber of Commerce is helping producers promote the drink. They are expected to sell millions and millions of liters to China in the future.
Guillermo Erikson Sauza, the fifth generation to make tequila in his family talks about how his grandfather unexpectedly sold the company in 1978 and how he has worked to build up a small a distillery making his Fortaleza brand in the traditional way. And Carmen Villareal, a tequilera, one of the few women in Mexico to run a Tequila company—Tequila San Matais, now 127 years old.
And Mariano Martinez, from a fourth generation family restaurant business in Dallas,Texas. How he developed the first frozen margarita machine in 1971, based on the 7-Eleven Slurpee machine, using a soft serve ice cream maker "suped up like a car." The machine is now at the Smithsonian.
In 1983 Prince hired LA sound technician, Susan Rogers, one of the few women in the industry, to move to Minneapolis and help upgrade his home recording studio as he began work on the album and the movie Purple Rain. Susan, a trained technician with no sound engineering experience became the engineer of Purple Rain, Parade, Sign o’ the Times, and all that Prince recorded for the next four years. For those four years, and almost every year after, Prince recorded at least a song a day and they worked together for 24 hours, 36 hours, 96 hours at a stretch, layering and perfecting his music and his hot funky sound. We interviewed Susan, who is now a Professor at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, for our upcoming NPR series, The Keepers — about activist archivists, rogue librarians, collectors, curators and historians. It was Susan who started Prince’s massive archive during her time with the legendary artist.
In the early 1970’s, radio producer and author Studs Terkel wrote a book called Working. He went around the country with a reel-to-reel tape recorder interviewing people about their jobs. The book became a bestseller and even inspired a Broadway musical. Working struck a nerve, because it elevated the stories of ordinary people and their daily lives. Studs celebrated the un-celebrated.
Radio Diaries and their partner Project& were given exclusive access to these recordings, which were boxed up and stored away after the book was published. Stories of a private investigator, a union worker, a telephone operator, a a hotel piano player, and more.
As The Kitchen Sisters warm up for our new series “The Keepers,” stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, historians, collectors, curators —keepers of the culture—we share these stories gathered by the ultimate Keeper —Studs Terkel.
Mimi Chakarova is a Bulgarian-American filmmaker, photographer, journalism professor, activist, immigrant and single mother. Her documentary “Men a Love Story” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in 2017 where Davia Nelson of The Kitchen Sisters interviewed her on stage.
How can you not be mesmerized by a woman who makes a film called “The Price of Sex,” about women throughout Eastern Europe who are pushed into prostitution and who goes underground into that world herself to document the story. “I didn't intend to spend more than a year covering human trafficking,” says Mimi. It ended up taking a decade. “I didn't intend on reporting in more than two countries,” she says. “So, how did I end up in nine?”
Mimi said, “Before my trips my mom used to ask, ‘It took us so many years to get out of poverty, why do you keep returning there?’ I would sit in her kitchen and the only answer that would come to mind was, it was so damn familiar.”
Now Mimi has a new series of documentaries, “Still I Rise,” premiering online Friday, April 27th at stillirisefilms.org. “Still I Rise” is a short film series whose title pays homage to Maya Angelou's famous poem. It features individuals who've journeyed from the depths of hardship and struggle and have come out the other side. As an immigrant herself Mimi creates a platform where other immigrants can tell their own stories and show how even in the face of adversity they fight to rise.
Jorge Amado, the beloved Brazilian author of Gabriella, Clove and Cinnamon, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Tent of Miracles – wrote over 30 books in his lifetime. His works have been translated into 49 languages and adapted for film, television, and theater.
In 1984, The Kitchen Sisters interviewed Jorge Amado, his wife Zelia Gattai, Brazilian composer and
singer Dorival Caymmi, and singer and activist Harry Belafonte as part of the NPR series “Faces Mirrors Masks – 20th Century Latin American Fiction.” The Ballad of Bahia explores the life and writings of the author through interviews, music and readings and dramatizations of his work.
In honor of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 99th birthday we celebrate with River’s of Memory, produced by Jim McKee of Earwax Productions. Over the last 20 years, Jim McKee has been chronicling Lawrence and Lawrence’s good friend radio dramatist Erik Bauersfeld (voice of Star Wars' Admiral Ackbar). Set to a rich soundscape that travels throughout San Francisco, the piece features poetry, interviews, and overheard conversations about Ferlinghetti’s life, work, the San Francisco beat culture, Ferlinghetti’s fight for First Amendment rights and more.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, opened City Lights bookstore in 1953, one of the first paperback bookstores. He also began publishing the Pocket Poet Series featuring poems by Beat Poets of the 1950s and 60s. In 1956 he published “Howl and Other Poems,” by Allen Ginsberg and was brought to trial on obscenity charges. The landmark first amendment case paved the way for the publication of other “banned books.”
Two-time Academy Award winning actress Frances McDormand hosts Hidden Kitchens—secret, underground, below the radar cooking—how communities come together through food. Stories of NASCAR Kitchens, Hunting and Gathering with Angelo Garro, listeners calls to the Hidden Kitchens hotline and more.
**NASCAR Kitchens—Feed the Speed: Behind every car race is a kitchen—hidden in the crew pit, or tucked between the hauler and the trailer of the trucks that transport NASCAR and Indy cars from city to city. Public radio listener Jon Wheeler cooks for the drivers, haulers, pit crews, sponsors and owners on the racing circuit. He called the Hidden Kitchens hotline line to tell us about his world.
**Hunting & Gathering with Angelo Garro: Blacksmith, Angelo Garro forges and forages, recreating in wrought iron and in cooking the life he left behind in Sicily. The Kitchen Sisters join Garro along the coast of Northern California as he follows the seasons, harvesting the wild for his kitchen and his friends.
A sound portrait of Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante, a one-time leader in the Cuban cultural revolution who fell from favor and went into exile in London in 1965.
Intense and compelling, Cabrera Infante was passionate about cinema, satire, puns, tongue twisters, and about his lost love — Cuba. In 1967 he wrote his best-known work—Three Trapped Tigers—a steamy, experimental journey into 1950s nightlife in Havana.
In the 1970s he suffered a massive mental breakdown and was treated with electroshock and lithium.
He was the author of over a dozen books, translated James Joyce’s Dubliners into Spanish, and wrote a screenplay adaptation of Under Volcano and the script for the film Vanishing Point.
Cabrera Infante’s cinematic, jazz-like writing, comes to life in this story rich with music and interviews with cinematographer Nestor Almendros, painter Jesse Fernandez, activist Saul Landau, and the writer himself. Actors Lazaro Perez, and Ilka Tanya Payan are heard in dramatizations from Cabrera Infante's acclaimed novel, "Tres Triestes Tigres."
Cabrera Infante lived in London with his wife Miriam Gomez until his death in 2005.
Produced by The Kitchen Sisters as part of NPR’s series Faces, Mirrors, Masks: Twentieth Century Latin American Fiction.
Jelly Roll Morton talks of being a “Spy Boy” in the Mardi Gras Indian parades of his youth. Bo Dollis, of the Wild Magnolias, tells of sewing his suit of feathers and beads all night long. Tootie Montana masks for the first time after Mardi Gras started up again after being cancelled during World War II. Big Queen Ausettua makes connections between the black Mardi Gras Indian traditions of New Orleans and Africa. Sister Alison McCrary, a Catholic nun and social justice attorney, tells of Big Chief Tootie Montana’s death at the podium in City Council Chambers defending the rights of the Mardi Gras Indians to parade without harassment.
A collection of stories and interviews in honor of the Mardi Gras Indian tradition in New Orleans. With thanks to the Library of Congress, Nick Spitzer and American Routes, WWOZ and all of the Keepers of the Mardi Gras Indian Culture.
The story of an aging pile of forgotten reel-to-reel tapes discovered on the shelf of a tribal elder on the Fort Mojave Reservation. Recorded by an amateur ethnographer in the 1960s, these tapes of the last Creation Song singer of the tribe recount the legends and origin of the Mojave people. They are oral maps of the desert region that were instrumental in helping to save the Ward Valley from becoming a nuclear waste dump site.
In the 1960s, a CBS radio engineer out of Los Angeles, drove out to the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Parker, Arizona with his portable reel-to-reel tape recorder with the idea of recording the Mojave Indians. There he met Emmett Van Fleet, an elder of the tribe and the last of the Creation Song singers. Over the course of several years, Guy Tyler made his weekend pilgrimages, and slowly and meticulously the two men recorded the 525 song cycle that recounts the legend of the creation and origin of the Mojave people, their traditions, and their oral maps that describe historical journeys, sacred sites, and directions about how to safely cross the Mojave Desert. Emmett Van Fleet left the tapes to his nephew Llewllyn Barrackman. As years went by and technology changed, the tapes were unplayed and forgotten until Phillip Klasky and the Storyscape Project worked to get the the tapes transferred and preserved.
In 1995, when action was taken to turn Ward Valley into a nuclear waste dump, traditional Mojave songs and song cycles helped save the endangered Ward Valley and Colorado River by proving the historic connection the Mojave have with this sacred land.
In 1999 The Kitchen Sisters travelled to the Mojave Reservation with writer and environmentalist Phil Klasky, to meet with LLewllyn Barrackman and other Mojave the elders, birdsong singers and activists in the Ward Valley struggle.
Produced with Phillip Klasky, Director of the Storyscape Project.
Levee Stream— a live neighborhood pop-up, Cadillac, radio station installation in New Orleans. Presented by Otabenga Jones & Associates and The Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with Project& as part of Prospect.4 New Orleans, an international exhibit of 73 artists creating artworks and events throughout New Orleans.
Part block party, part soap box—Levee Stream is a lively mix of music, DJs, and conversations with artists, activists, civil rights leaders, neighborhood entrepreneurs and visionaries taking place in the back seat of a cut-in-half 1959 pink Cadillac Coup de Ville with giant speakers in the trunk on Bayou Road, one of the oldest roads in the city.
Hosted by WWOZ DJ Cole Williams the show features interviews with Robert King and Albert Woodfox, members of the Angola 3 who were released from prison after decades of living in solitary confinement. Civil Rights pioneers Leona Tate and A.P. Tureaud Jr. Prospect.4 curator Trevor Schoonmaker and artists Hank Willis Thomas, Maria Berrio, and Jeff Whetstone. With music by legendary Hammond B3 organ player Joe Krown, contemporary jazz luminaries Kidd and Marlon Jordan,The Jones Sisters, DJ RQAway and DJ Flash Gordon Parks.
