Folklife Friday is a weekly digest of arts and culture articles, podcasts, and videos from across the web. Read on for a selection of the week’s best cultural heritage pieces, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for a new set of weekly picks.
Shabbat in Zimbabwe
In her cookbook Stella’s Sephardic Table, Stella Hanan draws on years of history to arrive at “a repository for her community’s language and culture, translated through its cuisine.” In this feature, Andrew Harris takes a closer look at some of the delectable dishes that color her Shabbat table: grape leaves stuffed with meat, okra served with fresh tomatoes, and crescent-shaped biscuits drizzled with honey. “I feel akin to the family that perished. I feel that what we’ve been through, our migration, our journey, it speaks volumes,” Hanan says. “Do you know about the Sephardim? Do you know who we are? Have you tasted our food? Just that feels that I’ve contributed to perpetuating their memory.”
Portrait of a Place: Desula
In Desulo, Sardinia, traditional woven dresses—garments embroidered with luscious flowers and vibrant stitching—tell stories of life, death, and place. “Each stitch, every piece of fabric, all the colors talk about me,” one community member explains. “Red like embers when I got married, black like coal after I became a widow.” In this spellbinding video, Andrea Pecora takes as his subject these dresses and their place in carrying forward decades-old traditions. “In every dress I see a life, and in every life, a story.”
Ever Heard of Burmese Sushi Counters? You’ve Probably Been to One
“Sometimes one immigrant breaks through in a big way and creates opportunity for a lot of other people.” Philip Maung is one such immigrant and, as Miriam Jordan writes here, his journey from chaos-ridden Myanmar to sleeping in his car to owning a chain of sushi counters was a trying one. “It was a tough sell,” Jordan reports. “‘Sushi? Give me a break,’ he recalled being told. ‘Americans like pizza and fried chicken.’” Today, his franchise Hissho Sushi has counters in more than 1,100 locations in 41 states, training fellow Burmese “to slice salmon and tuna at just the right angle, making perfectly round rolls stuffed with avocado and cucumber.”
Japan’s Yanagiya – Is This the Best Restaurant on the Planet?
In his new book The Meaning of Rice: And Other Tales from the Belly of Japan, Michael Booth surveys Japan’s rich culinary landscape. In this article, he reflects on his visit to Yanagiya, one of the country’s top ranked restaurants—one divided into private rooms, punctuated by charcoal pyramids, and framed by tatami floors. “Yanagiya swaddled us in its convivial embrace, fed us delicious things,” Booth writes, “and sent us out into the night sated, content and with memories to savour.”
Coming to America: The Making of the South Asian Diaspora in the United States
“What explains this dramatic reversal of fortune for Indian Americans?” It’s a question Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur, and Nirvikar Singh pose in their new book The Other One Percent: Indians in America. In this essay, Namit Arora reviews the work, tracing the roots of the South Asian diaspora in the process. Reflecting on the Indian government’s investment in public higher education in the 1960s, the One Percent authors argue, “The success of Indian Americans arose not from some imprecise ‘psychological’ characteristics, but from the fact that they were selected to succeed.”
Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough and to Michael Atwood Mason and Marjorie Hunt for their contributions to this week’s digest.