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On the Map: The Kitchen Sisters Shift from Food to Feminism

When I was living in NYC, I was an NPR fanatic. Every day I would listen to podcasts on my commute to and from work in order to learn more about things like pop culture, religion, global politics, and food. One of my favorite shows was The Kitchen Sisters' Hidden Kitchens series, which featured history-rich culinary stories that are off the beaten path. I learned a lot from Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva about all things epicurean--from vanishing Parsi New Year traditions to convict cooking at The Angola Prison Rodeo.

When I moved to India two years ago, my painfully slow Internet connection made it pretty much impossible to keep up with my favorite podcasting pair, but The Hidden World of Girls has me reconsidering my impatience. Branching out from their food-centric past, Nelson and Silva have drawn inspiration from numerous amazing and courageous women and girls living in urban and rural communities from Estonia to El Salvador. They are collecting bits and pieces submitted by listeners to add depth, investment, and intimacy to this new series--and so far, it's pretty darn good.

By taking a well worn story about many men's preference for plump women in Jamaica and stirring in a bit of arsenic, the Kitchen Sisters' March 22nd debut uncovers a dangerous aspect of Jamaican women's quest to obtain this socially privileged beauty: chicken pills. In addition to adding a little meat to women's bones, the pills also slowly poison them. Not hasty or simplistic in its assessment, "Chicken Pills" features an array of perspectives from folks who both support and oppose taking these types of potentially harmful measures in order to align with the norm, and draws attention to the "lively debate and open conversation in the culture."

I'm excited about the potential for The Hidden World of Girls to highlight largely unseen issues, draw parallels among the complex challenges of women's lives, and initiate dialogue from the points of view of women around the globe through the accessible medium of public radio. I guess it's time to dust off my iPod and rekindle my old flame. Slow Internet be damned!

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