In This Dinner Series, Chinese Food Is at Home Worldwide

As the zeitgeist shifted from pandemic panic toward rage for racial equity, inspired by the killing of George Floyd, Mr. Sin tweaked his program: Soon he was messaging with Kia Damon and Ghetto Gastro, a collective of food lovers based in the Bronx.

They discussed dishes as varied as yakamein, the Afro-Chinese soup of New Orleans — which Mr. Sin made with Ms. Damon for one dinner — or what the chef Eddie Huang and others call “hood Chinese” food, like the chicken wings served in many New York neighborhoods. The Chinese diaspora, it turns out, is remarkably agile.

“China is this incredible beacon in food,” said Marcus Samuelsson, the Ethiopian-Swedish host of “No Passport Required,” who has made Harlem his home. “We’re relearning about heritage, culture and history. That’s not just happening in the food world, but everywhere. We see it in taking down monuments, for example. We’re having a really important conversation in America and, if America is having it, very often the world is having it.”

Mr. Sin’s mission is beyond gastro-diplomacy, approaching gastro-activism, using the culinary intersections as conversational starting points. Chefs are happy to join in.

Ms. Damon, the founder of Supper Club From Nowhere, a culinary history project inspired by the civil rights chef Georgia Gilmore, cheered Mr. Sin’s request to collaborate. Amid what she called exhausting “Black for pay” propositions, designed to help brands burnish their political credentials by partnering with people of color, she called Distance Dining “a breath of fresh air.”

“He’s already doing the work in himself,” she said. “There’s relief because I’m not doing this work alone. I’m not having this conversation alone.”

Ms. Damon, whose mother is Gullah Geechee and father is Creole, sighed. “When we face those ugly parts of us and our distance, and we come together to reconcile with that, what does that taste like?” she said. “I want to look back and know what I was doing during the great Covid pandemic of 2020, when there was a nationwide, global movement for all Black lives. I want to know that I’m proud of what I was doing. I was cooking for a better future, cooking for a better me. When everything feels so bad, doing this feels good.”

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Tue Aug 18 , 2020
These are unprecedented times. It seems like the whole world has been brought to its knees, from the rapid and destructive spread of COVID-19 to the protests in response to police brutality and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. The food industry isn’t exempt. So as […]
How Food Businesses Nationwide Are Responding