Hidden Kitchens is a new series of sound-rich stories on NPR's Morning Edition that explores the world of street-corner cooking, hidden kitchens, legendary meals and eating traditions — how communities come together through food. Each Friday morning from Oct. 1, 2004, until the end of the year, listeners will travel the country with the Hidden Kitchens project as we visit and chronicle all kinds of American kitchen cultures, past and present. A mobile, rolling night kitchen that appears on the empty street outside a cab yard in San Francisco, where Janette cooks Brazilian food for the more than 400 cabbies from her hometown in Brazil. Community cooking rituals — all night, all men's buffalo roasts, a 100-year-old tradition in North Dakota. Homeless kitchens, secret civil rights kitchens, test kitchens, NASCAR kitchens, freighter foods on Lake Erie, hidden restaurants tucked in car washes and in houses to feed new immigrant communities — tiny kitchen economies that reflect the way people live and adapt in 21st-century America. An eclectic gathering of people who find it, grow it, cook it, sell it, celebrate with it and think about it.
Created by The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) and Jay Allison, this new nationwide collaboration includes radio producers, neighborhood cooks and "old stoves," street vendors, grandmothers, foragers, anthropologists, butchers, kitchen pioneers and visionaries, public radio listeners and more.
In July we asked NPR listeners to call in and tell us about their hidden kitchens and rituals. Hundreds of you have called NPR's Hidden Kitchens Hotline to tell us stories and provide leads — chickens roasted on the welding rods at a shipyard; a girl who put herself through college cooking for an 80-year-old man, who taught her about John Cage and philosophy as they shared meals together; Head Start kitchens; soup kitchens; people who glean the harvest and feed the hungry; Nevada test site kitchens; a man in solitary confinement who made pralines in his prison kitchen; Cajun cooks, Navajo cooks, Russian cooks; people who tend and feed their communities in backyards and community halls; and much more. These are stories that make you think about community in new ways.
Support for Hidden Kitchens
Funding for this series is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for The Arts , the National Endowment for the Humanities, and listener contributions to The Kitchen Sisters Productions. Special thanks to member station KQED in San Francisco.
Countless individuals and organizations have inspired and contributed to these stories. Here are but a few. The list will keep growing as the series unfolds.
Chris Strachwitz & Arhoolie Records: Our Hidden Kitchens theme music comes from the Arhoolie CD, Csokolom. It's a fragment from track number 13, "Eddig Vedeg." Most of the music you'll hear in the series comes from this vernacular record company, which has been recording and preserving America's "hidden musicians" for over 40 years. Check out their Arhoolie.com or even better, wander into their store in El Cerrito, Calif. That's what we did, and we've never been the same. Chris was one of the first to record Flaco Jimenez, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Clifton Chenier and Sacred Steel music. You name it, he's recorded it — and eaten the food that surrounds the tradition it comes from.