On Racism in the Wine World and Regulating Street Vendors Without Police

The Intelligence Brief is our weekly compendium of food and drink news sourced from outlets all over the world, including right here at home.

This past week marked the beginning of Phase 3 of BC’s re-start plan. With Covid-19 numbers holding steady across the province, officials have given the green light for non-essential local travel and for further re-openings for more businesses including movie theatres. While the Covid-19 news at home remains hopeful, numbers in the US continue to climb at an alarming rate. Protests around the world also enter their fifth week as demonstrations for racial justice remain foreground. This week’s Intelligence Brief will focus both on the continued global impact of Covid on restaurants and bars as well as the industry’s response to ongoing protests.

First off, with Texas, Florida and Idaho showing steep rises in Covid cases, many of their bars and restaurants are facing restrictions for the second time.

Meanwhile, most of Ontario has moved into phase 2 of their restart plans allowing many of their bars and restaurants to re-open amid more stable Covid numbers.

Many employees continue to sound the alarm, however, asking critical questions about how their employers are prioritizing their safety as the pandemic continues.

In addition to issues of safety, Covid-19 has many employees rethinking equity within the restaurant industry, including how workers should get paid.

Meanwhile, in response to ongoing protests, Quaker Foods and PepsiCo announced that they will be changing the logo and name of Aunt Jemima, a brand which reinforces racial stereotypes and has its roots in the minstrel era of the 19th century.

“Calls for the Aunt Jemima brand to change its branding date back years, cited on NPR for example in 1980. Old Aunt Jemima originated as a song of field slaves that was later performed at minstrel shows. “Aunt Jemima” was originally portrayed by Nancy Green, who was born into slavery.”

In New York, a new model of regulating street food vendors provides yet another example of what it could look like to defund the police:

“According to the New York City-based Street Vendor Project, which is part of the nonprofit advocacy organization the Urban Justice Center, most of the city’s 20,000 vendors are immigrants and people of color—the very groups most vulnerable to racist policing. City cops have issued an average of 18,000 tickets to vendors annually over the past three years, the group estimates, and vendors sometimes receive exorbitant tickets for minor violations (like selling food too close to a crosswalk).”

Sorel founder Jackie Summers shares what it’s like to be one of the only Black people in America to hold a license to make liquor:

“It’s a wild thing to know all that you can do and are capable of, and at the same time have the knowledge that just because of how you look, you will be perceived as lesser and less than, less trustworthy, and less capable. This story happening in the streets right now isn’t new. It was happening before us, and it’ll happen after we’re gone. My job is to contribute to the story, to make it easier for those who come after me.”

New York wine professional Miguel de Leon on the culture of racism within the wine world and the necessity for some long overdue changes to the industry as a whole:

“Wine is rooted in Europe and its white adjacencies, themselves products of colonial and imperialist histories. From Chile to California, we feel the impact of how winemaking was affected by the conscious, hegemonic spread of Christianity. Even the word sommelier is deeply embedded in the servitude of someone charged with taking inventory of wine on pack animals. The wine world does not take into account current experiences of its BIPOC and LGBTQ+ members. It is steeped in a language that is coded and arcane, tied up with legal jargon and French techniques that only the privileged, monied few are able to decipher.”

Former Thrillist executive food editor Nicole Taylor speaks about her decision to refuse to sign an NDA upon being laid off from her job and why they encourage other Black employees to do the same:

“The #MeToo movement helped bring to light the pervasive culture of nondisclosure agreements, which allowed powerful men to get away with sexual harassment and abuse for decades. Now that racial prejudice in the workplace is finally being scrutinized on a wider scale, we must also recognize the role separation agreements might play in silencing people of color, who likewise fear retribution and blacklisting for speaking out against unfair treatment.”

As calls to buy from Black-owned businesses continue, some Black-owned wineries are beginning to feel that support.

If you’re looking for more information on how to support Black food sovereignty, here’s a list of organizations working on Black food and land justice.

Finally, Dr. Howard J Conyers reflects on the loss of David McAtee, a BBQ pitmaster who was shot and killed by the police in Louisville, Kentucky during a protest for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“To me, David McAtee’s story represents all what barbecue culture is to being Black in America. Cooking barbecue was one of the first businesses that recently emancipated enslaved people could do to provide for themselves and their families. As they moved from rural areas to the cities, they carried with them techniques from the plantations and farms. They turned informal trade into permanent businesses, their barbecue shacks emerging where people lacked regular sources of food. In that vein, David was claiming the inheritance that his ancestors left for him: answering the call of barbecue as an endeavor of entrepreneurship.”

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