Kitchen Spanish update – podcast collaboration with Racist Sandwich

Several months ago, I wrote about the linguistic phenomenon known as Kitchen Spanish. I wanted to dig a little deeper, so I pitched a segment to the podcast, Racist Sandwich, and they were up for it! My own podcast, Tertulia, is in Spanish, so this is my first reported audio story in (mostly) English. In the piece you’ll hear interviews with staff from restaurants here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, including Donkey Taquería and MeXo (which is slated to open on April 17, 2018).

Listen to the Racist Sandwich episode “Kitchen Spanish” here.

Tertulia partners with Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival

I’m pleased to announce that Tertulia is partnering with the Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival (GRLAFF), taking place April 6-8, 2018. Since 2010, the festival has been showing award-winning films from Latin American and Latino filmmakers at the Wealthy Theatre and enriching the experience for audiences by organizing Q&A sessions with visiting directors and panel discussions with local speakers. In 2018, for the first time the festival will present “GRLAFF for Kids,” a parallel event in the Wealthy Theatre’s micro-cinema featuring live puppet shows and a screening of an animated film from Uruguay. The entire festival, as usual, is free to the public and all the films will be presented with English subtitles. Interested? Find out more on the GRLAFF website!

Kitchen Spanish

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In his book Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain admonishes any readers who hope to have a career as a chef to learn Spanish. He finds it so imperative that he lists it as the second recommendation after “Be fully committed.”

“Much of the workforce in the industry you are about the enter is Spanish-speaking. The very backbone of the [restaurant] industry, whether you like it or not, is inexpensive Mexican, Dominican, Salvadorian [sic] and Ecuadorian labor – most of whom could cook you under the table without breaking a sweat. If you can’t communicate, develop relationships, understand instructions and pass them along, then you are at a tremendous disadvantage.” – Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

Bourdain is referencing what is commonly known as “Kitchen Spanish.” To be clear, Kitchen Spanish is not simply a body of culinary terms and phrases. It’s a sort of practical patois used among English-dominant gringos and Spanish-dominant Latinos who both know a little bit of the other’s native language, but it’s also a form of insider slang. From what I can gather, it’s largely composed of dirty words, slurs, and insults, in keeping with the crude and brutal sense of humor characteristic of restaurant kitchens, which Bourdain describes in such colorful and naturalistic detail. (See also the Urban Dictionary definition of Kitchen Spanish, complete with an example.)

In my efforts to do a little anthropological desk research, I perused some threads on Reddit and cheftalk.com where both gringo and Latino cooks debate whether Kitchen Spanish is a necessary evil or a delightful cultural experience, as well as share their capsule lists of the most essential vocabulary for the uninitiated (e.g. this and this). One Reddit user who claims to be originally from Buenos Aires describes Kitchen Spanish as “a combination of English, Spanish, and Mexican cuss words” that can’t be learned in any classroom or with the help of any book.

This is a belief that may not be held by the more mainstream corners of the internet. I found several conversational Spanish primers for managers in the hospitality industry on Amazon. Most of the authors of those books did not seem to have websites or blogs, which was disappointing as I wanted to read what they had to say about Kitchen Spanish. I was, however, able to find more information about Matt Casado, a professor emeritus of Northern Arizona University’s School of Hotel & Restaurant Management. A native of Spain, Casado not only authored a number of books but also apparently took great strides to ensure that graduates had a basic knowledge of Spanish in order to communicate with back-of-the-house staff.

It does seem that there is a clear distinction between “conversational Spanish for hospitality managers” and Kitchen Spanish. For one, in any industry there’s a line separating how management communicates with employees and how employees communicate with one another. Furthermore, let’s just say that the former is a basic ingredient, and the latter is dressed with many creative accoutrements, depending on the kitchen.

Do you have any stories about Kitchen Spanish? Tweet me at @TertuliaTweets.

Alianza Americas brings a speaking tour to Grand Rapids to discuss jobs on both sides of the border

I came to admire the work of Alianza Americas when they were the recipients of a grant from a foundation where I worked, and I have kept in touch with the organization ever since moving to the Midwest. Headquartered in Chicago, Alianza Americas is a network of immigrant organizations across the U.S. that operates with a transnational approach.

So, naturally I am very excited that their Midwest speaking tour will make a few stops in Michigan later this month. The featured speakers are two workers’ rights activists from Latin America: Rita Marcela Robles Benítez from Fray Matías Center in Chiapas, Mexico and María Luisa Regalada from the Honduran Women’s Collective in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The “Good Jobs, Good Neighbors” tour includes two events in Grand Rapids on September 19 and 21, 2017, hosted by local partner organizations. The events are designed to encourage dialogue around questions such as:

What do we mean by good jobs?

What can we – workers, advocates, policy-makers, businesses, and other stakeholders – do to be better neighbors to each other as we share a common struggle?

How can we work together across borders to create opportunities for everyone?

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Hear the work of giants of Latin American literature in their own voice

Remezcla recently posted a curated sample of recordings from the Library of Congress Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. The archive allows you to hear some of the giants of Latin American literature reading selections of their own work. How cool is that?

The Remezcla post has 12 selections out of 210 recordings that include the writers of most of the standard Latin American reading list canon (Mistral, Borges, García Márquez…). I recently read Las reputaciones by Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez, the first work of his that I read, so I’m including a link to his recording here.

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Pablo Neruda reading for the AHLOT in 1966 (Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

New episode of Tertulia podcast – ¿Dónde estamos parados?

The latest episode of Tertulia is a conversation with Leticia Molinero, professional translator and member of the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española. Among other things, we talked about how taking a rigorous approach to analyzing U.S. Spanish and coming up with standardized language can play a role in resolving the communication crisis that our country faces in upholding the rights of Spanish-dominant residents.

Check out the episode here.

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Introducing Tertulia, the podcast

Last year, I started to think (and write) about the need for more institutions and spaces where Spanish speakers can engage practically, culturally, and intellectually with Spanish in the real world. Eventually, I started to develop a podcast in Spanish — and I got a big boost in motivation when Radio Ambulante was picked up by NPR last November!

Today marks the launch of Tertulia, a podcast in Spanish where guests are invited to talk about their cultural, artistic, and professional projects, as well as the daily idiosyncrasies of bilingual and bicultural life in the United States.

It’s available on tertuliapodcast.com (and you can subscribe via iTunes, Android, Stitcher, TuneIn, and RSS).

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The first episode is now available, and in the next several weeks I will release two more pilot episodes. You can read more about who is on the show and what the episodes are about here.

If you like what you hear, please subscribe to the podcast and follow Tertulia on Facebook (@cafecitonoincluido) and Twitter (@TertuliaTweets) so that other people can find out about it.

¡Les deseo una buena tertulia!