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As a food writer for DCist.com, I feel lucky that this area’s restaurant and grocery scene reflects the diversity of our population, particularly in regard to Ethiopian, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and soul food in and around the District. However, I am sometimes limited in my quest to find out more about say, Korean bakeries in Annandale, or Vietnamese in Arlington, because I’m not as familiar with the respective cultures.
If the city’s food sections—the Washingtonian’s, the Washington Post’s or yours— hired writers whose responsibilities, among others, would be to write about their native cuisine, imagine how much richer food sections would be. Readers would appreciate an insider’s perspective, be it on shopping at the Super H or navigating a Korean menu. Freelancer Monica Bhide publishes articles on a variety of topics not related to food, but she also provides an insider’s perspective on Indian cuisine for the New York Times, Food & Wine, and occasionally even the Post. How great it would be to have more like her, from a variety of communities, employed full-time in media all over town.
Do I think that only Vietnamese people should write about pho? No. However, a Korean speaker may bring more to a piece on Korean bakeries than I may be able to, even if I were led through bakeries by Korean friends and was able to spend the same kind of time on a piece as I do on work for my paying job. (DCist does not pay writers for posts.)
Of course, there’s always a question as to whether a person who grows up in an immigrant or minority community will write a more engaging and articulate piece than a curious reporter from the outside who happens to ask good questions and is a thorough researcher. The questions raised by your article suggest that it’s a discussion that we should continue to revisit.