Every culture has its idealized woman, its standard of beauty that is valorized. Everywhere women are altering themselves in small and major ways to attempt the look that is celebrated. History is full of methods, home grown and scientific, used to attain these ideals— footbinding, corsetting, liposuction, emaciation, molding of the skull, face lifts, lip stretching…
In this story Hidden World of Girls travels to Jamaica — where cosmetic folk treatments and changing ideals of beauty are part of a the national debate going on in the music, the dancehalls and on the streets.
In Jamaica, especially in poorer areas, there is a saying among men, ” I don’t want a “maga” (meager) woman.” A maga woman, a slight or thin woman, says to the world that a man is poor and doesn’t have means to provide for her. A larger woman is a way of showing you have means and that you can afford to keep this woman fed.
“If you have no meat on your bones the society can’t see your wealth, your progress, your being,” said Professor Sonjah Stanley-Niaah. “This African standard of beauty, and it’s very much present in Jamaica. The body must be healthy and that health is expressed in some amount of fat. You musn’t just be able to slip through the arms of a man. The healthy body girl is anywhere from 160 to 210 pounds.So there’s a high level of interest and activity around modifying the body.”
In the 1990s, some women in Jamaica, longing to be large, started taking “Chicken Pills,” hormones sold to plump up the breasts and thighs of chickens.
In Jamaica we talked with twenty-one year old Raquel Jones who was cast in an independent film called “Chicken Pills,”by Jamaica born playwright, Storm. The film is about two teenage girls. One is getting more attention from the boys in the class. The other character, Lisa, is having self esteem problems so she turns to the chicken pills. “Here in Jamaica it’s pressure on teenage girls and women. We do stuff that increases these physical appearances, getting our bodies to look a certain way.”
November 14, 1960 — Four six-year-old girls, flanked by Federal Marshals, walked through screaming crowds and policemen on horseback as they approached their new schools for the first time. Leona Tate thought it must be Mardi Gras. Gail thought they were going to kill her.
Four years after the Supreme Court ruled to desegregate schools in Brown v Board of Education, schools in the south were dragging their feet. Finally, in 1960, the NAACP and a daring judge selected two schools in New Orleans to push forward with integration — McDonogh No.19 Elementary and William Frantz.
An application was put in the paper. From 135 families, four girls were selected. They were given psychological tests. Their families were prepared. Members of the Louisiana Legislature took out paid advertisements in the local paper encouraging parents to boycott the schools. There were threats of violence.
When the girls going to McDonogh No. 19 arrived in their classroom, the white children began to disappear.
One by one their parents took them out of school. For a year and a half the girls were the only children in the
school. Guarded night and day, they were not allowed to play outdoors. The windows were covered with brown paper.
The story of integrating the New Orleans Public schools in 1960 told by Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost
Williams, and Gail Etienne Stripling, who integrated McDonogh No.19 Elementary School, and retired Deputy U.S. Marshals Herschel Garner, Al Butler, and Charlie Burks who assisted with the integration efforts at the schools.
A string of sonic prayer flags —voices and sounds from New Orleans and Bayou Road, the oldest street in the city. Local visionaries, neighborhood entrepreneurs, artists, skate boarders, civil rights activists, musicians, teachers, and more. Listening to the sounds and moods of the City.
We’ve been recording in New Orleans lately for a project we’re doing as part of
Prospect 4 – an exhibit of works by artists from around the world who’ve been invited to create events and artworks throughout the city. The first Prospect New Orleans was created in the aftermath of Katrina – exploring the role of art and artists in the rebuilding of the city. The theme of this fourth Prospect is “The Artist in Spite of the Swamp”.
Our project is called “Levee Stream” a five-hour live, street-corner pop-up Cadillac radio station installation on Bayou Road. We’re collaborating with the Houston based artists collective Otabenga Jones – Jamal Cyrus, Jabari Anderson and associates-- who have created a cut-in-half pink Cadillac, with giant speakers in the trunk, and a white plush leather upholstered back seat (which now is the front seat because the car has been cut in half!) where guests can sit and converse and be interviewed live on the air — it’s a roving radio station that’s toured to neighborhoods in Houston and Brooklyn – and now New Orleans. The event will take place on Bayou Road and the stories, prayer flags, videos and images will be online at kitchensisters.org and Prospectneworleans.org.
Thad Vogler, creator of San Francisco’s Bar Agricole and Trou Normand, travels the world in search of hand made spirits — rum, scotch, cognac, mescal — and the hidden stories of the people and places behind these spirits. His bar is like library, each bottle rich with story. “Any bottle of rum you take off of the shelf, you have to think about the Caribbean, about the African diaspora, the indigenous culture, the merchant cultures, the colonizing European country, the sugar plantations controlled by the French…”
Thad has just come out with a new book — By the Smoke & the Smell: *My Search for the Rare & Sublime on the Spirits Trail.* It’s a beautiful book —part travelogue, part memoir. We talk with Thad about his life and philosophy, about the impact of prohibition, alcohol as agriculture, tracing ingredients to their source, and the bar as a kitchen.
We also talk to Russell Moore, chef and owner of Camino in Oakland. Russell worked for more than 20 years at Chez Panisse and when he opened Camino he asked Thad Vogler to create a locally sourced, non-GMO bar that reflected his kitchen.
A walk through Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden with chef and cookbook author Pati Jinich, host of the Emmy and James Beard nominated PBS series Pati’s Mexican Table and resident chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington DC. Pati talks about her Jewish heritage, growing up in Mexico, immigration, life choices and how she found her way into the kitchen.
The Great Galveston Hurricane arrived on a Saturday, September 8, 1900 — almost without warning. Galveston, the grand dame of Texas, a vibrant port city sitting haughtily on a sand bar facing the Gulf, was reduced to a splintered wasteland. Some 6,000 people perished on the island and at least 4000-6000 on the mainland. Survivors struggled to save themselves amid the towering waves, rocking debris, and floating wreckage of their city.
As part of our Lost & Found Sound series, producer John Burnett revisits the deadliest natural disaster in US history with recorded oral histories and memoirs from the children, the lovers – the survivors of the 1900 storm.
Robert King Wilkerson (aka Robert Hillary King) was imprisoned at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana for 31 years. Twenty-nine of those years he was in solitary confinement. During that time he created a clandestine kitchen in his 6×9 cell where he made pralines, heating the the butter and sugar he saved from his food tray over a tiny burner concocted from a Coke can and a toilet paper roll. King’s case was overturned in 2001 and he was released. He was living in New Orleans during Katrina, refused to leave his dog, and weathered the storm in his apartment. Today he lectures around the world and makes candy — which he calls Freelines — to bring attention to issues of prison reform and the story of his comrades and The Angola Three.
In “Living with Water,” journalist Julia Kumari Drapkin, director of ISeeChange, a community weather and climate journal project, takes us on a tour of her flooded neighborhood in New Orleans after a recent storm. She talks about the vision of creating water gardens, floating streets and other water projects that look towards living with water in New Orleans rather than continuing to completely drain and sink the land.
In 1967 thirty men left Trinidad with 97 steel drums to represent their country at the World’s Fair in Montreal. None of them had ever been off their island before. They were members of the Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band, all playing “pan,” the steel drums of Calypso, hammered from the leftover oil drums of World War II.
The band took Expo ’67 by storm. And their sound and performance caught the ear of one of the most popular entertainers of the day: Liberace. The glittery piano virtuoso hired the Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band to go on the road with him for the next two years — traveling to cities large and small around the world including towns in George Wallace’s segregated south. One flamboyant rhinestoned white piano player and 30 black steel drummers from Trinidad playing Flight of the Bumblebee.
We travel to Trinidad and trace the history of the steel drum and follow the Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band from the streets of Port of Spain to the Ed Sullivan Show.
Steel pan was born on the island of Trinidad in the late 1930s. It began as an outlaw instrument, hammered from milk tins, biscuit boxes, brake drums, garbage cans — and later, the oil barrels that were scattered across the oil-rich island after World War II.
When the bands first started, anything metal that could be scavenged was “tuned” and played to make a sound, a note. Pan began as the music of the island’s poor, before Trinidad’s independence from Britain. For the native Trinidadians under British rule, the beating of drums and marching in Carnival was often forbidden.
As the oil drums evolved, dozens of pan bands — some more than 100 members strong — sprang up in neighborhoods across the island. Casablanca, Destination Tokyo, Desperadoes, Tripoli… they named themselves after the American war movies and Westerns of the day. Come Carnival, the steel bands would battle one another for the championship, marching across Port of Spain waging musical war — a tradition that continues today.
When the island gained its independence in the 1960s, the foreign companies that controlled the oil resources of Trinidad worried about nationalization of their businesses. The island’s prime minister declared steel pan music an important, vital expression of the Trinidadian people. British Petroleum, Esso and other oil companies looking to sway public opinion began sponsoring neighborhood oil drum orchestras, supplying instruments, uniforms and the money to tour outside Trinidad.
In 1967, the Esso Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band (named after the World War II movie Shores of Tripoli) was sent by the government and the Esso oil company to represent Trinidad and the nation’s musical heritage at the Montreal Expo World’s Fair.
Stories of creativity and invention— the making of a jar of jam, the making of a fashionable 3-D printed covering for an artificial limb, the making of Muttville – a foster care rescue center for senior dogs, a Karaoke Ice Cream Truck, the arrangements for a father’s funeral, the un-making of the Typewriter, and more stories from The Making Of…What People Make in the Bay Area and Why. Produced with KQED and AIR.
Barbecue, burgoo, mopping the mutton, the fellowship of stirring. Hidden Kitchens stories of conflict, competition and resolution in the backyards and fire pits of our nation. From the all night communal roasting rituals in Owensboro Kentucky, to the cotton fields, German meat markets, and chuckwagons of west Texas. We hear from men’s cooking teams, African American Trail Riders, Willie Nelson and his bass player Bee Spears, Stubb Stubblefield…And we contemplate David Klose’s BBQ pit on the moon.
In the 1930s and 40s, hundreds of Basques were brought to the western United States to do the desolate work that no one else would do—herding sheep. Alone for months at a time with hundreds of sheep the Basque’s improvised songs, baked bread in underground ovens, carved poetry and drawings into the Aspen trees, and listened to The Basque Radio hour beaming to Idaho, Washington, Colorado, California, traditional music and messages between the herders out in the isolated countryside.
“You say Basque to a Westerner and you think sheepherder,” said Mark Kurlansky, author of The Basque History of the World. “In Basque country very few people were shepherds. The seven provinces of Basque country are about the size of New Hampshire. No one has huge expanses of land there.”
