When I first gravitated toward writing about food and immigration to the United States as an ostensibly serious academic, colleagues asked me—and, frankly, I asked myself—the obvious question. Why food? Food perhaps lacked the gravitas and significance of subjects like political, labor or immigration history.
An hour or two before kickoff on the night of August 15, 1969, a rookie quarterback named James Harris noticed a well-dressed man about a foot shorter than him approaching through the tunnel beneath Detroit’s Tiger Stadium. His 5-foot-4 height notwithstanding, the man was a former NFL running back named Buddy Young. More to the point of this encounter, Young was now the first black executive in the league’s front office.
For a time, most likely between the ages of 5 and 8, I floated around with a secret: a dogged yet utterly erroneous notion that my family spoke a second language—on my mother’s side at least.