Just a week ago I had one the best nights ever around New York! It was my 3rd time in Brooklyn and I had the honour of being invited to participate in the Chow x Mundo Event organized by MOFAD (Museum Of Food And Drink).
A few months ago the amazing human being, Simone Jacobson, asked me if I would be interested in participating in a panel to talk about Food History in Barrio Chinos (Chinatown in Panama). I was extremely flattered and said that of course I would!
The day arrived, and I took the train all the way to Brooklyn to participate in this event. Knowing ahead of time that everyone in the panel were experts (professors/chef), I was very nervous. I’m used to supporting my boss and/or my friends at events when THEY participate.
For the past 5 years I have rarely said anything in front of an audience or in front of a camera, but in 2019 this is going to change. Since I do have a lot to say when it comes food, I’m so glad I went to Brooklyn.
It started with a warm welcome, where we were all introduced as if we were old friends. It really felt that way and that feeling stayed throughout the evening.
The team at MOFAD did a great job setting the mood and the kitchen staff did a fantastic job cooking and plating the dishes for the evening. For a moment it felt as if I was back in Panama because of the environment: a happy and tight melting pot of good people collaborating on a project we all feel very passionate about. I used to organize and participate in a lot of such cultural & gastronomic events back in Panama. I’ve missed this so much!
Meeting Professor Lok Siu was incredible and I can’t wait to read her book Memories of a Future Home: Diasporic Citizenship of Chinese in Panama. I have so much to learn about the Chinese community in Panama and thanks to Professor Siu and through a few contacts my sister has shared with me, it’s going to be a fascinating adventure to learn all I can about this subject.
Professor Siu gave a short, but deep talk about Chinese Migrants in the US that came from Latin American countries. Now I am very curious to try restaurants with Peruvian & Chifa foods, also restaurants that offer different menus eg. Caribbean with Chinese. I know in my over 10 years of living in this country I have seen such options, it just never dawned on me that this was probably a result of a Chinese family who migrated from a Latino country.
Then was Carlos Olaechea, who did a Lomo Saltado cooking demo, but with Tofu and it was delicious! Carlos talked about Chifa Cuisine which he mentioned Peruvians consider just as Peruvian Cuisine, not Chinese-Peruvian, but Chifa! If I wanted to travel to Peru before, he certainly made me crave this trip even more!
Lastly we had our panel on ‘The Socio-Cultural Importance of Chino-Latino Restaurants’; we got to hear from Chef Guillermo Hung and his restaurant Pao Cha Cha in Astoria, Queens. You should check out his video on being a Chino Latino, what a personality he is!
On the panel was also professor Jason Oliver Chang talking on the delicate history of Mexicans and Chinese back in 1880-1940, I myself have bookmarked his book for future reading: Chino: Anti-Chinese Racism in Mexico, 1880-1940.
The last one to participate on the panel was professor Kathleen Lopez, who brought a light into the conversation in regards to the difficult past among Chinese and Latinos by painting a picture of the lovely experience in el Barrio Chino in Cuba and so many anecdotes, this is the last book from I’ve added to my list:Â Chinese Cubans: A Transnational History (North Carolina 2013).
The event also included salsa dancing, delicious food, tons of smiles, exchanges of knowledge, and anecdotes. I finally had to leave before it ended since I had to run to Manhattan and catch my Amtrak back home.
I thank the folks at MOFAD, specially Simon Jacobson, for making me feel so welcomed to their museum family and for sharing this space with me to voice my thoughts and experiences. I will forever treasure that evening.