Sisters, Radio Stars, Food Lovers
Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, though not related by blood, began a collaborative radio career in the 1970s by producing a weekly show about regional California culture. In the decades since, they have hosted many award-winning series, including Hidden Kitchens, Lost & Found Sound, and The Hidden World of Girls hosted by Tina Fey. They have created more than 200 stories for public broadcast about the lives, histories, arts, and rituals of Americans with diverse cultural heritages.
Below are summaries of two Hidden Kitchen broadcasts.
The Club From Nowhere: Cooking for Civil Rights
“The Club From Nowhere: Cooking for Civil Rights” introduces Georgia Gilmore, dubbed “one of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.” After losing her job for criticizing a bus driver who had removed her from a segregated bus, Gilmore helped the Montgomery Bus Boycott by selling pies and cakes to raise money for boycotters using cars to get to work instead of the local bus system. She called her business the “Club from Nowhere” in order to keep the boycotters’ identities secret.
Her business was so successful that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped her establish a larger cooking business in her home. Gilmore’s house became a trusted meeting place for King and his team. She was a confidante and excellent cook. Her story illustrates how communities can emerge around a kitchen table, including such noble communities as the men and women of the Civil Rights Movement.
Sugar in the Milk: A Parsi Kitchen Story
Niloufer Ichaporia King runs a kitchen that reflects her Parsi roots. “Sugar in the Milk: A Parsi Kitchen Story” features clips from King and other Parsis living in America who reminisce about favorite childhood foods and the diminishing number of Parsis worldwide (Indians of Persian descent), and the disappearance of traditional Parsi dishes.
King thinks of her cooking as an heirloom for future generations, and the broadcast focuses on King’s preparations for the Parsi New Year. She visits a farmer’s market and shares a legend from Parsi assimilation into Indian culture: a Parsi head priest once promised a local ruler that the Parsis would enrich Indian culture without displacing it, just as sugar enriches milk.
The Kitchen Sisters are currently working on eight more installments of Hidden Kitchens for NPR’s Morning Edition, as well as a website and blog that will feature interviews with scholars about the complex relationships between food, culture, and society.
The upcoming Hidden Kitchens World on NPR will be a global exploration of food history—and feature places such as Eel Pie Island in London. NEH’s Division of Public Programs has funded Lost and Found Sound in addition to Hidden Kitchens.
For more information on the Kitchen Sisters, please visit their website.