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Wyatt Cenac: Jerk Chicken In Every Pot

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Jul 06, 2015

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

How does it feel to go out to eat in the place where you grew up -- and suddenly feel like an outsider?

Comic Wyatt Cenac spent parts of his childhood in Dallas and parts in the West Indian neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Both places feel like home to him, but when he and I went for Jamaican curry and jerk chicken in Crown Heights, recent changes in the area were obvious.

“I’m the one brown person in this restaurant. It feels a little weird," the former Daily Show correspondent admits.

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Wyatt spent summers with his grandmother, who lived a few blocks away from The Islands, the Jamaican restaurant where we met for lunch.

That area used to be predominantly West Indian, but Brooklyn's demographics have changed drastically in the last decade.

“It’s definitely getting whiter, there’s definitely more money coming in, and it’s a little safer,” Wyatt says of his childhood neighborhood.

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Wyatt is a very funny guy -- you know him from The Daily Show and his stand-up comedy. But this week on The Sporkful we have a mostly serious conversation about the big changes in his childhood neighborhood.

I think and talk a lot about gentrification on The Sporkful (check out our donuts episode!) because the food in an area is often an indicator of who is moving in to an area, and who's moving out.

And, of course we also talk about food! Wyatt introduces me to sorrel (a sweet chilled drink brewed with hibiscus flowers) and tells me about the West Indian foods he grew up eating with his mom and Trinidadian step father.

“When we think of an American meal -- for me it was oxtails, it was curry chicken," he says. "Those were as much a Sunday dinner as red meat and potatoes. That’s what I associate with my childhood.”

This is the curry goat at The Islands. It was the best I've ever had:

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But with gentrification closing in on all sides of The Islands, Wyatt and I couldn't help wondering how long this tiny little neighborhood gem will be able to hold out.

"It's sad to see people get run out of a neighborhood," Wyatt says. "At some point is the rent going to get too high? But also as new people move in -- are these the people you want to serve food to?"

We may have gotten our answer in the form of some unexpected guests. Listen in to the full episode to hear what happens when they join our conversation about food and race and gentrification.

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

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Interstitial music in this episode by BWN Music:

- "Incidentally" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "Scrambloid" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

Photos: Anne Noyes Saini, Dan Pashman, and courtesy of Wyatt Cenac

 

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