“Teenagers were ripped up out of their communities back home, brought to a foreign land, with a foreign language, put up on top of a mountain … crying themselves to sleep at night during the first year on the range,” says William Douglass, Former director of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada.
Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator who repressively ruled the country for nearly 40 years, made life miserable for the Basque people, suppressing their language, culture and possibilities. The result was a massive exodus, and the only way to come to the United States for many Basques was to contract as sheepherders. There was a shortage of shepherds in the American West, and legislation was crafted in 1950 that allowed Basque men to take up this lonely and difficult job.
Francisco and Joaquin Lasarte came to America in 1964 from Basque country in northern Spain. Each Lasarte brother had his own flock, and they rarely saw each other or anyone else for months on end. Mostly they ate lamb and bread cooked in a Dutch oven in a hole they dug in the ground.
Hotels like the Noriega in Bakersfield, CA were home in the winter months for these isolated men. They piled into these Basque boarding houses that sprung up in Elko and Winnemucca, Nevada, and Boise, Idaho. The men ate family style — big bottles of red wine, accordion music, conversation and card games.
For 25 years, the voice of the Basque was Espe Alegria. Every Sunday night, sheepherders across the mountains of the American West would tune in to listen to her radio show on KBOI in Boise. Dedications, birthday greetings, suggestions of where to find good pasture, the soccer scores that her husband got off the shortwave from Spain, and the hit tunes from Spain and the Basque region. She would help the sheepherders with immigration issues, with buying plane tickets home, with doctor’s appointments. She did her show for free, but once or twice a year the owners of the sheep camps would give her a lamb. The family would take it home, throw it on the kitchen table, cut it up and put in the freezer.
The Sheepherder’s Ball was the highlight of the year in Boise. The men wore denim, the women wore simple house dresses. Lambs were auctioned off and proceeds given to a charity. Huge platters of chorizo and stew and pork sandwiches were served. The ball continues to this day every December at the Euzkaldunak Club’s Basque Center.
For the last five years The Golden State Warriors have been going inside San Quentin, the legendary maximum security California State prison, to take on The San Quentin Warriors, the prison’s notorious basketball team. The Kitchen Sisters Present team up with Life of the Law Podcast to take us to a recent showdown between these two mighty Bay Area teams. Featuring Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Bob Myers, and Golden State Warriors’ support staff — and San Quentin Warriors players, inmate spectators and prison officials. Go Warriors!
Author and journalist, Laila El-Haddad takes us into the hidden world of Gaza through the kitchen. Interweaving history, personal experiences and stories of food, family and daily life, El-Haddad paints a vivid picture of her family’s homeland and some of the issues facing people living in Gaza and the Middle East.
We also hear from Jon Rubin, co-founder of Conflict Kitchen, a restaurant/art project in Pittsburg PA that sells food from countries the United States is in conflict with. One of the most controversial iterations of Conflict Kitchen took place in 2014 when their food and conversation turned to Palestine. The restaurant featured recipes from The Gaza Kitchen and Laila El-Haddad was an invited speaker.
Laila El-Haddad is co-author of “The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey” (with Maggie Schmitt) and author of “Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between.”
A hidden Gold Rush kitchen when food was scarce and men died for eggs… We travel out to the forbidding Farallon Islands, 27 miles outside San Francisco’s Golden Gate, home to the largest seabird colony in the United States, where in the 1850s egg hunters gathered over 3 million eggs, nearly stripping the island bare, to feed the ever-growing migration of newcomers lured by the Gold Rush.
In 1898, the United States Department of Agriculture created a special department of men, called “Agriculture Explorers,” to travel the globe searching for new food crops to bring back for farmers to grow in the U.S. These men introduced exotic specimens like the mango, the avocado, and the date. In 1900, the USDA sent plant explorer, Walter Swingle, to Algeria to study the date. As Swingle took temperature readings and soil temperature, he realized that the conditions were very much like those in California’s hot, arid Coachella Valley, sometimes referred to as the American Sahara. In order to market this new fruit and promote the region, date growers in the Coachella Valley began capitalizing on the exotic imagery and fantasy many Americans associated with the Middle East. During the 1950s date shops dotted the highway, attracting tourists. There was Pyramid Date shop where you could purchase your dates in a pyramid. Sniff’s Exotic Date Garden set up a tent like those used by nomadic tribes of the Sahara. One of the most well known date shops that still exists today is Shields Date Garden, established in 1924. Floyd Shields lured in customers with his lecture and slide show titled, “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.”
This story was produced in collaboration with Lisa Morehouse.
Cab drivers, children’s jump rope rhymes, folk songs, dialects, controversial TV ads, interviews with blacklisted artists and writers during the McCarthy Era — Tony Schwartz was one of the great sound recordists and collectors of the 20th Century. An audio portrait of a man who spent his life exploring and influencing the world through recorded sound.
It was 1947 when Tony first stepped out of his apartment in midtown Manhattan with his microphone to capture the sound of his neighborhood. He was a pioneer recordist, experimenting with microphones and jury-rigging tape recorders to make them portable (some of these recordings were first published by Folkways Records). His work creating advertising and political TV and radio commercials is legendary.
The Kitchen Sisters visited Tony in his midtown basement studio in 1999. He had just finished teaching a media class at Harvard by telephone — Tony was agoraphobic and hardly ever ventured beyond his postal zone. He was there in his studio surrounded by reel to reel tape recorders, mixing consoles, framed photographs and awards — and row upon row of audio tapes in carefully labeled boxes.
Tony passed away in 2008. His collection now resides in the Library of congress — 90.5 linear feet, 230 boxes, 76,345 items — some 30,000 folk songs, poems, conversations, stories and dialects from his surrounding neighborhood and 46 countries around the world.
Stories from The Hidden World of Girls with host Tina Fey: Nigerian writer Chris Abani tells about his English-born mother enlisting him at age 8 to be her translator in Nigeria as she travels door to door through the villages teaching women the Billings Ovulation Method of birth control. Plus stories from singer/actress Janelle Monae, science fiction writer Pat Cadigan, Estonian activist Tiina Urm and her “Let’s Do It Campaign” and more stories about girls and the women they become.
Niloufer Ichaporia King lives in a house with three kitchens. She prowls through six farmer’s markets a week, at least, in search of unusual greens, roots and seeds, and traditional food plants from every immigrant culture. She is an anthropologist, a kitchen botanist, a one-of-a-kind cook, a Parsi from Bombay living in San Francisco, and the author of My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking.
Niloufer is known for her ritual celebrations of Navroz, Parsi New Year, on the first day of Spring, when she creates an elaborate ceremonial meal based on the auspicious foods and traditions of her vanishing culture. The Parsi culture is some 3,000 years old and goes back from India to Persia. It’s estimated that there are now only 75,000 Parsis in the world. The prediction is that by 2020 the numbers will have dropped to 25,000.
This story also features writer Bharati Mukherjee, who passed away this last year, sharing her memories of the forbidden Bengali kitchen of her girlhood, with its four cooks and intricate rules of food preparation. And Harvard Professor Homi Bhabha, born in Mumbai to a Parsi family, who talks about auspicious lentils and the birth of his son.
Recording sound pioneer Sam Phillips — the father of Sun Records, the man who discovered Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash…, the creator of WHER, The First All Girl Radio Station in the World — talks about his journey, his adventures and “the acoustics of life.” With stories from his son Knox Phillips, his wife Becky, his biographer Peter Guralnick, and one of his first artists, Ike Turner.
Hear recordings from the archive of interviews we did with Sam beginning in 1998—personal stories told by the man himself and his family and friends.
Interest in Sam Phillips is running high right now –not that it was ever running low. There’s a new TV series out and there’s Peter Guralnick’s epic biography “Sam Phillips The Man Who Invented Rock’n’Roll.” And there’s a film in the works based on the book — one of the producers is Mick Jagger and Leonardo DiCaprio is playing Sam. Sam has had a monumental impact on the world of music and sound. And he’s had a monumental impact on The Kitchen Sisters.
Kimchi in space. The Kimchi Bus. Government-sponsored chefs and restaurants spreading the word of Kimchi around the globe. South Korea is one of the nations most involved in branding itself through its food, using food as a part of it’s “soft power.” It’s called “Gastrodiplomacy” — the use of food as a diplomatic tool to help resolve conflicts and foster connections between nations.
“Kimchi is like air in Korea,” says Hyunjoo Albrecht, a San Francisco-based chef and owner of Sinto Gourmet who grew up near the DMZ border between South and North Korea. 1.5 million tons of kimchi are eaten each year in Korea and there are hundreds of different varieties. “The government gave financial support to some of the Korean restaurants in US,” says Hyunjoo. “They want more people outside Korea to eat more Korean food.”
Si-Hyeon Ryu is a chef and writer from South Korea who, with support from the government, has traveled in The Kimchi Bus to more than 34 countries cooking traditional Korean food and spreading his love of kimchi. “People on the street they know just about North and South Korea,” he says, but not much about Korean cuisine. “If I explain about kimchi they will understand about Korea.”
Astronaut Soyeon Yi, Korea’s first astronaut, describes the Korean government’s efforts to invent kimchi for space travel — not an easy task. Soyeon Yi prepared a special Korean meal for her Russian comrades in space. “Having kimchi in space, you are far from your home planet,” she says. “When you eat your own traditional food it makes you feel emotionally supported. I can feel my home.”
Manga, the ubiquitous Japanese comic books written on just about every subject—sports, music, sex, shooting pool—represent about 40% of all books published in Japan. In recent decades ‘food manga’ has exploded. Stories of food and conflict and competition abound in mangas like Soldier of Food, Food Wars, Cooking Papa…The Kitchen Sisters Present—Hidden Kitchens: War and Food and Manga.
“Manga is a cradle to grave phenomenon,” says Deb Aoki, writer for Anime network and Publisher’s Weekly. It’s a visual storytelling medium that people enjoy from the day they first start reading or enjoying pictures to the day they die.
“There’s this Japanese concept, Otaku,” says Sylvan Mishima Brackett, chef and owner of Rintaro Restaurant in San Francisco. “Otaku is a deep, passionate enthusiasm about some obscure part of the universe. Manga tend to cluster around very specific Otaku. It’s a place where people can brush up on the hyper-specifics of their enthusiasms.”
