Postcard Press Picks:
No Passport Required
This week’s Postcard Press Pick is No Passport Required, a new series on PBS that seeks to explore and understand America’s immigrant communities through food. With the current refugee and immigrant crises, this is a timely and relevant series celebrating those who have chosen to call America home. It’s also an excellent reminder that you may not have to go far to experience another culture.
Drawing inspiration from Anthony Bourdain and his brand of cultural and culinary travel, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson is taking Bourdain’s idea of breaking bread with people as a way of learning about “culture, accents, work ethics, and so many things.” As Samuelsson notes, “Tony was a master of this and bringing us to new countries we would never have been exposed to. This show has a lot of that but we focus on American.”
He also draws on his own unique, immigrant experience of having been born in Ethiopia then adopted and raised in Sweden before coming to America to further his career. His love of food and genuine interest in the stories of those his meets makes him a worthy successor.
In the first episode of No Passport Required, which can be streamed on PBS.com and Eater.com, Samuelsson visits the diverse Arab community of Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan. As the show notes, this metro area is home to the largest population of Arabs outside of the Middle East. With visits to both local restaurants and home kitchens, the viewer meets a range of families and individuals from recently-arrived Syrian refugees to Iraqi refugees and immigrants who have called the US home since the 90s to a Lebanese-immigrant family who has been here for more than half a century and many others.
The show places a special emphasis on how immigrant communities use their food, culture, and shared histories to gently assimilate into the American way-of-life, avoiding a culture shock that could hinder their success in the long run. But at the same time, it’s clear how important these communities are to the fabric of America—many in this community are business owners helping to create jobs—and how much they come to love their adopted country. As the patriarch of the Lebanese family explains, “I’m more American than Lebanese by far … I’m as American as apple pie and Chevrolet.”
Upcoming episodes of No Passport Required will feature the Vietnamese community of New Orleans, the Guyanese community of New York City, the Mexican community of Chicago, the Ethiopian community of Washington, DC, and the Haitian community of Miami. Check out episodes every Tuesday at 9 PM EST on your local PBS station or streaming on PBS.com or Eater.com.
- If you’re looking for more food shows to satisfy your culinary wanderlust, check out our past pick for Somebody Feed Phil.
Do you have any immigrant communities near you? If so, what have you learned from their culinary traditions? Let us know below!