Wednesday, February 29, 2012

'The World in a Skillet' Cookbook Features Four Immigrants to Nashville

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Nashville is a different place than it was 25 years ago. A modest influx of immigrants has always been drawn here (the attractions of our universities and the efforts of local charities get some of the credit), but the number and diversity have broadened noticeably in the last two decades. Even my little neighborhood, which is easily overlooked and has a low incidence of residents moving in or out, includes African, Korean and Pakistani families.

The World in a Skillet: A Food Lover's Tour of the New American South(UNC Press, $35), by Memphis-based food writers Paul and Angela Knipple, gives a look inside the foodways of some of the people bringing their foods and traditions to Southern cities and towns.

Four of Nashville's immigrant food purveyors get a chance to tell their stories. Some are already well known in restaurant circles, including Memet Arslan and his Istanbul restaurant, and Hamid Hassan and his House of Kabob.

I especially enjoyed the story of Rauf Ary of Tara International Market (located at Nolensville and Thuss). He tells the Knipples that he was a master electrician before 9/11, but as the only Muslim on his crew, he found the atmosphere too tense to stay at his job. He bought the market from the previous owner, and foodists know it as a source for natural goat, beef, chicken and lamb.

Finally, Mahir Ahmad of Mazi International Market (Elysian Fields Court) shares a recipe for Kurdish Chicken and Rice Soup, which points up my favorite aspect of the book — its recipes. From feijoada to cabbage rolls to plantains in peanut sauce to Vietnamese pickled mustard greens to mapo tofu, there's a lot of good coming from the "skillet" of the book's title.

From African food in Virginia to Bosnian in Georgia and Vietnamese in New Orleans, the Knipples document other clusters of first-generation immigrants, but also pioneers, settling where there are no other people like themselves. It's an important document of this moment in the South's culinary development, but also the compelling stories of the immigrants themselves as they gradually become part of the fabric of the region.

The World in a Skillet: A Food Lover's Tour of the New American South by Paul Knipple and Angela Knipple, foreword by John T. Edge (University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

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