I recently came across this multimedia composition by the New Yorker artist and children’s book author Maira Kahlman: And The Pursuit of Happiness. I’ve described it as the perfect anthem for my Digital Media Literacy Slow Food Movement Movement.
Ultimately, Kahlman believes a democracy would insure access to nutritious foods for all. Our democratic ideals would be reflected in our ability to appreciate where that food comes from and the degree to which we take the time to enjoy meals together. Slowly.
I knew Kahlman first as the creator of wildly colorful and uniquely lettered children’s books like “Hey Willy See the Pyramids” and “Sayonara Mrs. Kackleman.” I thought she was also the author of “How Pizza Came to Queens,” which was published at around the time of those early Kahlman books.
Turns out I was wrong.
Dayal Kaur Khalsa, the actual author of “How Pizza Came to Queens,” created a beautiful tale that captured my adult imagination. As a kid who grew up in Queens and who ate a LOT of pizza, I was astounded by the overlooked obvious notion that some idenitifiable individual could be responsible for introducing an iconic food into our culture. It helped that the story was also beautiful and colorful.
I loved that the main character, Mrs. Pelligrini, given the chance, unrolls her prized rollling pin just before making pizza with the two children in the story. It reminded me of the display cases at the Ellis Island museum in which what immigrants brought with them is showcased. In many instances those making the long arduous journey to this country carried with them cooking utensils. Will they have samovars? How will will I find the right cast-iron pots? I cannot part with my rolling pin! I imagine the would-be immigrants saying to themselves as they choose what to bring and what to leave behind.
These cooking utensils provided the means for meeting basic survival needs, yes. But they also represented the transplanting of culture, the underpinnings of new communities, the beginning of a reshaping of the country in which they would land.
Until pizza could become so ubiquitous and readily available that a Korean-American kid from Queens would find it unimaginable that it was ever different.