“Food manga, gurume manga, gourmet manga, is one of the major genres within manga that’s just been growing exponentially,” says Nancy Stalker, Professor of Japanese History and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin. She wrote a paper called “Gourmet Samurai: Changing Gender Norms in Japanese Food TV.”
FOOD WARS, DETECTIVE GLUTTON, SOLDIER OF FOOD
Food manga first appeared in the 1980’s when the Japanese economy was very strong. One of the first, Oishinbo, ran for over 20 years and became the basis for an animated series, as have many manga since.
“There always has to be conflict in manga, especially in food manga,” says Zhong. “There is not any real peace in manga. If there is peace it’s really short, maybe one or two chapters, then back to war right afterwards. War produces content.”
Since Japan opened to the West in the nineteenth century, food has been an element of its international identity. “Traditionally the eating of four-legged creatures was proscribed by Buddhist belief,” says Stalker. “The Emperor first publicly ate meat in 1873. Eating beef was seen as something that would help build the national physique and make the Japanese more like westerners.” In order to compete with western soldiers, the Japanese military began to introduce more beef, more meat and fat, into the diet of the soldier to help build a strong army.
The modern manga industry came into being after World War II. It started with Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy, who was influenced by Walt Disney. “That American content was brought over by the American Occupation,” says Leyla Aker, Senior Vice President of Publishing at Viz Media, a company that specializes in Japanese graphic novels and anime. “During the American occupation of Japan a large portion of the Japanese population was subsisting on hand-outs given by the American forces.”
There were severe shortages of food during the Occupation and all foods were strictly rationed. When the circumstances of the war became dire many people resorted to eating bark from trees and replacing sawdust and wood dust in recipes for flour. Many Japanese died of starvation.
Miles Thomas, Brand Manager at CrunchyRoll, remembers an anime called Grave of the Fireflies. “One of the most evocative films I’ve seen, about two orphans during World War II who are starving, hungry. They steal food, trying their hardest to survive.
“It really makes you think about the darker side of food when people don’t have enough of it to survive,” adds Tiffany Chen who is also a Brand Manager with Crunchy Roll. “For a long time, World War II was just a history you studied in class. I never really felt connected to it personally. A lot of young people actually don’t even know about the atomic bomb. After watching this film, it was a pretty sobering moment.”
OISHINBO: JAPAN AND CULINARY NATIONALISM
Oishinbo, one of the oldest of the food manga is very popular with adult men, Aoki tells us. “The main character is this scrappy reporter. His father is this snooty gourmet who sets up this ritzy gourmet club for only rich people. They have dueling palette battles.” Oishinbo is written by Tetsu Kariya who is very opinionated about food. The manga creates drama about different food issues – about growing it and cooking it. “It’s kind of controversial,” says Aoki. “He defends eating whale meat, the history of it, how delicious, how dare anyone tell us not to.”
“Tetsu Kariya has a very progressive, political stance,” adds Lorie Brau, Associate Professor of Japanese Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of New Mexico, “He embeds these social messages inside his manga.” One of Oishinbo’s chief concerns is foreign influences. How do you maintain the important aspects of your culture while still engaging with the world at large? The manga uses food as a lens to address Japan’s place in the world.
YAWEH: MANGA FOR YOUNG WOMEN
There is a different subset of manga targeted at young Japanese women called Yaweh about homosexual love affairs. “Boys love” is one of the most popular sub-genres of manga. “Antique Bakery features a cast of tall, thin elegant beautiful young men. They all work in a western style bakery,” Aoki tells us. “Women fall in love with them because they are so handsome. But they’re not available,” says Brau. “But the cakes are available so they make many young women happy.”
What Did You Eat Yesterday? has become a very popular manga for recipes. The manga tells the story of a gay couple, one of whom is a lawyer, the other a hairdresser and the lawyer is very intent on creating economical, delicious meals for the two of them.
THE HERBIVORE MAN: MANGA AND GENDER NORMS
“In the last 10 years Japanese demographics have been shifting,” says Nancy. “Fewer and fewer people are getting married. The rate of unmarried men ages 30 to 34 climbed from 21% to 47%. For women it jumped from 9% to 34% in a decade. The media has come up with this term “herbivore men” Urban men in their 20 and 30’s who are more into fashion and culture than women. Rejecting flesh, therefore they are herbivores. Other conservative pundits say “well, it’s the increase of carnivorous women, women who are too aggressive and focused on their career and refuse to become a full time housewife they create the herbivore man. This is changing men’s relationship with food. They have to increasingly be responsible for their own meals. That is being reflected in these dramas that show a kind of everyman develop a sense of culinary confidence.”
Aoki tells us that Manga like Oishinbo and Food Wars in a way represent a war within people to be their best. “There’s honor in fighting to be the best you can be. That if you’re going to do it you’re going to be the best damn one doing it. The way of the sword, the way of the chef.”
Black cake, gingerbread, slant rhyme, secret loves, family scandals, poems composed on the back of a coconut cake recipe —we journey into the steamy, myth-laden, hidden world of poet Emily Dickinson through her kitchen. In her lifetime, Emily was probably better known as a baker than a poet.
Filled with mystery, intrigue and readings by Patti Smith, Thornton Wilder, Jean Harris and an array of passionate poets and experts.
For five years Davia’s father, Lenny Nelson, asked her to go to Rattlesden, England, to visit the Air Force base where he was stationed during WWII and to find an old photograph hanging in the town pub honoring his 8th Air Force squadron. It was still there, over 50 years later, he told her. Finally, one fine Sunday, Davia headed out in search of the pub and a piece of her father’s past—the piece he was proudest of.
Lenny died on Christmas Eve last year. In his honor, we share the journey with you.
Samuel Shelton Robinson helped produce this story with The Kitchen Sisters. He’s from London. It seemed only right.
A journey into the mysterious and controversial world of raw milk.
Tucked away in the vanishing farm land on the outskirts of Indianapolis, the Apple Family and their neighbors created a kind of fellowship of milking. Milk Cow Blues tells the story of the Apples’ effort to bring raw milk to their community.
Jo Apple and her husband owned the Apple Family Farm in McCordsville Indiana for over 50 years. It was originally a dairy farm, but it became too much for the couple. It wasn’t financially feasible so they gave up the cows and planted corn and soy beans. Their son, Mark told to his father about a vision he had — farming naturally, without chemicals, hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. Just before he died, Mark’s dad agreed.
They started with sheep and chickens and cattle then bought a milk cow for themselves. They quickly found that there was a demand for unpasteurized milk. Women started showing up at their farm with glass jars to buy milk. The Apples had no idea it was illegal. But Indiana, like most states has very strict rules about buying and selling raw milk.
The Indiana State Veterinarian became aware that the Apple family was selling raw milk. He felt there was the possibility of harmful pathogens in these raw milk products and with pressure from other farmers in the area the Apples were served a cease and desist order.
The Apples were ready to give up. But their community encouraged them — they were selling milk, not cocaine or crack. The Apples checked the laws.
They could not trade raw milk, sell it, or deliver it. The only way people could legally obtain fresh milk in Indiana was to own a cow. So they decided, if people want raw milk they will have to buy the cow. The Apples set up the Indiana Cow Share Association and charged people $50. It worked.
A year-and-a-half after the cease and desist order there was a knock on the Apples’ door. A man they had never met before said that he was the one that had turned them in. He talked about how he was furious that they were selling milk for three times more than he was getting for his milk.
He couldn’t make it farming anymore and as a last resort had come to talk to them. His son was bagging groceries — but his heart was to farm. The man wanted to know if they thought he could do the same thing with pasteurized milk — sell directly to the public. He needed to make a change.
It’s a story that is happening all over the country, “All the farmers that are throwing in the towel saying, ‘OK, I can’t afford a $60,000 combine. I have to do something else. Maybe I’ll get some cattle and see if I can just sell them to my neighbors. That’s how it starts.”
Since we produced this Hidden Kitchens story The Apple Family Farm has closed down. In 2014 the Fortville Town Council tried to annex their farmland for development. It was a long, grueling fight. That combined with tax increases and the rising cost of farming became too much for this third generation family farm.
During World War II, In desolate inland internment camps in the US, like Manzanar, Topaz, and Tule Lake, some 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were incarcerated for the duration of the war— their traditional food replaced by US government commodities and war surplus — hotdogs, ketchup, spam, potatoes — erasing the traditional Japanese diet and family table.
Akemi Tamaribuchi, a third generation Japanese American, artist Howard Ikemoto, Berkeley graduate Tami Takahashi, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of “Farewell to Manzanar,” Jimi Yamaichi of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, and George “Sulu” Takei of Star Trek, talk about how the internment forever impacted their lives, their food and their family table.
A story from the plazas of Portugal, where small ornate kiosks that served traditional snacks and drinks once graced the city and brought people together. Neglected by time and pushed into abandonment by a dictator’s regime that suppressed public conversation and gathering, this tradition is now being revived, drawing people back to public space.
For more than a century, Lisbon’s public spaces were graced by beautiful Art Nouveau and Moorish-style kiosks — small, ornate structures that provided chairs and shade and served traditional Portuguese snacks and drinks.
These quiosques de refrescos (refreshment kiosks) were the heart of public life in the city. But, under the long dictatorship of Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, which started in the 1930s, laws actually discouraged public gathering and conversation. Many restaurants closed down and the kiosks fell into disrepair and all but disappeared.
That was, until Catarina Portas, a native of Lisbon, former journalist and entrepreneur stepped in.
“From the 19th to the 20th century, there were some hundred different kiosks in Lisbon. The city was full of them in different colors, different designs,” says Portas. She used to take walks around the city and see these sad, abandoned structures. She said, “I started to think, how could we bring this to our times?”
Portas began hunting down these kiosks — some still in place but boarded up, others in storage. She teamed up with architect João Regal to restore the buildings – not just to their former glory, but to their former place of prominence in Lisbon’s public spaces.
“We went to the city council with amazing photographs of the old kiosks, and we prepared all the old drinks and made them taste the drinks,” Portas says. The pitch worked — Portas is fairly sure it was the drinks that convinced the council members. Their first three kiosks opened in 2009.
The kiosks offer affordable and traditional drinks and snacks, conversation and community – and also employment in a country struggling with the staggering levels of unemployment and a recession gripping much of western Europe.
“Nobody can soldier without coffee,” a Union calvary man wrote in 1865. Hidden Kitchens looks at three American wars through the lens of coffee: the Civil War, Vietnam and Afghanistan. And an interview with Anastacia Marx de Salcedo author of “Combat Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat.”
