17 delicious foods you can thank immigrants for.

Immigrants are in the spotlight lately. And not in the good, Patti LuPone/Audra McDonald duet kind of way.

LuPone (left) and McDonald (right). Photo by Drama League/Flickr.

As promised, the Trump administration is advancing its plans to boot millions of immigrants from the United States — and reviving its order to stop them from coming here in the first place.


To hear all your Sean Spicers, your Stephen Millers, and your Kellyanne Conways tell it, the measures are necessary to stop, well, pretty much everything bad currently happening in America — from job-stealing to crime to terrorism.

Convincing Americans that immigrants are more than the sum of their worst stereotypes means winning back some hearts and minds, but these days, it can feel futile to appeal to America's heart or its brain.

But perhaps — perhaps America's stomach is still willing to listen.

Immigrants don't only make America great; they make it delicious. The people who risk their livelihoods and occasionally their lives to come here are often more than happy to share their secret recipes with us. Without them, we'd have nothing to eat ... nothing good, anyway.

Here are 17 of the top contributions to America's culinary scene by refugees, ex-pats, and immigrants.

Try not to drool on the keypad.

1. You wouldn't know about pretty much all the Chinese food you like if it weren't for refugee-turned-immigrant-turned-master chef Cecilia Chiang.

Chang and kung pao chicken. Photos by John Parra/Getty Images and Sodanie Chea/Flickr.

Chiang, who survived the Japanese invasion of China before immigrating to San Francisco in the 1960s, introduced America to the delicious, umami, stir-fried meat pile known as kung pao chicken at her restaurant, the Mandarin.

2. This giant paella wouldn't exist if chef Michael Mina hadn't moved here from Egypt.

Today was one for the books. #MinaMoments

A post shared by Michael Mina (@chefmichaelmina) on

Mina, the guy with the oar, was born in Cairo, immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Washington state, proceeded to open over a dozen restaurants in cities across the country, win a Michelin star, write a cookbook, appear on Gordon Ramsey's "Hell's Kitchen," launch a media company, and, in this photo, somehow managed to combine rice, shellfish, and nautical equipment into something so appetizing you would probably win a free T-shirt for finishing it.

3. Without lax 19th century immigration laws, America would have been denied its birthright: the Bud Light Straw-ber-Rita.

Anyone who watched this year's Super Bowl just for the commercials knows that Adolphus Busch was a hardscrabble German immigrant who trudged through miles of mud and ominously high grass to found the all-American beer company that makes the U.S. the perennial world leader in drunken high school reunion softball games.

4. You'd have to travel to an Eastern European war zone to enjoy these perogis.

Photo by Veselka/Facebook.

In 1954, Ukrainian refugees Wolodymyr and Olha Darmochawal came to New York City and founded Veselka in the East Village, serving these soul-altering fried meat, cheese, and potato pouches by the crock-load to NYU students who have crushed one too many Bud Light Lime Straw-ber-Ritas.

5. This ridiculous pulled turkey burger with Indian spices, candied bacon, and masala fries wouldn't be available in Elvis country.

Maneet Chauhan and the turkey burger. Photos by Theo Wargo/Getty Images and Chauhan Ale and Masala House/Facebook.

One great thing about being alive in 2017 is that you can find South Asian-Southern fusion sandwiches for less than $20 in the middle of the Bible Belt like it's no big deal thanks to immigrants like Indian-American chef Maneet Chauhan (you might know her as a frequent judge on "Chopped"), who opened Chauhan Ale and Masala House in Nashville in 2014.

6. We wouldn't know the gastronomic perfection that is surf and turf served over two cheese enchiladas.

Richard Sandoval and surf and turf. Photos by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images and La Hacienda/Facebook.

Before Richard Sandoval was a "Top Chef Masters" contestant, Bon Apetit Restaurateur-of-the-Year Award winner, and international food star, he was just a Mexico City kid with a dream. That dream? To put fried onions on top of steak on top of enchiladas with some lobster tail and risotto getting freaky on the side, as his La Hacienda in Scottsdale, Arizona, did on Valentine's Day 2017.

7. Anything with Huy Fong sriracha in it would have to be seasoned with a far lesser hot sauce.

Thanks to erstwhile humane values of decades past, America's hottest condiment was given unto us by a refugee — David Tran — who fled his native Vietnam on the ship Huy Fong in the 1970s. Had he come four-and-a-half decades later, it's likely he would have wound up in Canada and invented spicy maple syrup or whatever. (Actually, to be honest, that sounds pretty great. Please, immigrants from tropical climes living in Canada, invent spicy maple syrup.)

