Recipe for Revolution


From the beginnings of their creation restaurants and taverns have been the cradles of political and social revolution. There are thousands of historic pubs, taverns, restaurants, dives and diners where you can experience history first hand with a pint to wash it down.

Founded in 1728, the Red Fox Inn and Tavern housed presidents and Revolutionary War heroes, was a medical center for the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and has attracted famed guests like Jackie Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor. The tavern looks as it might have in the 18th century, with thick stone walls, large fireplaces, beamed low ceilings and long oak tables. The menu changes seasonally but features old Southern classics like fried chicken, crab cakes and peanut soup.

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From the early part of the 20th Century until the 1950’s restaurants were black or white only. From the 1940’s to the 1960’s ‘sit-in” were a common form of protest of the “separate but equal” laws. The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) conducted sit-ins as early as the 1940s. Ernest Calloway refers to Bernice Fisher as “Godmother of the restaurant ‘sit-in’ technique.”  Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) labor delegates had a brief, spontaneous lunch counter sit-in during their 1947 Columbus, Ohio convention. In one of the earliest sit-ins of the American Civil Rights Movement, the “Royal Seven,” a group of three women and 4 men from Durham, NC sat in at the Royal Ice Cream Parlor on June 23, 1957 to protest practices of segregation. The activists were arrested and charged with trespassing. Their efforts are now recognized via historical markers in the town of Durham, North Carolina

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Also in the early in the 20th century, many restaurants became bastions of the underground by serving up bootlegged booze. In Chehalis, you can visit one such place – McMemmamin’s Olympic Club. Built in 1913, this storied hostelry was long known as the Oxford Hotel, who’s history is brimming with tales of bandits, bootleggers, bars and brothels.

If you think that the days of food protest are past, think again.

In 1986 McDonalds dared to tread on the most Holy of Italian Holies – food. When they attempted to opened a restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome, all hell broke loose and the Slow Food movement was founded. Their manifesto was signed in Paris in 1989 and numerous publications are put out by the organization, in several languages. In the US, the Snail is the quarterly of choice, while Slow Food puts out literature in several other European nations. Recent efforts at publicity include the world’s largest food and wine fair, the Salone del Gusto in Turin, a biennial cheese fair in Bra called Cheese, the Genoan fish festival called SlowFish, and Turin’s Terra Madre (“Mother Earth”) world meeting of food communities.

Today, as I was browsing through the news I found that the food movement is alive and well in, of all places, Africa:

Ahmed Jama was running a successful Somali cafe in southwest London when he decided it was time to go home. Against the urgent advice of friends, he returned to Mogadishu three years ago and started cooking. Jama epitomizes the spirit of rebirth in the city that has been brutalized by 21 years of civil war. As expatriates return to take their homeland back from warlords, terrorists and looters, Jama is doing his part to revive Mogadishu one prawn at a time.

On the night of Sept. 20, a crowd was enjoying tea and political gossip at his eatery in central Mogadishu across from the National Theater, when two men wearing explosive vests blew themselves up in the dining room. The blasts killed 14 people — including three Somali journalists — and injured 20. Jama knew all the customers who were casualties. The suicide bombers were thought to be connected to al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group opposed to the Western-backed government of Somalia.

Courage indeed. On Nov. 3., the terrorists returned. That Saturday afternoon, two more suicide bombers tried to force their way into the restaurant where these interviews were conducted. When they wouldn’t agree to the pat-down required of all customers, a gunfight broke out with security guards outside the entrance. Then they detonated their bombs. Jama’s guards were injured, but only the bombers died. The workers cleaned up the blood and body parts and repainted the steel gate. Three hours later, the restaurant reopened.

(to read the whole article go to http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/11/26/164091836/at-his-own-risk-somali-chef-creates-gourmet-haven-in-war-weary-mogadishu)

Somali Sambusa

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  • 1 (14 ounce) package spring roll wrappers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef or other meat of your choice
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon water, or as needed
  • 1 quart oil for frying
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, leek and garlic, and cook, stirring until the onions are transparent. Add ground beef, and cook until about halfway done. Season with cumin, cardamom, salt and pepper. Mix well, and continue cooking until beef has browned.
  2. In a small dish or cup, mix together the flour and water to make a thin paste. Using one wrapper at a time, fold into the shape of a cone. Fill the cone with the meat mixture, close the top, and seal with the paste. Repeat until wraps or filling are used up.
  3. Heat the oil to 365 degrees F ( 170 degrees C) in a deep-fryer or deep heavy pot. There should be enough oil to submerge the wraps. Fry the Sambusa a few at a time until golden brown. Remove carefully to drain on paper towels.  – from allrecipes.com
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