How do we explain who we are?
As we launch the final episode of Perspectives Season 2, Monica Berg introduces us to our contributors, and lays out how food and drink play a role in our identities
Developing our identity as individuals is a lifelong journey. So many factors play into that process: the places we visit, the languages we learn, the people we cross paths with, to name a few. But one thing that is often forgotten is the impact of the food and drink traditions we grow up with. How much of our identity is linked to what we eat and drink?
How much of our identity is linked to what we eat and drink?
For some of us, food and drink are a way to connect with our culture, family or personal experiences. For example, I often feel closer to my childhood memories when I eat or drink something that reminds me of Norway, whether it’s tilslørte bondepiker, lingonberries or cloudberries. Or even when someone brings me Norwegian chocolate at the bar (it’s the best in the world, by the way).
Other times, meeting up with friends for a meal makes you feel a sense of community and belonging, which in today’s hectic environment is incredibly important.
Identity, people and places
This episode of Perspectives, ‘How did we get here?’, is dedicated to exploring the connection between ourselves and the flavours we’re surrounded by, and how they stay with us even when we move. Our relationship with them might change – but our flavour identities are uniquely intertwined with what makes us, well, us.
Our flavour identities are uniquely intertwined with what makes us, well, us.
In New York, GN Chan and Faye Chen– two very successful bartenders turned bar owners – have combined their native Taiwanese heritage with their uniquely diverse Lower East Side surroundings, resulting in their acclaimed bar Double Chicken Please. Drinks are inspired by iconic dishes which are then deconstructed, redefined and rebuilt in liquid form – but they have also brought along their philosophy around teambuilding, running service and the important elements of operating a successful bar.
Questioning for change
As much as we can impact the flavours and ingredients we work with, equally important is to question the environments we surround ourselves in – and the systems we work with. As bartenders, or members of the drinks industry, we should never be afraid to question practices – even when they are deep-rooted systems such as employment, tips, minimum wage. Why? Because if we don’t speak up when something is wrong, nothing will ever change.
Kyisha Davenport, founder of BarNoirBoston and GM & beverage director of Comfort Kitchen, spends a lot of time working to address unequal access, education, and progress for Boston’s Black hospitality workers. It’s incredibly important to allow individuals to bring their heritage and experiences into their work, and encourage self-expression – not just in our flavours, but also our language.
If we don’t speak up when something is wrong, nothing will ever change.
We are only beginning to scratch the surface of all the wonderful notions that make us who we are, as bartenders, drink professionals and a wider hospitality community – and I’m excited for the discovery that lies ahead.