Photo credit: Gordon M. Grant for The New York Times
The way I talk, most of the time folks think of me as an African American woman from either the San Francisco Bay Area or New York City. There is some truth in those things but the real deal is that I'm an African American/Shinnecock woman from New York City--Brooklyn and Staten Island specifically.
My paternal grandfather, Harry Baskerville, Sr., grew up on the Shinnecock Reservation on the eastern end of Long Island and tried to infuse as much Shinnecock culture into my brother and me as he could. Fishing trips and excursions out to the reservation for the Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow were a big deal and they are some of my most cherished memories.
So to open up today's New York Times dining section to find Shinnecocks profiled above the fold for their oyster farming made me beam with pride. I don't know anyone profiled in the story but am glad to see that they are able to find markets for what has been a real traditional industry for our tribe. My grandfather died ten years ago but just as I give my maternal grandfather credit for my love of cooking, I suppose I owe more than I know to "Pop" who instilled in me an appreciation and passion for the care of the land and sea.
As much as I've moved around, Staten Island remains the place I've lived longer than anywhere else. I was born there too, though its struggle to embrace racial pluralism has made me prone to hide that fact. Coincidentally, Staten Island is also known for its oyster farming--it was THE industry for the Island as far back as the 18th century. But it's the pizza that has been getting press lately.
Today's "$25 and Under" review is a kind of "local boys make good (pizza)" story about Salvatore Basile and Francis Garcia and their hot spot, Artichoke Basille's Pizza and Brewery. I've always believed Staten Island to have some of the best pizza in NYC (my cred and fairly refined pizza palate come by way Brooklyn pizzas where I spent the first ten years of my life). I'm glad the rest of the City is finally catching on.
To this day, whenever I go home to visit my mother, I pick up a slice at a pizzeria and restaurant called Basile's on Forest Avenue--I'd love to know if there is a connection between the two places. The world being the way it is--you know, two degrees of separation small--the chances are pretty good.