Join us as we close out our program year with our Fall Conversation

Monday, November 15
7:00 pm ET
via Zoom (register below for link)


How Has Food Mended Cambridge?

Over the course of 2021, History Cambridge has been exploring the ways in which the city has repaired its social, economic, and political fabric in the wake of historical crisis points—as well as the ways in which the need for mending remains. As a means of both physical and emotional nourishment, food has played a central part in the creation of family and community ties in the city. In this program we will examine the ways in which the proliferation of restaurants serving Asian, African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisine impacted Cambridge in the 20th century. To what extent did the presence of these restaurants create a deeper awareness of the struggles and contributions of immigrants to the city? How did the act of eating “new” types of food affect how Cantabrigians thought about the political climate of the 20th century?

We will be joined in this program by Stephen Chen, son of famed Cambridge chef Joyce Chen and the Owner and President of Joyce Chen Foods, Dr. Merry White, Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, Dr. Megan Alias, Director of the Gastronomy Program at Boston University, and Gus Rancatore, Cambridge restaurateur and author. Together they will discuss the ways in which Cambridge’s restaurant community was changed by the emergence of a variety of diverse cuisines over the past century, examining the ways in which food has served as a means of connection and how it has, at times, fallen short of this goal. The panel presentation will be followed by Q&A with the audience for a deeper exploration of the role of foodways in mending Cambridge.

Stephen Chen is son of famed Cambridge chef Joyce Chen and the Owner and President of Joyce Chen Foods. Founded in 1958 and based on the standards and recipes of Joyce Chen, an innovator of northern-Chinese cuisine, Joyce Chen Foods manufactures and distributes healthy innovative Asian sauces, condiments and more. Born and raised in Cambridge, Stephen Chen is dedicated to preserving and sharing his mother’s legacy in the city’s culinary history.

Merry (“Corky”) White is Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, with specialties in Japanese studies, food, and travel. A caterer prior to entering graduate school, she has written two cookbooks, one of which—first published in the mid-1970s—was recently reissued by Princeton University Press. Her current project is Don’t Tell the Kinder, a family history of art and rescue in the exhibition, “Try All What is Possible”: How Emil Singer’s Art Saved Lives, 1936-1942.

Megan Elias is a historian and gastronomist whose work and research explores the rich history of food and culture through prisms of food writing, markets, and home economics. In addition to developing curricula and producing online courses, Dr. Elias has designed and taught classes in the areas of food studies, food in world history, American women’s history, and African-American history. Elias is the author of Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture (2017) as well as other books, book chapters, and articles about food history.

Gus Rancatore is the co-founder of Toscanini, the Cambridge-based shop that The New York Times says makes “the best ice cream in the world.” 

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