Summer 2017 Issue
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
AT THE TABLE: AMERICAN TALES
Less than 100 years ago, my grandfather came to Philadelphia from Ireland. He died when I was a baby and I don’t have a strong sense of Irish identity, but the fact that he was an immigrant, accepted if not fully welcomed by the city that became his, my father’s and then my home, crosses my thoughts pretty often. Lately, I’ve thought about it more than ever.
On the other side of my family, I had a spaghetti slinging, meatball rolling, overfeeding Italian grandmother who lived until I was in my late 20s. Thus, I claim an Italian-American identity as my legacy. My grandmother was born in America but her parents crossed the seas to live here, just as my grandfather (and likely one of yours) did. They were immigrants, too. I feel very lucky to live in a sanctuary city, a place that limits its cooperation in enforcing punitive national immigration laws. Here, I cross paths with brave travelers who have come by whatever means they could to secure better lives. In the process, they have undoubtedly made Philadelphia a more vibrant (and certainly more delicious) city.
Immigrants, refugees, global citizens—Philadelphia wraps its arms around them all. It makes me proud to learn about the of.cial ways we help newcomers transition to our city, such as through the agricultural training and refugee garden Jenn Hall describes in her terri.c feature, a year in the making, on page 30.
That isn’t the only story in this issue that we have been working on for many months. It was last summer when I happened to start talking about the Philadelphia tradition of block parties with a stranger at a neighborhood party. He regaled me with tales of the epic, food-.lled, multicultural block parties on the street where he used live. That tip led to Katherine Rapin’s moving feature, “Know Your Neighbor,” on page 20. It turned out to be an immigrant story as well.
During her months of research, writing, and reporting, Katherine fell completely in love with this block and the people who live there. Recently, when one longtime resident decided to put her row home up for sale, she called Katherine because she had an intuition Katherine might want to know about it.
This month, Katherine moved onto the block she so beautifully chronicles in this issue, after buying that very home. She hails from Michigan and is not an immigrant at all, but I think of her as someone from another culture that Philly has assimilated and claimed as our own. As you will read in those features and see in restaurants and farms all around Philadelphia, food has enormous power to bring different kinds of people into the same place. Few things have the power to connect us in our shared humanity like a meal. There are unlimited differences between people, but food makes us remember that we are more alike than different.