As a source of physical and emotional sustenance, food is intimately linked to our survival as individuals and as a community. During the 20th century, food also played an important role as a medium through which visitors and residents of Cambridge could learn about their neighbors and connect with them across racial, ethnic and class lines. .
On Sunday, History Cambridge hosts a Food Tour of Central Square with tastings and behind-the-scenes stops at La Fábrica Central, the Middle East and the Artifact Cider Project. We’ll sample delicious food and drink and hear from insiders at each stop about their history in Central Square and their work in the community. Between stops, the tour will highlight places and times in Cambridge’s history where sharing ethnic cuisines helped raise awareness and understanding of the region’s rich cultural mosaic. This tour is based on a History Cambridge guided tour launched in the fall, when we explored the culinary and immigration experiences of Cambridge residents from Lebanon, India, Tibet, the Dominican Republic, China , Syria and Eritrea.
As waves of immigrants arrived from all corners of the globe, Cambridge as a whole – and Central Square in particular – broadened its culinary horizons to include the cuisines of these new Cantabrians who came to work, study and live in a city of more more diversified. Restaurant owners who are branching out to meet the demand for a wider range of foods are enabling native-born Cambridge residents to expand their palates, learning about the cuisine and culture of their immigrant neighbors.
In the Middle East, traditional Lebanese cuisine has helped to remind immigrant diners of the cuisine they left behind and introduced cuisine to many Cantabrians. Food has been a natural unifier for Tibetans in exile, and the establishment of Rangzen Tibetan Place and other Tibetan restaurants in the area has allowed immigrants to maintain connections to their ethnic heritage while building community ties with local residents. other origins. And the combination of food and music at La Fábrica Central makes it a gathering place for Dominicans from across the region, as well as non-Dominicans to experience Latin American and Caribbean cuisine.
Public art depicting shared food and meals also plays an important role in the culture of the central square and will be featured on the tour.
One side of the Middle East features the “Crosswinds” mural by artist Daniel Galvez. Painted in 1992, this mural depicts the diverse community of Central Square, with some of the figures based on real residents. “I love the central square. You hear different accents everywhere you go, smell different spices in ethnic restaurants. There’s a wonderful multicultural spirit here, and I try to capture that,” Galvez said. and in Central Square in particular – public art is often short-lived as artists reuse or replace what came before. But “Crosswinds” proved so enduring and beloved that Galvez was asked to restore it in 2017 , making it one of the oldest murals in the city.
“The Potluck” is a 2,000 square foot mural designed, painted and imagined by Cambridge artist David Fichter and over 60 others, including many locals. It illustrates a potluck scene with residents of the Port district and aims to display a multi-ethnic image of the community. Many of the faces depicted represent members of the community who paused while he painted, Fichter said in an oral history. Fichter’s choice to depict residents sharing a communal meal highlights the ability of food to bring people together and the diverse food traditions of Central Square.
Through its restaurants, public art and commitment to the wider Cambridge community, Central Square has become a place of choice for those seeking good food, good company and the experience of a dynamic and multicultural destination. The stories many of these people and institutions tell are the stories we at History Cambridge want to collect and share. Join us on Sunday to eat, drink, learn and support our mission to tell the stories of all Cantabrians.
About Cambridge History
History Cambridge began in 1905 as the Cambridge Historical Society. Today we have a new name, a new look and a whole new mission.
We engage with our city to explore how the past influences the present to shape a better future. We strive to be Cambridge’s most relevant and responsive historical voice. To do this, we recognize that everyone in our city knows something about the history of Cambridge and that their knowledge is important. We help people share the story with each other – and weave their knowledge – by giving them the floor, the mic, the platform. We illuminate where historical perspectives are needed. We listen to our community. We live by the ideal that history belongs to everyone.
Our theme for 2022 is “How Does Cambridge Work?” » Make history with us at cambridgehistory.org.
Beth Folsom is Program Manager for History Cambridge.