Dark Meat is not about meat. At least it’s not only about meat. We chose the name because we were thinking about the rise of the skinless, boneless, chicken breast and how so many restaurant meals were robbed of flavor because some customers demanded only white meat despite the fact that the original cuisines would either not have included it or would have never used it exclusively. Such adaptations happen frequently; people can see them either as handshakes in a cordial introduction or as compromises that dilute the eating experience in order to coddle those who only want to feel adventurous yet don’t want their food to be too different from what they typically eat.
Both of us have been the kind of people who see such changes as compromises of the troublesome sort. What happens to restaurants in small to medium markets when the food doesn’t change? How do they maintain clientele if a good number of the locals find the cuisine off-putting? Do these restaurants get reviewed based on their specialties or on how well their food matches already-existing culinary expectations? If not, what drives clients to them? Who’s doing the cooking? Are there enough outlets to allow people far from home to get their comfort foods? How much of the local culinary landscape is taken up by the narrowly advertised catering enterprises that seem to sustain immigrant and expatriate communities?
We want to facilitate answers to these questions and more by featuring people whose voices are often left out of mainstream food media and restaurant hype. We want to learn from the only Ghanaian food caterer in her city, the only woman running a kitchen in a medium-sized town, or the guy who claims to have fed all the Malaysian exchange students and a good number of visiting faculty from his own kitchen. Both of us love food but realize that the stories about it can’t all be about what’s hot, or quaint, or a twist on a classic, or served in a bucket for kicks.
Food stories are people stories. History and culture matter, as do policy and law. We will discuss all of those factors and encourage folks featured here to do the same. For some people, the best leaf picked at the proper time makes the meal taste like home. For others, it’s the right bottle of sauce. We want to know what’s in the bottle, where it came from, and why everyone except that one uncle thinks it’s the best. We want to know what matters to people about food and how they make their desires come to fruition—or don’t. We might want to know enough to try to reproduce that recipe or at least find out who we have to call to get a heads up about the next time the dish will be available.