Food History

This Museum Wants Your Family Photos and Recipes

December 14, 2017

Kaoutar is a baker at the downtown Manhattan restaurant, Russ + Daughters. She came to the U.S. from Morocco and, though she works in a kitchen every day, misses the flavors of the country she continues to call home. So Kaoutar found comfort in couscous: Every Saturday or Sunday, she gathers her Moroccan friends to delight in the joy of making and eating couscous, a tasty palliative for homesickness.

This is just one of the many stories gathered in the Tenement Museum's new online archive, Your Story, Our Story. The digital space provides a home for the accounts of immigrants to the U.S. and their families.

The website functions like a crowdsourced storytelling platform with photographs, essays, and audio recordings. The museum partnered with other museums nationwide to amass personal histories, and then organized them across a variety of themes. Visitors to the site can filter anecdotes by category (religion, work, food), relationship (first generation, second generation) or theme (holiday, arrival, immigration process).

Shop the Story

Your Story, Our Story takes the message of the Tenement Museum beyond its physical walls, inspiring Americans throughout the country to discover the shared immigration and migration experiences that bind us, no matter where we came from or how long we’ve been here," said Kevin Jennings, President of the Tenement Museum in an online press release. “Whether your family is first-generation American or fifth, whether you know a lot or very little about your forebears, anyone can contribute and help us put together a more complete picture."

I recommend taking a peek through the online archive yourself. The food section is rich with recipes and anecdotes that celebrate heritage, history, and home. I’m particularly enchanted by the early recollection of watching a father use a tostone smasher, or this description of sambusak, a cheese- or meat-filled turnover made by the author's Syrian Jewish grandmother on the Sabbath.

At Food52, we’re big believers in the function of food as vessels of memory, receptacles for family histories otherwise forgotten. The Tenement Museum’s project is a welcome initiative, particularly around the holiday season, as families look inward and cook a lot more! Peruse through Your Story, Our Story when you have a moment, and contribute a story, recipe, image of your own.

Do you have your own immigration story? Share it with us in the comments.

Listen Now

On our new weekly podcast, two friends separated by the Atlantic take questions and compare notes on everything from charcuterie trends to scone etiquette.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.