The Civil War: War, freedom, slavery, secession, union – these are some of the big themes you might expect to find in the diaries of Civil War soldiers. At least, that’s what Jon Grinspan, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, assumed when he began digging through war journals in the nation’s Civil War archives. “I went looking for the big stories,” Grinspan says. “And all they kept talking about was the coffee they had for breakfast, or the coffee they wanted to have for breakfast.”
The Vietnam War: Coffee may have powered the Union army during the Civil War, but during the Vietnam War, it fueled the GI anti-war movement. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, as soldiers returning from Vietnam began to question the U.S. role in the war, GI coffeehouses sprung up in military towns outside bases across the country. They became a vital gathering place. Oleo Strut, Fort Hood, TX, Shelter Half, Tacoma, Washington, the Green Machine outside Camp Pendleton, San Diego; Mad Anthony Wayne’s, Waynesville, Mo., outside Fort Leonard, to name a few. As the anti-war movement heated up, these coffeehouses became places where GIs could get legal counseling on issues like going AWOL and obtaining conscientious objector status, and learn about ways to protest the war.
Afghanistan: “ The military runs on coffee,” says Harrison Suarez, co-founder of Compass Coffee in Washington DC. “The Marines especially. It’s this ritual.” Suarez and Michael Haft, who started Compass together, first became friends in the Marines over coffee learning how to navigate with a map and compass.
As the war in Afghanistan intensified, both Suarez and Haft deployed there with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. One of their missions was to help develop the local police force and army. The two men tried to bond with their new Afghan partners over coffee, but the Afghans weren’t having it. The Afghan culture is much more about tea. Regardless of what was in the cups, the experience of gathering together over a hot drink and “taking time to develop a rapport with your partners that you are fighting alongside holds the same.”
This story is part of the Hidden Kitchens series “Kimchi Diplomacy: War and Peace and Food.”
Nothing is simple in Mideast relations. Not even hummus. Lebanon, Israel and Palestinians are entangled over who owns the dish. Not even the title of world’s largest hummus platter — more than 11 tons — settled the matter. In this episode, stories from the “Hummus Wars” and the battle for the Guinness World Record title for the world’s largest plate of hummus and the deeper meanings of this Middle Eastern food war. And Hidden Kitchens stories of War and Peace and Food from Israel and Ramallah —Checkpoint Kitchens, the No Knives Lunch, Peace of Cake, Israeli and Palestinian women coming together in the kitchen over jam and pickles — and more stories of people who are making efforts toward peace and reconciliation in the Middle East through food.
A road trip through the hidden kitchens of Lebanon, with kitchen activist, Kamal Mouzawak, a man with a vision of re-building and uniting this war-ravaged nation through its traditions, its culture and its food. We visit farmer’s markets, restaurants, and guest houses known as Souk el Tayeb that he and his kitchen community have created.
This story is part of Hidden Kitchens: War and Peace and Food, a series of stories about food and conflict, about the role food plays in helping resolve conflict between nations and communities, or in creating it.
Produced by Samuel Shelton Robinson and The Kitchen Sisters
Six generations of Mohawk Indian ironworkers, known for their ability to work high steel, have helped shape New York City’s skyline. Hundreds of Mohawks still commute to Manhattan each week from reservations in Canada to work on the city’s skyscrapers and bridges. In September 2001, a new generation returned to the World Trade Center site to dismantle what their elders had helped to build.
A Hidden Kitchens story about London’s long tradition of urban garden allotments — and the story of Manor Garden Allotments, a 100 year old community, that found itself in the path of London’s 2012 Olympics.
London’s “allotment” gardens are an unusual and vibrant system of community gardens across the entire city. Tended by immigrants, retirees, chefs and fans of fresh food, the allotments make up a kitchen community like no other.
Wedged between buildings, planted in abandoned open spaces and carved into hillsides, these community plots of open space began to be reserved for neighborhood cultivation with the industrialization of England in the 1860s, when rural people poured into the city.
The allotments flourished with Britain’s “Dig for Victory” movement of World War II, an effort to feed the starving population of London during the war. And today, they are exploding with the organic gardening and “good food” movements, and efforts to food self-sufficiency sweeping the country.
For about 20 years, retiree Charlie Gregory has cultivated his plot at Fitzroy Park Allotment in Hampstead Heath, next to hipster artists and an immigrant couple with three Yorkies. There are apple trees, black currant bushes, blueberries, onions and shallots.
“Everybody knows everybody,” Gregory said. “I’m a bachelor myself. I’m 78 now, and I’m keeping on the go. It’s not expensive. For 27 pounds a year, you’ve got the space of land, you know, and this beautiful spot. You want to keep fit and live to a good old age? Get an allotment!”
London chef Oliver Rowe gets almost all his food from farmers and producers working within the radius of the city’s train system. In the kitchen of Konstam at the Prince Albert, his restaurant in Kings Cross, Rowe’s bread is made of wheat that is grown, milled and baked within 20 miles. The walls of his café are lined with jars of Dartford broad beans, sloe gin berries and sweet squash that he canned last year.
John Kelly, former publisher of Prospect magazine, who once had a plot in north London said that allotments started in the 19th century and were sparked by philanthropy and health concerns.
“So as people fled from agrarian poverty into working in factories, land was given to the city in perpetuity for people to cultivate vegetables,” Kelly said. “The allotment boom really happened in 1940s, 1950s.”
“There were most definitely different communities … The Italian guy opposite me who was fixated on growing Tuscan grapes for wine. And the Irish were there really just to dig… There were posh English ladies creating conceptual art, so you’d see these sort of scarecrows in hand-me-down Versace.”
Talking to people, one place kept coming up: Manor Garden Allotments, a small patch of land in the heart of working-class east London. It is more than 100 years old.
“You’d go past rambling old factories, down a little alleyway, behind the bus depot, lots of rubbish everywhere,” said Julie Sumner, a Manor allotment holder and organizer. But anyone opening a gate to see the River Lea, she said, would find a different scene.
Hassan Ali, a Turkish Cypriot who is a retired mechanic, had an allotment at Manor Garden for almost 20 years. “That place, I tell you, is a dream place — like we were living in heaven,” Ali said.
“I always cook every day something. My friend Reggie, 17 years I know him. Every day we together. And he brings something from his garden, and I bring something, and we cook and eat there, me and Reg.”
But in October 2007, Manor Garden Allotments was bulldozed to make way for a path and landscaping for the 2012 Olympic Games. The loss of the Manor Garden Allotments to the Olympics construction came despite protests and calls for preserving the area.
Today, the Manor Garden Allotment community has been split and relocated into two allotments. One is located in Marsh Lane, or the “Swamp” that was supposed to be a temporary home until after the Olympics. And the other new Allotment site opened in January 2016 at Pudding Mill Lane, Stratford in the heart of East London. Despite set backs and disputes, the allotment community continues on.
Throughout London, these garden allotments bridge many religious and cultural divides. With daily rituals of tea and traditional grilling of meats in garden sheds and outdoor kitchens — families come together in ways that defy the divided times in which we live.
Sometimes it’s the kitchen that’s hidden, sometimes it’s the food itself. Blacksmith Angelo Garro forges and forages, recreating in wrought iron and in cooking the life he left behind in Sicily. The Kitchen Sisters join Angelo along the coast of Northern California as he follows the seasons, harvesting the wild for his kitchen and his friends.
And a few words from Werner Herzog about Angelo and his Omnivore Salt.
Each fall, the Ojibwe tribes of northern Minnesota harvest wild rice by hand. It’s a long process that begins with families in canoes venturing into the tall grasses, where rice is poled and gently brushed with knockers into the bed of the canoe. We journey to White Earth Reservation, out onto Big Rice Lake in a canoe, to see how one tribe is supporting itself and changing the diet of its people through community kitchen projects. And we talk with the founder of White Earth Land Recovery Project, Winona LaDuke, about the land, her fight to save wild rice, GMOs, her family, philosophy, and her candidacy for vice president of the United States on the Green Party ticket with Ralph Nader.
Sometimes life without a kitchen leads to the most unexpected hidden kitchen of all—the George Foreman Grill. How immigrants and homeless people without official kitchens use the George Foreman Grill, hidden crock pots, and secret hot plates to make a meal and a home. Featuring an interview with boxing champion and grill-master, George Foreman.
So many immigrants, homeless people and others of limited means living in single-room occupancies (SROs) have no kitchens, no legal or official place to cook. To get a hot meal, or eat traditional foods from the countries they’ve left behind, they have to sneak a kind of kitchen into their places. Crock pots, hot plates, microwaves and toaster ovens hidden under the bed. And now, the appliance that comes in so many colors it looks like a modern piece of furniture: the George Foreman Grill.
We had never considered such a hidden kitchen. So we called him. George Foreman talks about growing up hungry and violent, about his his time in the Job Corps, about cooking for his friends and his work with kids. “Feed them,” he says. “Hunger makes you angry.”
And we contacted the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. They put us in touch with Jeffrey Newton who has been homeless or in shelters most all his life, from boy’s homes, to reformatories, to prison by age 17. Then he moved out on the streets, where every day he goes “trailblazing” — looking for food, shelter, work, the resources he needs to make it through the day.
Jeffry learned to cook from his grandmother. He feels an urge to cook, especially for other people — under the overpass on Chicago’s Wacker Drive; on a George Foreman Grill plugged into a power pole; with a hot clothing iron to toast a grilled cheese sandwich.
Pat Sherman lived for quite some time in SROs with no kitchen, where cooking was forbidden. She now has a home and works in Glide’s Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Sherman was quite ingenious when it came to cooking. Her Crock-Pot doubled as a flower pot — nothing that would arouse suspicion. When nobody was around to check, she would slow-cook her beans while she went to school, then come home to a hot meal.
A lot of Kitchen Sisters stories are born in taxicabs. The Hidden Kitchens series was conceived in the back of a Yellow. Davia lives in San Francisco and hates to drive. She started noticing that every time she got into a Yellow cab, the driver was from Brazil. And not just from Brazil, but from the same town in Brazil: Goiânia. Inevitably, these cab ride conversations turned to music and food.
That’s when the story of Janete emerged, a woman from their same hometown, who comes every night to an abandoned industrial street outside a cab dispatch lot and sets up a makeshift, rolling night kitchen — hot salgadinhos, bollinhos, pão de quejo. She cooks the food of home. By dawn, Janete and her blue tent are packed up and gone.
One night around midnight, we decided to go in search of Janete’s secret cabyard kitchen. A driver had given us a sketchy map and told us to park in the cab lot and walk from there.
