The kitchen is the hearth of the home; a convening space laden with memories that spring beyond the physical location, because the smells and flavors created there can themselves come to symbolize home. For Von Diaz, migration from the Caribbean coupled with family instability led to a life in transition; many homes, many kitchens; shifting tectonic plates of adaptation where meaning and identity were formed. In this talk, she’ll explore the 28 kitchens she’s had in her life—how tools, recipes, and techniques are archives of culture, and how kitchens are liminal spaces that enable us to bring home with us wherever we go.
This event is part of our year-long exploration on the theme of “Home, What does it look like now?” How can we reconsider home in the 21st century as we cross states and borders seeking comfort, safety and identity? Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, state sanctioned violence against black bodies coupled with enhancing diverse and inclusive curricula, the Center for Black Visual Culture (CBVC) will explore the significant ways black visual narratives respond to the cultural, dynamic political, social, economic as well intimate changes that force us to (re)interrogate previous conceptions of home.
This event is hosted by the CBVC at the Institute of African American Affairs and co-sponsored by The Latinx Project, the 370J Project and the Department of Photography and Imaging, Tisch School of the Arts.
Von Diaz is a writer, documentary producer, and author of Coconuts & Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South.
Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Atlanta, GA, she explores food, culture, and identity. Her cooking and culinary research focus on Caribbean foodways, and adapting traditional dishes to modern recipes. In addition to her debut culinary memoir, she has contributed recipes and essays to several cookbooks and anthologies, including Diana Henry’s From the Oven to the Table, Julia Turshen’s Feed the Resistance, Charlotte Druckman’s Women on Food, and Joe Yonan’s America The Great Cookbook, among others. Her forthcoming narrative cookbook, Islas: Cuisines of Resilience (Chronicle 2023) explores the ancestral cooking techniques, shared ingredients, postcolonialism, and environmental vulnerability that connect warm weather islands across the globe. Her work is featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Bon Appétit, NPR, Food & Wine Magazine, Eater, and Epicurious. She has also been a reporter for NPR, StoryCorps, The Splendid Table, WNYC, PRI’s The World, The Southern Foodways Alliance, Colorlines, and Feet in 2 Worlds.
In addition to food journalism, she has also worked for a number of institutions dedicated to storytelling, arts and culture, and social justice. She teaches food studies and oral history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Previously, she was the Lehman Brady visiting scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. She is an Editor and Radio Producer at StoryCorps, where she produces radio broadcasts for NPR’s Morning Edition, and contributed dozens of interviews to the organization’s vast oral history archive in the Library of Congress. Before arriving at StoryCorps, she was the Editor of Feet in 2 Worlds, which brings the work of immigrant and ethnic media journalists from communities across the U.S. to public radio and the web. Formerly, Von served as the Marketing and Communications Manager for El Museo del Barrio, a celebrated Puerto Rican and Latino museum and cultural institution in New York City. In addition to her teaching and journalistic work, she was a story producer at Google Brand Studio where she led research strategy and story development for documentary films, animated shorts, and podcasts. Her leadership roles include the African Cuisine Advisory Council at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and the Board of Directors for the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
She is a frequent public speaker, and in 2015 she gave the TEDx talk, “Every Dish Has a Story: Mapping My Food History,” exploring how cooking and eating reflect our deepest cultural roots. She’s also taught writing and audio production workshops at New York University and The New School, among others.
Von received a B.A. in Women’s Studies from Agnes Scott College. She went on to receive a dual M.A. in Journalism and Latin American and Caribbean Studies from New York University, where she completed a Tinker Field Research Fellowship to record the oral histories of elder LGBTQ communities in Havana, Cuba.