Looking to escape your corner of the world, for a historic city whose bells toll the sound of freedom? Philadelphia is not just famous for the Liberty Bell and being America’s first capital. It’s also an historic culinary bastion for African-American chefs becoming successful entrepreneurs. After all, Philly is where George Washington’s favorite slave, Hercules, escaped as Washington was preparing to return to Mt. Vernon. And, despite Washington’s best efforts to recapture him, the city of Brotherly Love never returned Hercules.
In celebration of Juneteenth—the oldest celebration commemorating the end of slavery—I interviewed Nicole Taylor of FoodCulturist.com about the inaugural issue of her Modern Travelers’ Green Zine, a food and travel publication inspired by Victor Green’s mid-century guide The Negro Travelers’ Green Book. The first issue of Modern Travelers’ Green Zine is all about Philadelphia.
Nicole also shared a Philly-inspired root beer and pretzel float (the recipe follows after the interview), an earthy and sweet root beer ice cream float accented with crunchy two-day-old Pelzer’s Pretzels. It’s a cool treat for everyone looking to escape the summer heat while learning about American history.
Here’s my interview with Nicole:
Your original inspiration for your travel guides was Victor Green’s The Negro Motorist Green Book, which was later renamed to The Negro Travelers’ Green Book. Why would a similar publication be needed today?
Starting in 1934, a Harlem postal worker named Victor Green released these guides to help African-Americans travel safely. The last Negro Travelers’ Green Book was published in 1964, after the passing of the Civil Rights Bill. Today, African-Americans are privileged to vacation somewhat smoothly around the United States and not be fearful of being in the wrong place. Modern Travelers’ Green Zine is a nod to Mr. Green’s style of providing creme de la creme recommendations in a simple style. Although we make an effort to highlight black cultural institutions in each cities, our zine can be enjoyed by all.
Where can someone purchase a copy and are subscription services available?
We debuted at Brooklyn Zine Fest in April. Folks can purchase Volume 1 on Etsy.
Before you explore a city for each publication, what type of research do you do? And how do you plan your trip to sample various dishes and attend cultural events over a short period of time?
My process for the [Philadelphia issue] began with informal research from locals, conversations with tourism officials, and almost a dozen visits to the City of Brotherly Love—lots of eating and walking. From the donut shop listed to Geechee Girl Rice Cafe’s cranberry shrub, everything touched my lips. Each trip was compact with three square meals, stops for sweets and drinks, and a minimum of two museum visits.
Then, I selected a photographer and illustrator to capture the visuals of my experiences. The Center City skyline and Chef Hercules portrait were hand drawn by Brooklyn-based Shannon Mustipher and all the images were shot by Jordan A. Colbert. The creative direction was led by Adrian Franks. Creating this mini guide book makes me a lifelong ambassador to the city.
Why did you choose Philadelphia as the first city to explore for the launch of your magazine? Which cities will you write about next?
Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States of America. I’ve always heard that, during the mid-to-late 1800s, there was a prominent and influential guild of black caterers that ushered in the city’s long history of African-American entrepreneurship.
I’m interested in making New York, Atlanta, and Chicago my next volumes, because they possess a similar culinary energy as Philadelphia. I’ll stick with the same laser-focused format and build on the creativity.
When traveling, I return home to create a recipe with ingredients from my trip. Do you do the same thing? If so, could you share a recipe?
I discovered Philadelphia is the birthplace of root beer. I’m not a big soda drinker, but I brought home two bottles of Philly-made Hank’s Root Beer (made with pure cane sugar) and it screamed… float. Here is my recipe for a Philly Root Beer & Pretzel Float (made with Pelzer’s Pretzels). [Get the recipe below.]
If you published a zine to celebrate Juneteenth, which city would represent the holiday and why?
On June 18, 1865, two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the news of freedom was delivered to enslaved people in Galveston, TX by the Union’s Major General Gordon Granger. According to Juneteenth’s official website, it’s the oldest celebration commemorating the ending to slavery in the United States. A Modern Travelers’ Green Zine Volume: Galveston, Texas would be a perfect nod to Juneteenth—soon!
Special Thanks: These artisanal Philadelphia-style soft pretzels are courtesy of Pelzer’s Pretzels, a Brooklyn-based company started by a Philadelphia-native attorney and his wife, a beauty marketer and self-described foodie. Pelzer’s Pretzels opened April 2012, and they immediately sold out of their soft snack inventory. Besides selling pretzels, Pelzer’s Pretzels offers gourmet Spicy Beer Mustard and Champagne Honey Mustard as dipping sauces. (Trust me, buy the whole bottle.)
Pelzer’s Pretzels is committed to making wholesome and delicious pretzels from the best available ingredients, providing fair wages, promoting worker dignity, and investing long-term in the local Brooklyn community. Visit Pelzer’s Pretzels to order online.
Philly Root Beer & Caramel Pretzel Float
Philly Root Beer & Pretzel Float:
- 2 scoops (about ¼ cup each) Pretzel & Root Beer Ice Cream (Recipe follows)
- 2-12 oz. Hank’s Root Beer
- Angostura aromatic bitters and grated dark chocolate, for garnish
- Reserved Pelzer’s Pretzels Chunks
Pretzel & Root Beer Ice Cream:
- 1 recipe for vanilla ice cream (about pint)
- ¼ cup Hank’s Root Beer
- 1 large Philly-Style Classic Soft Pretzel (such as Pelzer’s Pretzels), 2 days old
Philly Root Beer & Pretzel Float:
Pour two servings of Hank’s Root Beer in 2 float glasses. Gently place a generous scoop of ice cream on top of root beers.
Add two dashes of Angostura bitters.
Using a microplane, top off with a half tablespoon of shaved dark chocolate.
Garnish with reserved Pelzer’s Pretzels chunks.
Enjoy with a straw and/or spoon.
Pretzel & Root Beer Ice Cream:
Follow the directions for making the vanilla ice cream custard.
After heating the custard to thicken and before pouring it into a cooling container, mix in a quarter cup of root beer. Based on recipe instructions, tightly cover the container and chill the custard in a refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
Fill an ice cream maker’s bowl with root beer ice cream custard and follow the machine’s directions for churning the ice cream.
In a food processor, quickly pulse two-day old Pelzer’s Pretzels pieces. Aim for medium chunks. Set aside.
When the ice cream is ready (in soft serve texture), mix in the Pelzer’s Pretzels chunks. Save a spoonful for final garnish. Let the ice cream cure in freezer overnight or until hard.
For this treat use your favorite vanilla ice cream recipe. My go-to sweet cream recipe can be found in Jenis Splendid Ice Cream Desserts and the soft pretzels bits were inspired by her gravels “crunchy condiments” recipes.
About the Author
Sanura Weathers is the author of a sweet, savory, buttery, green and healthy food blog at MyLifeRunsOnFood.com. Her recipes strive to use seasonal and locally-grown ingredients found at the farmer’s market. Using her experience as an online content manager/editor, food writer, social media manager and graphic designer, Sanura creates a visually appetizing food blog redefining comfort and traditional recipes with a healthy twist.