Bethany Clough

A guide to ethnic food in Fresno? There's a website for that, thanks to some students

Here is a story displayed on the Fresno Foodways website. The site is the creation of some anthropology students at Fresno State.
Here is a story displayed on the Fresno Foodways website. The site is the creation of some anthropology students at Fresno State. Screenshot of Fresno Foodways

Fresno's food scene has been chronicled by all kinds of media, but an anthropology class? That might be a first.

Fresno State students taking Henry Delcore's Anthropology 111B Ethnographic Methods and Dvera Saxton's Anthropology 118 Women, Biology, and Culture recently created Fresno Foodways. The website takes a look at restaurants and other local food producers, including a mobile cake-in-a-jar business.

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Injera bread is an Ethiopian staple served by Charles Kaloki, owner of Fasika, an Ethiopian restaurant in Fresno. Its story is chronicled on Fresno Foodways, a website started by anthropology students at Fresno State. Fresno Foodways

What's different about this website is that it also looks deeply into the culture and background of the people running these businesses. The story about the Lao Thai Restaurant on Kings Canyon Road by Alexis Hoang, for example, talks about sticky rice and larb, a dish sometimes made with raw meat.

But it also delves into the owner's background, coming from a refugee camp to Fresno, his path from a Fresno State electrical engineering degree to opening a restaurant, and Laos' role in the Vietnam war.

According to Fresno Foodways, the goal of the site "is to present an ethnographic glimpse of the stories of immigrant, refugee, and diasporic cooks and food entrepreneurs in Fresno, CA." Those populations often face challenges like discrimination and being shut out from public investment, the site says.

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La Jacka Mobile is a food truck that sells meat and vegan Mexican cuisine. Its story is chronicled on the Fresno Foodways website, the creation of some anthropology students at Fresno State. Fresno Foodways

The creators also said they want to provide a different kind of food coverage.

"Too often, food journalism and online food reviews treat food as utterly unmoored from any social or cultural context. But working with people and food responsibly means portraying them in context," it says.

For now, there are 12 stories on the site, ranging from Ethiopian restaurant Fasika to Panaderia Cafe Oaxaca and its vegan Mexican sweet breads.

The instructors plan to continue the project in future classes. People can suggest businesses or home cooks by emailing dsaxton@csufresno.edu.

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