It’s easy for some people to ignore the links between food and politics, but to do so would be a mistake.
That doesn’t mean that it’s advised to contemplate the oppression of the proletariat with every bite. But if you’re apt to forget about the connection between the eating and politics, consider one of two events in Greensboro this week that draw a direct line from immigration and deportation to what’s on the menu.
On Wednesday, the city’s International Advisory Committee launched a quarterly “lunch & learn” event, this one exploring deportation and detention “with the goal to address the fear and concerns many immigrants are currently facing.”
While other local organizations host similar events on a buffet of subjects, the best part of the committee’s event is that it came with free lunch. Featuring an immigration lawyer, a Greensboro police captain, a mental health professional and local advocates, the lunch at the Greensboro Public Library downtown was designed to give people an opportunity to hear about people affected by deportation proceedings and provides a platform to pose questions.
On Friday, the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker-based nonprofit) and Trump-era social justice group Protect GSO host a solidarity dinner at San Miguel Restaurant & Bakery on Yanceyville Street.
According to an announcement for the event, sales at San Miguel plummeted after Immigration & Customs Enforcement detained three Greensboro men on their way to work in the massive parking lot in front of the store. The groups report that sales nosedived 90 percent the next day and remained at about 50 percent since.
They’re calling for “a solidarity ‘eat-in’” as a way to help the immigrant-owned business — basically a cash-mob event where people turn out and shop en masse.
I went with a friend Monday night, peering at the Mexican baked goods, ice cream and butchery before snagging a seat towards the back, where San Miguel provides table service. Our server recommended the tortas — massive sandwiches — and as an unashamed and long-time fan of Hawaiian pizza, I picked the Torta Hawaiiana, which comes with beef, avocado and more in addition to the obvious ham and pineapple.
This sandwich, and likely all the others, arrived looking almost like a football, both because of the outside color of the bread and the meal’s massive, imposing shape. A few salted fries rounded out the dinner, which I couldn’t finish but loved nonetheless.
I’ve been searching fruitlessly for a Mexican or Latin American restaurant with a salsa bar. They’re in great supply in cities like Durham and Denver, but I hadn’t seen a single one until San Miguel. Whether its hot sauce or taco toppings you need, a small cart at the back’s got you covered.
The restaurant had run out of carnitas when we arrived shortly before the kitchen closed at 8 p.m. (with the store staying open until 9), but my friend ordered the spicy and enjoyable shrimp dish camarones a la diabla. San Miguel serves breakfast too, including chilaquiles and huevos rancheros, as well as Oaxacan quesadillas, a vegetarian burrito and ceviche tostadas.
You don’t have to join the “eat-in” from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday to support the restaurant and bakery, of course — they’ll no doubt need all the support they can get going forward, whether you’re buying a pack of Coronas, a slab of meat, a bag of cookie-like treats or some dine-in breakfast. And it isn’t just San Miguel, either. I’ve heard several local, anecdotal stories about other immigrant-owned businesses — especially ones primarily frequented by immigrants — facing a downturn in consumer demand because undocumented costumers are fearful of ICE.
That’s part of the reason I make such a point to highlight immigrant-owned restaurants on a regular basis — even if you’re just reading for the best place to grab some Senegalese thiebou djenne or a steaming bowl of pork cutlet udon, politics and food are colliding whether you realize it or not.
This week, consider making it on purpose.
Join the “eat-in” at San Miguel Restaurant & Bakery on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at 3017 Yanceyville St. (GSO).