Kids these days… aren’t so bad after all??
Sometimes a story of immigrant success can have a hidden lining that is more grey than silver. What happens when one generation arrives in a new country, works hard, and sends their kids to school, who then gain opportunity and a foothold in their new home? That sounds like success and it is. However, after a generation or two, maybe these descendants are more comfortable ordering from Seamless than whipping up their own tacos. Maybe Aziz Ansari doesn’t keep enough Tamil to talk to his grandmother. This is the oldest tale – some things change and some stay the same.
Paige Lipari seems to have answered some part of the riddle of immigration. She is a talented, young American woman who has opened a great cookbook shop and café: Archestratus. While the shop is obviously a great idea it is less obviously a quiet homage to a part of Paige’s heritage that isn’t so many generations away.
The cookbooks and food related books the shop features include new titles as well as rare, old, and out-of-print treasures. Lipari has worked with rare books before and the mix is invigorating and means a visitor gets to happen upon an older gem or secure the latest beautiful full color edition of a star New York chef. The interior of the shop also strays far from the firmly nostalgic take of many Brooklyn establishments. In recent years, new establishments have imported worn-out floorboards and elderly light fixtures to give their spaces a pedigree. It is perhaps because Lipari has nothing to prove that she leaves distressed wood and vintage liquor bottles for a different version of that borough. But one Wednesday night a month, Archestratus hosts an Italian table, a comfortable environment for Italian speakers of all abilities to connect or reconnect (the next one is April 20th).
And of course there is the food. Every Thursday night is a Sicilian Blue Plate Special. For a set price, visitors taste one of Paige’s Nona’s recipes or some other deliciously authentic Sicilian dish. Her grandmother is in her 90s, but she hasn’t missed a Thursday night yet. Paige is trying to get all the recipes down before it is too late and is trying to learn some Sicilian dialect as well. Daily, Paige puts out several treats to complement her beautifully simple coffee and tea offerings, and the café has secured a wine and beer license for after hours.
Perusing the bookshelves can lead even the most blue-blooded “American” into a reverie about the importance of regional identity and cultural exchange. There are cookbooks of Polish cuisine, Moroccan cuisine, and then the “Jewish” cookbooks which could easily contain recipes from both regions. There are cookbooks for recipes from New England and ones from Scotland with all their similarities. And “health and diet” cookbooks, some of which more or less obviously hunt and gather low fat meals native to Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and Brazil. Also present are the thoughtful anthologies of a new fusion movement that has hit the culinary scene. Where is it more apt than at Archestratus to buy David Chang’s Momofuku cookbooks, including Chang’s empire-building recipes of Japanese, American, and Mexican dishes all influenced by his Korean-American childhood.
After happily browsing, one is tempted to sit down, have a cup of Russian Caravan tea and an Italian cookie, and think, “the kids are alright.”
–Posted by Julia Berick, Marketing and Communications Coordinator