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“The World Eats Here:” Stories From The Queens Night Market

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Sep 07, 2020

Night markets are popular throughout much of the world, most notably throughout Asia. Over the past few years, they have been popping up in places like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York. John Wang, who started the Queens Night Market in 2015, created an ingenious innovation that made it different from other trendy food festivals: a $5 price cap. That not only keeps the market affordable for a wider variety of people, but it keeps away big, investor-backed businesses. The market is one of the most diverse in New York, with vendors representing more than 90 countries. Many are immigrants who run stands with their families. For some, this is a side hustle and a way to celebrate their culture and heritage.

2020 was supposed to be a big year for the Night Market. John Wang and his wife Storm Garner released a cookbook, The World Eats Here: Amazing Food and the Inspiring People Who Make It at New York’s Queens Night Market. And we had planned a big episode, where we would visit the market, try the foods, and talk to the vendors. But, like so much else this year, this plan got derailed. The Night Market never opened. Queens became an early coronavirus hotspot. 

So this episode has turned into a story about what’s been lost. And to understand what we’ve lost, we want to share a vivid reminder of what we had. In this episode we hear the stories of Queens Night Market vendors, in their own words. Storm Garner created the Queens Night Market Oral History Project, where she interviewed many of the market’s vendors at length last year. 

We hear from Frances Roman, who sells traditional Puerto Rican food at the stall Cocotazo at the Night Market, and now runs the food business Cocotazo Catering. We also hear from Maeda Qureshi, who sold Pakistani food at The Pakistand. She now works full time at the ICU at Elmhurst Hospital. She was using the proceeds from her sales to support two charities: Zindagi Trust and The Citizens Foundation.

This episode contains explicit language.

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

"Party Hop" by Jack Ventimiglia

"Star Shooting Light" by Hayley Briasco

"Minimaliminal" by Black Label Productions

"Mouse Song Light" by Ken Brahmstedt

"Narwhal" by Casey Hjelmberg

"Rogue Apples" by Karla Dietmeyer and Olivia Diercks

"Gust of Wind" by Max Greenhalgh

"Dilly Dally" by Hayley Briasco

"Saturn Returns" by Ken Brahmstedt

"Can't Bring Me Down" by Jack Ventimiglia

Photo courtesy of John Taggart.

 

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