A Unique Culinary Blend– Only in America

In 2006, following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, New Orleans was a ghost town. In the 9th Ward, houses stood empty as the families who had lived in them for generations fled, were rescued from, or were lost in the surge of water as it breached the levees.

Following the 1975 Fall of Saigon, thousands of Vietnamese refugees settled throughout the United States. Here in the Pacific Northwest it was a tough process to find homes. In New Orleans; the story was no different. In the Parish of Versailles, the Vietnamese took to fishing, shrimping and other industries in the region. The communities they built up relied heavily on community cohesion and creating systems of support.

Following the Hurricanes, Versailles, also affected by the storm surge that hit the 9th Ward, looked considerably different. As the news reports warned of a coming catastrophe, the community stayed put and protected each other rather than evacuate.

On a torridly humid, sweaty March afternoon, a group of African American leaders sat down, most for the first time, in the backyard of their Vietnamese American neighbors and shared in the most aromatic meal that combined Vietnamese spicing with traditional and famous dishes made famous by the legends of New Orleans cuisine. On the table was:

A pot of Gumbo ‘liquor’: This is the excess liquid from the actual gumbo pot that is rich with the flavors of crawfish, shrimp, cayenne peppers and file’.

A Shrimp boil: Infused with anise, black pepper, Zatarain’s seafood seasoning, garlic, potatoes and corn and dumped onto the table atop newspaper.

Bunh: Cold rice noodles topped with crawfish, cilantro, pickled radish and peanuts.

For everyone at the table it was everything they knew, and a world of things they had never considered. The afternoon was spent sharing their experiences in trying to rebuild, sharing skills and knowledge about how to do it.

Food is often the first way to try and connect students to other cultures. How likely are they to connect food to the richness of their own culture?

Here is the story of Anh Luu, a chef who has taken this melding of flavors and created her own take on the cuisine.

Questions we can ask of our students:

  • How do we expect to see Americans of different ethnic backgrounds adopt or incorporate aspects of an “Americanized” lifestyle?
  • What styles of cuisine are combined in Anh’s cooking?
  • How does Anh describe herself; her identity; connection with family?
  • What is the importance of hearing Anh describe her own experience?




Lost Story of “Citizen Kahn” (from the New Yorker)

Citizen Kahn
Zarif Khan, a.k.a. Hot Tamale Louie, arrived in small-town Wyoming in 1909 and eventually became a local legend.ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVER MUNDAY

Memory is a fickle thing.

“Hot Tamale Louie was the son of nobody knows who, the grandson of nobody knows who, and the great-great-grandson of nobody knows who. He had been selling tamales in Sheridan since Buffalo Bill rode in the town parade, sold them when President Taft came to visit, was still selling them when the Russians sent Sputnik into space and the British sent the Beatles to America.

By then, Louie was a local legend, and his murder shocked everyone.”

How quickly the town forgot that he was Muslim and a cherished neighbor.

Attempting to Close a “Gene-race-nal” Gap

From the San Francisco Chronicle: June 12, 2016

Letters Home: Asian Americans in Support of Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

“Dear Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother: We need to talk. You may not have grown up around people who are black, but I have. Black people are a fundamental part of my life: they are my friends, my classmates and teammates, my roommates, my family. Today, I’m scared for them.”

So begins a powerful letter involving hundreds of Asian American collaborators from across the country in support of the Black Lives Matter, co-written in the aftermath of last week’s fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers.”

Check out the actual letter here. There is a companion video as well.


“From a Docent” Blog: Our Ed Team’s Way of Talking Off Hours

From a Docent HeaderOne might think after talking history, social studies, immigration policy and more to and thousands (and thousands) of visitors each year, the Education Team might take a break and do something else with their lives. We do– but we also obsessively help each other out.
Our internal blog connects each interpretive guide with resources, ideas, storytelling techniques as a means of peer-to-peer learning. It gives us a chance to continually expand the canvases on which we paint the nuances of history. Lately, it seems the New Yorker has had a lot of relevant articles and essays. By no means is this an endorsement of that publication– but they have been doing their part to continue discussions of race, culture, ethnicity and gender pertaining to Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.
Here’s a good example of what we share with each other… “Surrendering”


Examining the Four Freedoms of FDR on WNYC


Quick Post: Listen to John Hockenberry in a series exploring the Four Freedoms as defined by FDR in January 1941 as:

  • Freedom of speech

    1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his State of the Union Address which includes his detailing of the Four Freedoms.
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom from want
  • Freedom from fear

Not only did this State of the Union Address create, in a way. a new foreign relations doctrine as he presented them, it was seen by  and is still seen by many as a FDR’s doctrine for life in the United States.


How and where does FDR’s speech reach Asian Americans? Has the nation lived up to the promise of being free from fear? The irony is not lost on the reader of history, nor the guests Mr. Hockenberry invites to the studio.


Fast forward to time 25:14  to hear from Japanese American ceramicist Setsuko Winchester:



Taking On the Bully #3: How We Unintentionally Support The Bully

As good as our intentions may be, the way we address Bullying Post.3bullying may actually encourage more bullying.

When two children at recess get into an altercation, a bully and the student they repeatedly target, we see teachers or administrators place the two of them in a room for mediation. This often communicates that little to no discipline will occur and the bully can repeat his or her actions. Sometimes this sends a signal to other students that they may be able to get away with the same level of bullying. For the child targeted by the bully, it may signal that they have little to no support from teachers and school administrators. For other students being bullied, it can send the message that it doesn’t make a difference to ask for help.

This document from helps highlight how we should all be aware of the results of our good intentions.


Taking On The Bully #2

“When children are singled out because of a shared characteristic — such as race, sexual orientation, or religion — or a perceived shared characteristic, the issue not only affects that individual but the entire community. Policymakers believe that AAPI students who are bullied face unique challenges, including religious, cultural, and language barriers. In addition, there has been a spike of racial hostility following the September 11 attacks against children perceived to be Muslim. The classroom should be the safest place for youth, but for some AAPI students, it can be a very dangerous environment.

— Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Here is a video of Former NFL Wide Receiver and former member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Hines Ward telling his story– of overcoming bullying and his experience growing up as a multiracial boy. When students make the connection that anyone can be bullied and that anyone can overcome it, they are better able to speak up or speak out about their own experiences or those of their friends.

For more on the #ActToChange movement from the White House Initiative on AAPIs (Asian American Pacific Islanders) go to