Sisters to Serve Up Heaping Helping of Stories
What the Kitchen Sisters dish out on their award-winning
National Public Radio show Hidden Kitchens doesn’t
only concern food and its preparation.
They talk about food, to be sure. But they also talk about
community and how people interact, share their lives and
grow together. They tell inspiring stories of struggle and
triumph, about women, children and people overcoming daunting
odds to succeed.
The Kitchen Sisters, Davia
Nelson and Nikki Silva (who are not related), have been
on the air for 25 years shining
a light on the extraordinary stories of ordinary people.
Hidden Kitchens won the 2006 duPont-Columbia Broadcast
Journalism Award, considered the top honor for radio shows.
They will soon give Smith College a sampling of their work.
The Kitchen Sisters will
visit Smith on Thursday, Nov. 15, as part of the college’s fourth annual . They will give a highly interactive, multimedia presentation
titled “How Communities Come Together Through Food” beginning
at 4:15 p.m. in the Campus Center Carroll Room. A gala reception
will follow. Recipes of Julia Child and the Kitchen Sisters
will be featured during the day at the Campus Center Café,
the Smith College Club for lunch, and at the reception and
in residence dining rooms.
It’s difficult to predict what the Kitchen Sisters’ presentation
will entail because they are committed to remaining flexible
and working with and involving their audience.
“We would much rather be in conversation with the
audience than lecturing,” said Nelson during a recent
telephone interview from her home in San Francisco, where
she also works as a screenwriter and casting director. The
presentation will include readings, radio broadcasts, PowerPoint
presentations, posters, multimedia, people telling their
stories, and more, she said. “We’ll play a lot
of music, display photos, share some food. It will be rich
and deeply textured.”
As in their popular Hidden Kitchens series,
the Kitchen Sisters’ live presentations impart the stories
of people’s secret lives, the angles not often seen
or displayed through media. One such story tells about Robert “King” Wilkerson,
who spent 31 years in prison—29 in solitary confinement—before
being released in 2001 after his case was overturned. Following
his release, he built a booming business in New Orleans,
his hometown, selling the delectable pralines he had learned
to make in prison using a stove made from cans and tissue.
Attendees to the Kitchen Sisters’ presentation on Julia
Child Day will be able to sample Wilkerson’s pralines.
Nelson encourages attendees of the event to bring their
stories of food and community to share during the presentation.
Also, she welcomes those in the Smith community to email
their stories in advance, to firstname.lastname@example.org,
for use during the event.
It’s fitting for the Kitchen Sisters to visit Smith,
Nelson notes. They have emphasized stories about women cutting
new paths and breaking new ground during their radio careers.
The duo’s newest series, called The Secret Lives
of Girls Around the World—“about the world
of girls and the women they become,” Nelson says—is
expected to begin airing on NPR in January 2009.
And while the Kitchen
Sisters’ presentations are about
food, the content transcends preparing and consuming meals. “It’s
more than the food,” said Nelson. “It’s
the fellowship. And it’s not just for people who like
to cook. It’s for people who eat as well. And people
who want to cook for each other. The one thing we all have
in common, the thing that brings us all together, is food.”
The Kitchen Sisters also produce the NPR series Lost & Found
Sound, which explores American life through recorded
sound; and they produced the Peabody Award-winning The
Sonic Memorial Project, which created an archive of
NPR listeners’ personal recordings and remembrances
following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Nelson says she’s
honored to be visiting Smith on the auspicious celebration
of Julia Child.
“Julia built this community of cooks across the nation,” she
said. “Though we’re not cooks like Julia, we’re
interested in bringing people together through kitchens and
The late Julia Child ’34,
author of a dozen cookbooks and host of the long-running
PBS television series The
French Chef, is credited with changing the way we think
about food in America. Her book, Mastering the Art of
French Cooking, provided culinary aspirants with one
of the most accessible collections of French recipes available
Child donated her house in Cambridge, Mass., to Smith, which
she had lived in from 1956 to 2001. In 2002, proceeds from
the sale of the property supported construction of the Campus
Child died on August 12,
2004. An etching on a window of the Campus Center Café honors
her generosity to Smith.