Queer Food is the Future: A Pride Month Q&A with Diaspora Co
June isn’t over yet! The Pride parade may have been canceled weeks ago, but that’s all the more reason to celebrate just a little bit longer. This week, we’re proud to showcase another one of our stellar queer producers: Diaspora Co! It’s been hard for us to keep their colorful jars of equitably sourced spices on our shelves, but we’re happy to have their turmeric back in stock and we’re ready to add it to haldi doodh (turmeric lattes!), overnight oats, and plenty of colorful savory dishes. (You'll want to keep an eye out as the rest of their products arrive—pandemic shipping times are no joke!) We asked founder Sana Javeri Kadri a few questions about Diaspora Co’s important mission, and what it means to be a queer food producer in today’s food industry.
What inspired the founding of Diaspora Co?
The original intent of colonial conquest of the Indian subcontinent was a desire for domination of the spice trade. 600+ years later, as a young woman born and raised in postcolonial Mumbai, working at the intersection of food and culture, I was slowly discovering that not much about that system had changed. Farmers made no money, spices changed hands upwards of 10 times between farmer and consumer, and the final spice on the shelf was usually an old, dusty, and flavorless shadow of what it once was. Diaspora Co. was founded in 2017 to create a radically new, and equitable vision of the spice trade, decolonizing a commodity back into a seasonal crop, and a broken system into an equal exchange. Beyond highlighting gorgeous, indigenous spice varieties, it's also about creating a business for us, by us. Complicating and deepening what “Made in India” means, and how we tell our own stories of freedom, struggle, and diaspora through food. Today we work in close partnership with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to identify and provide ongoing support to our partner farmers, all of whom are on the cutting edge of regenerative, and sustainable agriculture. We pay our partner farms between 2x-10x the market price, provide healthcare to their laborers, and work with a network of sustainable farms across India!
What is the best part of being a queer food producer?
I founded this business to decolonize the spice trade, but also to tell stories for and by the people that looked like me, for the queers, the people of color, the immigrants. I wanted to create a brand that was setting the highest standard of spices in the world, but specifically from the point of view of those rarely given the time of day in the food industry, and especially within the spice trade. So the best part has probably been the incredible community, queer and otherwise that have rallied around us and lifted us up in the past three years and reinforced our belief that we are deeply needed and wanted in this industry. It's pretty special.
What are your favorite Diaspora Co products?
I should say our Pragati Turmeric because it's what I founded the company for and boy is it spectacular. But to be honest—our Aranya Peppercorns are my true favorites. They make everything feel special and bright. Anytime I'm in need of a quick, pick-me-up dinner—it's cacio e pepe with hella roasted Aranya Pepper! I also am OBSESSED with our popcorn spice that's a collab with Jacobsen Salt Co. - we developed the recipe in 2017 as a way to sample our turmeric to customers and it's become a cult favorite. We just can't keep it in stock.
What advice do you have for aspiring queer producers in the food industry?
Own your identity and power, you have so much more power than you know! We are so needed and so sorely underrepresented, especially in the grocery aisles! What we bring to the table is culture, nuance, leadership, sorely needed change, I could go on! Stay true to who you are and go forth in queer excellence.