Food is in my DNA. Both sides of my family relied on the food system in order to immigrate to North America and brought along recipes and ingredients from their homeland to remain connected to their past. My maternal grandfather was a baker in World War II, and when he returned to Concord, MA he continued the trade at Sally Ann’s Bakery. My then adolescent mother and her siblings would carve out the soft centers of day old cakes as an after school snack and would rely on a heavy diet of anadama bread, a loaf with New England roots made with cornmeal and molasses. When my maternal grandmother passed away a few years ago, a visit to the still standing bakery spurred an interest in my culinary history. I was gifted a loaf of bread by another customer, a total stranger, who had been going to Sally Ann’s for decades for the anadama. Sweet, earthy, and chewy, the bread satisfied a deep craving within me.
Politics, media, and social constructs have a way of isolating us from one another, yet food manages to act as the proverbial olive branch. It’s how we define ourselves. It’s how we connect. Mess Hall started as a personal project and has turned into a communal one. I’m grateful to those who have shared their food stories with me thus far and am eager to hear more.