There, under a streetlight and a small blue tarp, four drivers were laughing, huddled over big plates of food, eating in Portuguese. Brazilian music spilled out of a parked cab. Janete, shy and smiling, presided — a hidden kitchen vision.
We travel to the Mississippi Delta into the world of Lebanese immigrants —where barbecue and the blues meet kibbe, a kind of traditional Lebanese raw meatloaf. Lebanese immigrants began arriving in the Delta in the late 1800s, soon after the Civil War. Many worked as peddlers, then grocers and restaurateurs.
Kibbe — a word and a recipe with so many variations we don’t know where to start. Many love it raw. Ground lamb or beef mixed with bulgur wheat, cinnamon, salt and pepper. However it’s made, it’s part of the glue that holds the Lebanese family culture together in the Mississippi Delta and beyond.
We visit Pat Davis, owner of Abe’s BAR-B-Q at the intersection of Highway 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Miss., the famed crossroads where, legend has it, blues icon Robert Johnson made a deal with the devil to play guitar better than anybody. Since 1924 Abe’s has been known for it’s barbecue, but if you know to ask, they’ve got grape leaves in the back.
Chafik Chamoun, who owns Chamoun’s Rest Haven on Highway 61, features Southern, Lebanese and Italian food — but he’s best known for his Kibbe. Chafik arrived in Clarksdale from Lebanon in 1954, and first worked as a peddler selling ladies slips and nylon stockings.
Sammy Ray, Professor Emeritus at Texas A&M University, Galveston, talks about growing up in a barbecue shack that his mother ran on the edge of what was then called “Black Town.” His father peddled dry goods to the black sharecroppers.
During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Abe’s BAR-B-Q and Chamoun’s Rest Haven were some of the only restaurants in the area that would serve blacks. “We were tested in 1965,” Pat Davis remembers. “A bunch of black kids went to all the restaurants on the highway and every one refused them except Chamoun’s and my place. And everybody else got lawsuits against them.”
The list of famous Lebanese Americans is long and impressive. Ralph Nader, Paul Anka, Dick Dale, Casey Kasem, Khalil Gibran and Vince Vaughn, to name a few. But the one most people talked about on our trip was Danny Thomas. Pat Davis took us out in the parking lot to listen to a CD that he just happened to have in his car of Danny Thomas singing in Arabic.
“We called ourselves Syrians when we first came here,” Davis says. “And until Danny came and said he was Lebanese then we all began to realize we really are Lebanese and Danny Thomas can say it. So we’re Lebanese now.”
Some kitchens are hidden by place, some by time—like the saga of the chili queens. For over 100 years, young women came at twilight to the Alamo and the plazas of San Antonio with makeshift tables and big pots of chili to cook over open fires. The plazas teemed with people—soldiers, tourists, cattlemen and the troubadours — who roamed the tables, filling the night with music.
From San Antonio’s earliest days as a Spanish military encampment, life in the town revolved around the plazas. They were the market place, the meeting place, the place of government and festivals — funerals, weddings and hangings. People came to argue politics with their neighbors, to listen to the sad songs of the troubadours, and eat the food of the legendary chili queens.
The chili queens were romanticized in the press as being exotic Spanish women with sable hair and fiery tempers. They became the stuff of tourist legend. No trip to the Southwest was complete without a visit to the chili queens. These women were often peoples’ first introduction to “that spicy, dangerous, Mexican food.”
In the 1930s, Lydia Mendoza, the queen of Tejano music, began her legendary career singing in the plazas of downtown San Antonio with the chili queens.
As San Antonio grew and modernized the chili queens were periodically driven out of one plaza only to reopen their little stalls in another. In the 1930s, the health department finally lowered the boom. Health regulations and the war ended the chili queen’s reign in San Antonio’s plaza.
C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield, namesake of the legendary club in Austin, Texas, had a mission — to feed the world, especially the people who sang in it. When he started out in Lubbock, he generously fed and supported both black and white musicians, creating community and breaking barriers.
From 1968 to 1975 in Lubbock, Texas, C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield ran a dilapidated barbecue joint and roadhouse that was the late-night gathering place for a group of local musicians who were below-the-radar and rising: Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, Tom T. Hall.
Born in Navasota, Texas in 1931, Christopher B. Stubblefield was the son of a Baptist preacher and a mother who worked raising 12 children. As a young boy he picked cotton and worked in local restaurants. After a stint in Korea, where he was in charge of food preparation for thousands of soldiers, he came back to Lubbock and started a small BBQ joint.
One day he picked up a hitchhiker, guitarist Jesse Taylor. And that was the start of it. Jesse asked if he could bring some friends by to play music at Stubb’s and the place became a focal point for west Texas musicians and people traveling through.
A generous visionary who wanted to “feed the world,” Stubbs was not a good businessman. But his friends helped through. Ultimately, he moved to Austin, started a new restaurant, created a BBQ sauce that is still on most grocery shelves across the nation, and spread love, music and good will throughout his life.
Kitchens and mothers. The food they cooked or didn’t. The stories they told or couldn’t. In honor of mothers from around the world, The Kitchen Sisters linger in the kitchen — the room in the house that counts the most, that smells the best, where families gather and children are fed, where all good parties begin and end. The room where the best stories are told.
Stories of mothers and kitchens from playwright Ellen Sebastian Chang, cookbook author Peggy Knickerbocker, designer Cristina Salas-Porras, folklorist and creator/host of American Routes Nick Spitzer, and actress Robin Wright. And messages from the Hidden Kitchens hotline.
Hidden Kitchens turns its focus on the president’s kitchen and some of the first cooks to feed the Founding Fathers — Hercules and James Hemings — the enslaved chefs of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Hercules, described as a “dandy,” had eight assistants — stewards, butlers, undercooks, waiters. He cooked in a huge fireplace — hearth cooking. He walked through the streets of Philadelphia in a velvet waistcoat and a gold-handled cane. When Washington was getting ready to leave Philadelphia to return to Mt. Vernon, Hercules escaped. Washington sent out search parties and offered rewards. Hercules was never found.
In 1784, Thomas Jefferson was appointed minister to France. He took with him his body servant, 19-year-old James Hemings (the brother of Sally Hemings), to master the French style of cooking. Hemings apprenticed with well-known French caterers and a pastry chefs and assumed the role of chef de cuisine in Jefferson’s kitchen on the Champs-Elysees, earning $48 a year. In 1793, Hemings petitioned Jefferson for his freedom. Jefferson consented upon one condition — he must train someone to take his place. After teaching his brother, Peter Hemings, the cooking techniques he had learned in France and at home, James Hemings became a free man.
These stories begin a long connection of presidents and their African-American cooks, including the story of Zephyr Wright, President Lyndon Johnson’s cook who worked for the family for 27 years. Johnson spoke to Zephyr Wright about the Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington. She attended the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Johnson gave her the pen he used to sign the document.
Carmen Miranda—Brazil’s Ambassador of Samba, the highest paid woman entertainer in the world in the 1940s. When she died, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians lined the streets of Rio to pay homage to her. Over 50 years after her death she is still Brazil’s most famous celebrity. Her iconic turban, piled high with fruit, her moves, her rapid fire Portuguese lyrics, her wild lens of samba, rhumba, along with her epic dance numbers in 1930s Busby Berkeley musicals, captured the imagination of the world. The Kitchen Sisters travel to Rio to meet Carmen’s sister, her husband, her lover, her band leader, her driver, her composers, Cesar Romero. And we visit the Carmen Miranda Museum.
Stories of young Irish Traveller women. Travellers—the people of walking. Sometimes called the gypsies of Ireland. They speak of non-Travellers as “the settled people.” Mistrusted for the most part and not well-understood, Travellers historically have lived as nomads, moving in caravans, living in encampments on the side of the road.
We go to Hazel Hill Halting site, a government experiment in Traveller housing on the lower slopes of Dublin Mountains to talk with Helen Connors and Shirley Martin. We visit a “settled” woman and her daughter who design elaborate Traveller wedding gowns. We travel to Cahirmee Horse Fair in County Cork where young girls, with long hair spilling, parade and marriages are made. We listen to these young women, and their stories and explore some of the ancient and modern Traveller rituals clinging on the edge of the Celtic Boom.
In the 1950s, a group of Montgomery, Alabama women baked goods to help fund the Montgomery bus boycott. Known as the Club from Nowhere the group was led by Georgia Gilmore, one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights era. This story comes from Can Do: Portraits of Black Visionaries, Seekers, and Entrepreneurs, hosted by Alfre Woodard.
New Orleans stories from The Kitchen Sisters—including the world of unexpected, down home convict cooking at The Angola Prison Rodeo, an event that draws some seventy thousand people annually to this agricultural prison in a remote corner of the state. Tootie Montana, the legendary chief of chiefs of the Mardi Gras Indians tells of the African American Indian tradition of masking and parading. And stories of Tennessee Williams, the classic soul food Two Sisters cafe, the Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter, and an eloquent ode to the Mint Julep.
Our show today is in honor of the beloved poet C. D. Wright who unexpectedly passed away recently. We interviewed C. D. in 2009 as part of a story we produced for our Hidden World of Girls series on NPR. And like all of our stories there are hours and hours of tape behind every minute of what you hear in the final piece. So today we’re going to play our original story—a story of family, crime and the power of art to grapple with the unimaginable. And then we’re gonna let it roll. To hear CD read from her work and talk about life, poetry and her longtime collaboration and friendship with Deborah Luster.
In 1948, Bill Hawkins became Cleveland’s first black disc jockey. He had a jiving, rhyming style. People gathered on the street to watch him broadcast from a glass booth at the front of his record store. His popularity grew rapidly. Over the next decade Hawkins was heard on up to four different stations on the same day. He had plenty of imitators and influenced a whole generation of DJs. Hawkins also had something else – a son he never knew.
William Allen Taylor didn’t find out Hawkins was his father until he graduated from college. The two met once when Taylor was a teenager. At the time, Hawkins never hinted at who he was. And Taylor had no idea that he had met his father. Hawkins died before his son got to know him.
There are no known tapes of Hawkins. Taylor became an actor and playwright. He lives in San Francisco. But he’s always wished he had a recording of his father’s radio program or even just a snippet of his voice.
Before the availability of the tape recorder and during the 1950s, when vinyl was scarce, ingenious Russians began recording banned bootlegged jazz, boogie woogie and rock ‘n’ roll on exposed X-ray film salvaged from hospital waste bins and archives.
“Usually it was the Western music they wanted to copy,” says Sergei Khrushchev, son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. “Before the tape recorders they used the X-ray film of bones and recorded music on the bones, bone music.”
