FERN’s Friday Feed: The history of McDonald’s and black America

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.


In an excerpt from her forthcoming book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, Dr. Marcia Chatelain introduces the “somewhat bizarre but incredibly powerful marriage between a fast-food behemoth and the fight for civil rights.” Dr. Chatelain writes that the “story of McDonald’s in black America is about how capitalism can unify cohorts to serve its interests, even as it disassembles communities. By locating the origins of the urban food crisis to the advent of the fast-food franchise, we can become more aware of choices — who has them and who creates them. Ultimately, history encourages us to be more compassionate toward individuals navigating few choices, and history cautions us to be far more critical of the institutions and structures that have the power to take choices away.”

The rich history of pralines

The Atlantic

Myles Poydras unearthed a rich history when he decided to trace the lineage of the pralines his mother prepares around the holidays. “The praline that emerged in the South in the 1800s—as a result of colonialism—featured pecans and sugar, and was bonded with a heavy milk,” Poydras writes. “Enslaved black women were responsible for those improvisations, which were made after French settlers introduced their version in Louisiana, where sugarcane plantations were a dominant industry and pecan trees were prevalent.”

FERN Talks & Eats NYC – Surf ‘n’ Turf

Panel: Can our seafood survive Big Ag and climate change?
As oceans warm, our major fisheries are shifting. At the same time, farm runoff is contributing to dead zones from the Gulf of Mexico to Long Island. Both of these issues – climate change and farming practices – affect the health of ocean ecosystems and, ultimately, the seafood that winds up on our plates.

Come to our panel discussion Feb. 10, 2020, 7:30 p.m., at Subculture in New York City. VIP reception with drinks and bites beforehand. Information and early bird tickets.

The Washington Post

“My involuntary appearance in the dining performance tends to occur in places where I am in the minority, but patronizing restaurants owned and frequented by people of color is no fail-safe, either. And although it’s not my intention to eat meals in public purely as an act of protest, I’m starting to embrace that, for a black woman in America, that might be the way it is. At least for now,” writes Osayi Endolyn in an essay about the experience of dining out as a black woman. “I don’t know if it will ever truly matter, but sometimes I respond to the intruder with a silent, steady look. In that quiet moment, even if the show goes on, I sense we are both clear — the whole thing is their own futile masquerade.”

The taco guru: ‘It’s like I was sweating lard’

The Guardian

Mentored by the late Jonathan Gold, Javier Cabral went from barely graduating high school to “taco scout” to “associate producer for Las Crónicas del Taco (Taco Chronicles), a … Netflix documentary series on taco history and culture,” writes Sam Levin. Cabral credits the show with more than just transforming his life. “Mexican Americans often have this chip on their shoulder, an inferiority complex … of not being American enough, not being Mexican, and this show has helped people understand how to be more proud of their country, of their parents’ country, and just honor that part of their family,” he said.

North Carolina’s haute couture beekeeper

The Bitter Southerner

Samantha Foxx gave up a cosmetology career (but not her sense of style) to return home and be a farmer. Now she’s breaking barriers. “I wanted to go into beekeeping because it was a challenge, but it was also about representation,” she says. “Growing up, I never saw a black beekeeper, and because I never saw anyone like me doing it, I couldn’t place myself there doing it either. I wanted to challenge that and put myself out there being a beekeeper, not just by representing African Americans, but also giving my kids an opportunity to see what I didn’t see.”