Looking to escape your corner of the world, for a historic city whose bells toll the sound of freedom? Philadelphia is not just famous for the Liberty Bell and being America’s first capital. It’s also an historic culinary bastion for African-American chefs becoming successful entrepreneurs. After all, Philly is where George Washington’s favorite slave, Hercules, escaped as Washington was preparing to return to Mt. Vernon. And, despite Washington’s best efforts to recapture him, the city of Brotherly Love never returned Hercules.
In celebration of Juneteenth—the oldest celebration commemorating the end of slavery—I interviewed Nicole Taylor of FoodCulturist.com about the inaugural issue of her Modern Travelers’ Green Zine, a food and travel publication inspired by Victor Green’s mid-century guide The Negro Travelers’ Green Book. The first issue of Modern Travelers’ Green Zine is all about Philadelphia.
Nicole also shared a Philly-inspired root beer and pretzel float (the recipe follows after the interview), an earthy and sweet root beer ice cream float accented with crunchy two-day-old Pelzer’s Pretzels. It’s a cool treat for everyone looking to escape the summer heat while learning about American history.
Here’s my interview with Nicole:
The original inspiration for the travel guides is based on Victor Green’s The Negro Motorist Green Book, which were later renamed to The Negro Travelers’ Green Book. Why would a similar publication be needed (and enjoyed) today?
Starting in 1934, Victor Green “a Harlem postal worker and activist that developed a guide that would help African Americans travel throughout the country in a safe and comfortable manner.” The last Negro Travelers’ Green Book was published in 1964.
Today, African-Americans are privileged to vacation somewhat smoothly around the United States and not be fearful of being in the wrong place. Modern Travelers’ Green Zine is a nod to Mr. Green’s style of providing creme de la creme recommendations in a simple style. Although, we make an effort to highlight black cultural institutions in each cities, our zine can be enjoyed by ALL.
Where can someone purchase a copy and are subscription services available?
We debuted at Brooklyn Zine Fest in April. Folks can purchase Volume 1 on Etsy.
Prior to exploring a city for each publication, what type of research is involved? And, how is a trip planned to sample various dishes and attend cultural events over a short period of time?
My process for the publication began with informal research from locals, conversations with tourism officials and almost a dozen visits to the City of Brotherly Love… lots of eating and walking. From the donut shop listed to Geechee Girl Rice Cafe’s cranberry shrub, everything touched my lips. Each trip was compact with three square meals, stops for sweets and drinks and a minimum of two museum visits.
Then, I selected a photographer and illustrator to capture the visuals of my experiences. The Center City skyline and Chef Hercules portrait were hand drawn by Brooklyn-based Shannon Mustipher and all the images were shot by Jordan A. Colbert. The creative direction was led by Adrian Franks. Creating this mini guide book makes me a lifelong ambassador to the city.
Why was Philadelphia chosen as the first city to explore for the launch of your magazine? What future cities are you writing about?
Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States of America. I’ve always heard that, during the mid-late 1800s, there was a prominent and influential Guild of Black Caterers that ushered in the city’s long history of African-American entrepreneurship.
I’m interested in making New York, Atlanta and Chicago my next volumes, because they possess a similar culinary energy as Philadelphia. I’ll stick with the same laser focused format and build on the creativity.
When traveling, I return home to create a recipe with ingredients from shopping. Did you have the same experience? If so, could you share a recipe?
I discovered Philadelphia is the birthplace of root beer. I’m not a big soda drinker, but I brought home two bottles of Philly-made Hank’s Root Beer (made with pure cane sugar) and it screamed… float. Here is my recipe for a Philly Root Beer & Pretzel Float (made with Pelzer’s Pretzels). [Get the recipe at Parade.com]
If there was a future ezine published to celebrate Juneteenth, which city would represent the holiday and why?
On June 18, 1865, two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the news of freedom was delivered to enslaved people in Galveston, TX by the Union’s Major General Gordon Granger. According to Juneteenth’s official website, it’s the oldest celebration commemorating the ending to slavery in the United States.
A Modern Travelers’ Green Zine Volume: Galveston, Texas would be a perfect nod to Juneteenth… soon!
Visit Parade.com to get the recipe for Taylor’s Philly-Inspired Root Beer & Pelzer’s Pretzel Float.
Special Thanks: These artisanal Philadelphia-style soft pretzels are courtesy of Pelzer’s Pretzels, a Brooklyn-based company started by a Philadelphia-native attorney and his wife, a beauty marketer and self-described foodie. Pelzer’s Pretzels opened April 2012, and they immediately sold out of their soft snack inventory. Besides selling pretzels, Pelzer’s Pretzels offers gourmet Spicy Beer Mustard and Champagne Honey Mustard as dipping sauces. (Trust me, buy the whole bottle.)
Pelzer’s Pretzels is committed to making wholesome and delicious pretzels from the best available ingredients, providing fair wages, promoting worker dignity, and investing long-term in the local Brooklyn community. Visit Pelzer’s Pretzels to order online.
High on the Hog. By Jessica B. Harris
Hercules and Hemings: Presidents’ Slave Chefs
The Open Road Wasn’t Quite Open to All. By Celia McGee