“They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole,” says author Anya von Bremzen. “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan — forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”
And we follow the making of X-ray recordings into the 21st century at Jack White’s Third Man Records in Nashville TN.
Produced by The Kitchen Sisters and Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible
“Somewhere in the world there’s a Tupperware Party starting every 10 seconds.” And we’re going to one with The Kitchen Sisters.
Parties. Rallies. Sales sessions. More than a way of storing leftovers in covered plastic bowls, for many it’s a way of life. Earl Tupper took the plastics he developed for WWII into post-war American kitchens. The Tupperware Party is one of the ways women have come together to swap recipes and kitchen wisdom, get out of the house and support each other’s entrepreneurial efforts.
This story, which is used by instructors teaching audio classes around the country, was produced by The Kitchen Sisters in 1980, one of the first stories they created together. In this podcast the Sisters deconstruct the making of the piece and talk about the experiments and accidents that led to the development of their production style.
We also hear from Tupperware historian Dr. Allison Clarke, Professor of Design Theory & History, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, and Tupperware consultant Lynn Burkhardt, and we hear vintage Tupperware ads from the Prelinger Archive—in a piece produced by Brandi Howell.
Nick Drake was a British singer songwriter from the early 1970s. His music has attracted a passionate, loyal following and influenced countless musicians. He’s often called a musician’s musician. But during his brief musical career he had little commercial success. Shy and private, Nick was never great on stage – but his guitar playing was brilliant and his songs were beautiful, melancholy, compelling. For years, he suffered from serious depression, and on November 25, 1974 he overdosed on anti-depressants. Thirty years after his death, Drake’s producer, Joe Boyd, gathered a group of musicians to pay tribute to Drake in a series of concerts and an accompanying record. In this episode of Fugitive Waves we go behind the scenes, into rehearsals, sound checks, and the making of Way to Blue: the Songs of Nick Drake.
Michael Baronowski was a 19-year-old Marine when he landed in Vietnam in 1966. He brought with him a reel-to-reel tape recorder and used it to record audio letters for his family back in Norristown, Pennsylvania. He was killed in action in 1967. Produced by Jay Allison & Christina Egloff as part of Lost & Found Sound.
When Sam Phillips sold Elvis’ contract in 1955 he used the money to start WHER, an all-girl radio station in Memphis, TN. In this episode we move from the pink plush studio in the Holiday Inn, with undies hanging on clotheslines in the lobby, into the 1960s and a new studio in the Mid-City building, Memphis. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, Vietnam, and the death of Martin Luther King—the story of WHER continues following the women who pioneered in broadcasting as they head into one of the most dramatic and volatile times in the nation’s history.
When Sam Phillips sold Elvis’ contract in 1955 he used the money to start an all girl radio station in Memphis, TN. Set in a pink, plush studio in the nations’ third Holiday Inn, it was a novelty—but not for long. He hired models, beauty queens, actresses, telephone operators. Some were young mothers who just needed a job. WHER was the first radio station to feature women as more than novelties and sidekicks. The WHER girls were broadcasting pioneers. From 1955 into the mid-1970s they ruled the airwaves with style, wit and imagination. “WHER was the embryo of the egg,” said Sam Phillips. “We broke a barrier. There was nothing like it in the world.”
April 1993: A small village in Sicily prepares for the first visit of 78-year-old baseball legend Joe DiMaggio to the town where his parents were born and raised. Fishermen, artisans, grandmothers — some 3,000 villagers brush up on The Yankee and Marilyn Monroe. Italian and American flags are strung from the buildings, two thousand baseballs are purchased for Joltin’ Joe to autograph. A feast of sea urchins, calamari, pasta sarda and marzipan is cooked in his honor. Nearly the entire annual budget of the town is spent preparing to celebrate the homecoming of the Yankee Clipper. The Mayor, the City Council, the Police Commissioner and hundreds of other Sicilian well wishers gather at the airport in Palermo waiting to greet their “native son”. But he never comes.
As construction commenced in 1968 on the largest building project since the pyramids, questions and controversies swirled around Lower Manhattan. How tall? Why two? What’s a slurry wall? A kangaroo crane? Where are the small businesses going to go? What’s a world trade center and who needs it anyway? Guy Tozzoli, the Port Authority visionary behind the building of the Twin Towers, had an inspiration—”Construction Guides.” Friendly co-eds in mini-skirt uniforms were posted at corner kiosks on the site to inform an inquiring public and put a pretty face on a controversial issue.
Robert King Wilkerson was imprisoned at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana for 31 years. Twenty-nine of those years he was in solitary confinement. During that time he created a clandestine kitchen in his 6×9 cell where he made pralines, heating the the butter and sugar he saved from his food tray over a tiny burner concocted from a Coke can and a toilet paper roll. King and two of his friends started a chapter of the Black Panthers in Angola Prison during the 1970s. King’s case was overturned in 2001 and he was released. He lectures around the world and makes candy — which he called Freelines — to bring attention to issues of prison reform and the plight of The Angola Three. King was living in New Orleans during Katrina, refused to leave his dog, and weathered the storm in his apartment. Two weeks in, his friends from Austin bought a boat and went in to get him.
Everyone in San Quentin calls him Wall Street. Curtis Carroll aka Wall Street teaches his fellow prisoners about stocks. Through friends and family on the outside, he invests and he’s also an informal financial adviser to fellow inmates and correctional officers.
When Wall Street was put in prison almost two decades ago he couldn’t read or write. One day he stumbled on the financial section of the newspaper thinking it was the sports section, which his cellie used to read to him. An inmate asked him if he played the stocks.
“I had never heard the word before,” says Wall Street. “He explained to me how it works and said, ‘This is where white people keep their money.’ When he said that I said, ‘Whoa, I think I stumbled across something here.’ ”
Wall Street taught himself how to read and write beginning with candy wrappers and clothing logos. Today he pores over financial news: the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes. Business is like a soap opera, he says, and he’s always trying to anticipate what will happen next. “I like to know what the CEO’s doing,” he says. “I like to know who’s in trouble.”
Wall Street doesn’t have access to a computer or the Internet, so he calls his family members to check the closing prices for the day, and he tells them what to buy.
“I’m in prison, but I’m on just the same playing field as Warren Buffett,” Carroll says. “I can pick the exact same companies. I can’t buy as many shares, but technically we’re just the same.”
The Braveheart Women’s Society, a group of Yankton Sioux grandmothers and tribal elders, have re-established an almost forgotten coming of age ritual for young girls—the Isnati, a four day traditional ceremony on the banks of the Missouri River in South Dakota. The girls learn to set up their own teepee, collect traditional herbs and flowers used for remedies. They are not allowed to touch food or feed themselves for four days; they are fed and given water by their mother or other women at the ceremony. They are being treated as babies for the last time in their lives. One of the grandmothers makes each girl a special dress. On the last day of the ceremony, the girls, one at a time, go into the teepee with their mother or their auntie who bathes them and dresses them and does their hair. The elder tells the girl stories about what she was like as a baby, how beautiful she is and about the hopes and promises for her future.The girls prepare sacred ceremonial food and feed their community. She’s given a new name and is presented to the the community as a woman.
Horses and dolphins and unicorns—creatures that possess the imagination of so many young girls—borderland creatures—gateway animals to other worlds. “They let us be cowgirls and oceanographers and mermaids and princesses, wizardessess.”
Willie Nelson and Dallas-born actress Robin Wright, along with some wild and extraordinary tellers, take us across Texas and share some of their hidden kitchen stories. Gas station tacos, ice houses, the birth of the Frito, the birth of 7-Eleven, the birth of the frozen margarita, and more.
John Steinbeck called it the “Mother Road.” Songwriter Bobby Troup described it as the route to get your kicks on. And Mickey Mantle said, “If it hadn’t been for Highway 66 I never would have been a Yankee.” For the Dust Bowl refugees of the 1930s, for the thousands who migrated after World War II, and for the generations of tourists and vacationers, Route 66 was “the Way West.”
Route 66, the first continuously paved highway linking east and west was the most traveled and well known road in America for almost fifty years. From Chicago, it ran through the Ozarks of Missouri, across Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, up the mesas of New Mexico and Arizona, and down into California to the Pacific Ocean. The first road of it’s kind, it came to represent America’s mobility and freedom—inspiring countless stories, songs, and even a TV show.
In part II of Route 66, Studs Terkel reads from “The Grapes of Wrath” and comments on the great 1930s migration along Highway 66. We hear from black and white musicians including Clarence Love, head of Clarence Love and his Orchestra, Woody Guthrie, and Eldin Shamblin, guitar player for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys—who remember life on the road for musicians during the 1930s. We travel the history of the road from its beginnings as “The Main Street of America,” through the “Road of Flight” in the 1930s, to the “Ghost Road” of the 1980s, as the interstates bypass the businesses and road side attractions of another era.
Produced by The Kitchen Sisters and narrated by actor David Selby.
The birth of the Main Street of America—songwriter Bobby Troup tells the story of his 1946 hit Get Your Kicks on Route 66; Gladys Cutberth, aka Mrs. 66 and members of the old “66 Association” talk about the early years of the road. Mickey Mantle explains “If it hadn’t been for US 66 I wouldn’t have been a Yankee.” Stirling Silliphant, creator of the TV series “Route 66” talks about the program and its place in American folklore of the 60s.
For Memorial Day — a portrait of life on the homefront during World War II featuring 4 women’s stories, rare home recorded letters sent overseas to soldiers, archival audio, music and news broadcasts from the era.
Theresa Sparks has lived more than one life. Born a guy’s guy, a man’s man, cowboy boots, motorcycles, a stint in the army, married his childhood sweetheart, kids, big successful business. But the truth was more complicated than that. In this episode one of San Francisco’s most respected and outspoken transgender activists tells her truth, that she was walking around in the wrong suit for 50 something years. “Transparent” years before the series saw the light of day.
The worlds of a young Canadian immigrant, an Italian pasta-making family, and a 70-year-old survivor of the Armenian Genocide converge in this story of the San Francisco Treat.
A Canadian women (Lois DeDomenico) marries an Italian immigrant (Thomas DeDomenico) whose family started Golden Grain Macaroni in San Francisco. Just after WWII the newlyweds rent a room from an old Armenian woman (Pailadzo Captanian) who teaches the young pregnant 18 year old woman how to cook. Yogurt, baklava, pilaf… After about 4 months the young couple move into their own place. A few years later, Lois’ brother-in-law is eating over at her house— looks down at the pilaf on his plate and pronounces: “This would be good in a box.” Prepared and packaged foods are just beginning to come on strong. They name it Rice-A-Roni.