8. The Swedes might have chef Marcus Samuelsson's La Isla Bonita all to themselves.

Samuelsson and La Isla Bonita. Photos by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images and Red Rooster Harlem/Facebook.

With all the problems in Sweden that are totally so real that everyone knows about them, it's no wonder that Samuelsson (who was born in Ethiopia and is another frequent "Chopped" judge) skipped town for New York City, bringing his brand of soul food to Harlem's Red Rooster — including this otherworldy mashup of tres leches cake, rum, passion fruit, and banana.

9. Detroit would be bereft without its iconic chili-onion-mustard dogs.

The precise origin of the Michigan-favorite Coney dog has been debated for decades, but pretty much no one contests that it was invented by Greek immigrants, notably brothers Bill and Gust Keros around 1919, when they discovered — after millennia of flailing by the best chefs in the world — that the ideal condiment for meat was goopier meat.

10. You wouldn't even be able to dream about Jose Andres' ibérico bacon cristal bread uni.

Jose Andres (L) and tapas (R). Photo by Larry French/Getty Images; Jaleo/Facebook.

It's also known as coca con arizos de mar — or "expensive ham 'n fish pizza" — and Andres serves this magical creation at his D.C. tapas restaurant Jaleo. The award-winning chef, who hails from Spain, was one of several dozen who closed his restaurants on Feb. 16, 2017, in protest of the Trump administration's immigration policies.

11. Vending machines, bodegas, and gas station convenience stores nationwide would be thousands of dollars poorer without Flamin' Hot Cheetos on the shelves.

More than "The Great Gatsby," more than "Rudy," even more than Katy Perry's "Roar," the story of Flamin' Hot Cheetos is the story of the American dream. Working full time as a janitor at a Cheetos factory (!), Mexican immigrant Richard Montañez took home some defective, un-dusted Cheetos after an equipment breakdown, sprinkled some chili spices on them, and presented his creation to corporate bigwigs, who promptly put them into production. The tangy corn tubelettes quickly became the company's #1 selling snack, and Montañez was promoted to executive vice present of multicultural sales and community activation, having successfully pulled himself up by his sticky-dusty bootsraps.

12. Cronuts would not be a thing.

Dominique Ansel and a cronut. Photos by Noam Galai/Getty Images and Chun Yip So/Flickr.

Assuming you could get a cronut, you would be first-born-child-level indebted to Dominique Ansel, the French-born chef who debuted the monstrously scrumptious croissant-donut hybrid in New York City in 2013. Unfortunately, four years later, you still can't get a cronut.

13. Your airport layover would be 1,000% less tolerable without this margherita pizza from Wolfgang Puck Express.

Puck and pizza. Photos by Michael Kovac/Getty Images and Jeff Christiansen/Flickr.

Stuck in Downtown Disney World or delayed getting back to Milwaukee? You could do a lot worse than this gorgeous bubbly cheese pie by Puck, Austria's greatest gift to America since the toaster strudel.

14. You'd have to eat this mouthwatering soft-serve in a cup instead of a cone.

If there's one thing certain cable news outlets will never fail to remind you, it's that Syrian immigrants are very, very, super-duper scary. Perhaps nothing in history illustrates this better than their most terrifying invention to date, the ice cream cone. The edible frozen treat vessel was created by Abe Doumar, who debuted his creation at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, the culmination of the Middle Eastern migrant's dastardly plot to improve mankind and delight children of all ages around the world forever and always.

It's not just that immigrants invent food we like to eat. They pretty much cook everything we eat too.

Roughly 20% of restaurant cooks are undocumented, and an even greater share are foreign-born — up to 75% in some cities. That means that immigrants are responsible for feeding you even the down-home comfort food you enjoy, including...

15. This cheeseburger from Hardee's...

Photo by Mr. Gray/Flickr.

16. ...this stock photo apple pie....

17. ...and this American flag sheet cake.

Immigrants deserve a place in America. And not just because they fill our tummies with tasty victuals.

They enrich our communities and keep our culture varied and interesting. They do the jobs most of us don't want to do. They pay hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes and contribute to our economy in countless measurable and immeasurable ways.

Immigrants and refugees don't come here to get Americans fired, steal our wallets, or blow us up. Most of them come here for a better, safer, more secure life.

They make all of our lives richer — and more delicious — in the process.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less