During those hours in the kitchen the old Armenian woman cooks and tells the younger women the story of her life — her forced trek from Turkey to Syria, leaving her two young sons with a Greek Family, her husband’s murder, the birth of her baby along the way (his name means child of pain), the story of the genocide. Mrs. Captanian shows Lois a book she wrote in 1919, directly after her experiences—one of the only eye-witness accounts written at the time. Most were published 30-40 years later by survivors. This one was published in 1919 for the Paris Peace Talks in hopes that it would help provide context for the establishment of an Armenian state.
Potlucks, church picnics, fish fries, family reunions — during the 1930s writers were paid by the government to chronicle local food, eating customs and recipes across the United States. America Eats, a WPA project, sent writers like Nelson Algren, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, and Stetson Kennedy out to document America’s relationship with food during the Great Depression.
Eddie McCoy owned a janitorial service in Oxford, North Carolina, a tobacco town of some 10,000 people. When he was badly injured in a car wreck, frustrated and unable to work, a doctor told him, “Try using your head instead of your hands.” Eddie took his passion for local history and a scavenged cassette recorder from a trash can and began taping his town. Eddie records the who, what, when, where and why of slavery times, sharecropping, the civil rights era, and of who poured the first concrete in Oxford.
Produced by The Kitchen Sisters and Leda Hartman
In 2001, a quarter-century after boxing’s celebrated “Thrilla in Manila,” Ali and Frazier were once again poised to enter the ring. But this time it was the daughters of the legendary combatants scheduled to battle at the Turning Stone Casino on the Oneida Indian Nation in upstate New York. Laila Ali, 22-year-old daughter of Muhammad Ali; and Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde, 39-year-old daughter of Joe Frazier. The 2001 bout, broadcast on pay-per-view TV, was billed as “Ali vs. Frazier IV” —a continuation of the blood feud that fueled their fathers’ three title fights in the 1970s. A behind the scenes glimpse of the “Daughters of Destiny,” from the trash-talk of the press conferences to the sweat of the training camps.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a poem about them. Amy Tan’s mother was serenaded by them as she lay in state. Jessica Mitford’s memorial procession was led by them. And more than 300 Chinese families a year hire the Green Street Mortuary Band to give their loved ones a proper and musical send-off through the streets of Chinatown.The band traces its roots back to 1911 and the Cathay Chinese Boys Band, the first marching group in Chinatown.
In the early 1950s, at the same time legendary record producer Sam Phillips was making recordings of the pageants and events happening in Memphis’ white community—across town, R.A. Coleman, an African American photographer, was making recordings of the black community—weddings, church choirs, nightclubs and dance halls.
A look into the life of Taylor Negron—actor, comedian, and telephone message hoarder—told through the voicemails on his machine. We produced this piece with with Taylor’s dear friend producer Valerie Velardi in 1999 as part of the Lost & Found Sound series on NPR. Taylor died on January 10, 2015. We present this story in his honor.
Before Elvis walked through the door, before Sun Studios put Memphis on the map—Sam Phillips, a young man with a tape recorder, lived by the motto, “We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.” Weddings, funerals, marching bands, the Miss Memphis Pageant—Sam recorded them all—anything to keep his fledgling Memphis Recording Service open to record Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Little Junior, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley. The raw and rocking, unrecorded music of the 1950s South.
She rose every day at dusk and rehearsed, performed, ate and drank until dawn. Then slept all day, woke up and began to create and unravel again as the sun went down. Nearly every song Edith Piaf sang came from a moment of her life on the streets of Paris. She would tell her composer and musician lovers a story, or describe a feeling or show them a gesture and they would put music and words to her pain and passion, giving her back her own musical autobiography. Charles Aznavour, Francis Lai, Georges Moustaki, Henri Contet, some of France’s great musicians and writers recall their nights with Edith Piaf.
The Nights of Edith Piaf was Produced by The Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with Raquel Bitton, who hosts and translates the program.
Narrated by Andy Garcia. At the turn of the century until the 1930s in the cigar factories of Tampa and Ybor City, a well dressed man in a panama hat with a loud and beautiful voice sat atop a platform and read to the cigar workers as they rolled. These readers, known as Lectores de Tabaqueres, read Cervantes, Zola, Victor Hugo, Karl Marx, Jules Verne…. It was the voices and words of these lectores – before radio and mechanization, who informed, organized, and incited the cigar workers, who labored by hand until the 1930s, when both the rollers and readers were replaced by mechanization. A lost tradition of story and smoke.
Part 3 of the Hidden Kitchens World Trifecta with host Frances McDormand: Hidden Kitchens Russia, stories of the role of the kitchen in the downfall of the Soviet Union.
Part 2 of the Hidden Kitchens World Trifecta with host Frances McDormand and special guests Werner Herzog, Gael Garcia Bernal and Stories of Atomic Wine and The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.
A Hidden Kitchens World Podcast Trifecta with Frances McDormand and The Kitchen Sisters. In this episode Salman Rushdie talks about his Hidden Kitchen. We travel to Sicily for The Pizza Connection—a story of fighting the mafia through food. And on to England for the seldom heard saga of a small dog bred to run in a wheel that turned a roasting spit in medieval kitchens—The Turnspit Dog: The Rise and Fall of the Vernepator Cur.
Just about anytime we walk out of The Kitchen Sisters office in San Francisco we stop and stare in the windows of City Lights bookstore, soaking in the covers of the new arrivals. A while back, we were stopped in our tracks by a book of photographs of Patti Smith – Patti staring down the camera, holding a movie camera herself. It turns out Patti wasn’t just the muse of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the Sixties, she was also muse and model for Judy Linn, an art student and budding photographer in New York.
Paging through Patti Smith 1969-1976, we discovered Judy had that no only photographed Patti, she had made a little super-8 movies too, as the two young women created a world together. The movies were missing, but the soundtracks remained. Lost and found sound, we thought. Got to hear those recordings, got to meet that photographer. And we did. Fugitive Waves, Episode Number 7: Just Girls: The Hidden World of Patti Smith and Judy Linn.
The story of three pioneering river activists and the damming of wild rivers in the west. Ken Sleight, now in his late 80s, is a long time river and pack guide in southern Utah who fought the damming of Glen Canyon and filling of Lake Powell. The inspiration for Ed Abbey’s character Seldom Seen Smith in his book The Monkey Wrench Gang, Sleight is currently working on the campaign to remove Glen Canyon dam.
Katie Lee, born 1919, a former Hollywood starlet, ran the Colorado through Glen Canyon long before it was dammed and in 1955 was the 175th person to run the Grand Canyon. An outspoken conservationist, singer and writer, she has spent her life fighting for rivers.
Mark Dubois, co-founder of Friends of the River, Earth Day and International Rivers Network, began as a river guide who opened up rafting trips to disabled people in the 1970s. Dubois protested the damming and flooding of the Stanislaus River by chaining himself to a rock in the river as the water rose.
The Kitchen Sisters ride the nightshift with The Homobile. Homobiles is a non-commercial, volunteer, 24/7 ride service created by Lynne Breedlove for the LGBTQ+ community and others around San Francisco who feel the need for safe, dependable rides, outside traditional services. “Moes getting hoes where they needs to goes,” is their motto. Homobiles is for people who feel at risk because they don’t conform to sexual or gender norms and have been targets of rudeness or shame or violence, says Lynne. Homobiles is a network of independent drivers who pilot their own cars, a non-profit organization that caters to this underserved, and sometimes harassed community in the Bay Area. This community car service operates on donations. No one is turned away for lack of funds. Homobiles has been called “Uber for Drag Queens,” but with a mission that is social, not financial.
Shirley Temple died on February 10. 2014. Watching the parade of clips from her 1930s movies on TV that night brought back the magic she had as a child to delight and entertain. How many hours did we spend watching her tap her way through hard times and good?
It was actually Shirley Temple who triggered the story you’re about to hear. The year was 1999. I had been getting manicures for awhile at a Vietnamese nail shop in San Francisco from a woman named Shirley. Over the months I had come to know her a bit, she would ask about our radio shows, I would ask about her daughter Crystal. One day as we talked it occurred to me, why is this woman named Shirley? She is from Vietnam. There are no Shirley’s there.
When I asked how she came to be Shirley she told the most harrowing story of her passage to America as a young girl, her separation from her brother and mother as they escaped Vietnam by boat, how she washed ashore in America alone, sick and scared out of her mind, speaking no English.
She said in Vietnam her name was Hang, which means ‘Lonely woman looking at the moon.” Hang was hospitalized. In the hospital room she watched the black and white TV on the wall. Over and over she saw a little girl dancing, who was happy. She told herself she had to stop crying for her mother and brother. She was in America. She had to be happy too. Someone told her the little girl’s name was Shirley, Shirley Temple. So she took that name.
Shirley led us into her world. We spent months in Vietnamese nail salons, chronicling the lives of the women working there. Today we call this story “French Manicure: The Long Shadow of Shirley Temple”
The Kitchen Sisters take us to a little-known, hidden corner of London — to Eel Pie Island, a tiny slice of land in the middle of the Thames. Now a small bohemian community of artists, inventors, river gypsies and boat builders, on the edge of Twickenham, Eel Pie Island has a flamboyant history that stretches from Henry VIII to The Rolling Stones.
Eel Pie Island is produced by The Kitchen Sisters with Nathan Dalton, mixed by Jim McKee / The Hidden World of Kate McGarrigle, produced by the Kitchen Sisters
Fugitive Waves is produced by The Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with Tom Corwin
In 1947 Tennessee Williams and his lover Pancho stepped into a recording booth at a penny arcade in New Orleans and recorded 8 cardboard discs. Lost in a trunk under a friends bed for some 50 years, The Kitchen Sisters unearth these forgotten Pennyland Recordings and tell the story of Tennessee’s fugitive waves.
Fugitive Waves is produced by The Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with Tom Corwin and mixed by Jim McKee
Look around your daily life. There’s a little piece of Thomas Edison almost everywhere. Your desk lamp. That x-ray you got when you broke your arm. The battery in your car. The movie you saw last night. The recording of this story that you’re about to hear… Welcome to Fugitive Waves. Today, a story from our Lost & Found Sound series on NPR, The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall and Rise of Thomas Alva Edison.
Fugitive Waves is produced by The Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with Tom Corwin and mixed by Jim McKee