Oral historian co-writes global cookbook inspired by Queens Night Market



She’s the queen of New York’s Queens Night Market, and she loves a good story.

Meet Storm Garner, a multi-talented creative, who happens to be QNM founder John Wang’s better half.

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Paris, Garner spent many carefree years finding herself through music, acting, writing and filmmaking. It was her expertise in oral history and passion for storytelling that would ultimately lead to a deep interest in Queens Night Market’s immigrant vendor-chefs, who shared authentic recipes and tales of home, work, and family with her. 

Eventually, a narrative cookbook followed, aptly called, “The World Eats Here: Amazing Food and the Inspiring People Who Make It at New York’s Queens Night Market” (The Experiment), which Garner co-authored with her husband, and is set for release April 28. It’s available to pre-order now.

“I guess I’ve just always had a lot of creative energy, and a sort of obsession with communication: how people relate to one another with stories and aesthetics, how certain gestures or sounds or sentences or colors can transform strangers into friends, or incite laughter, or tears, or wonder – depending on the context,” Garner said.

The 272-page book is chock-full of regional cuisines from all over the world: from Hong Kong to Haiti, from Colombia to Mauritius – and many more places in between. You’ll find captivating stories derived from Garner’s long-form interviews with 50 or so participating vendors representing 40-plus countries, who share 88 taste-of-home recipes, life stories and experiences working with food and navigating multicultural identities. Readers will also enjoy 225-plus photos and illustrations.

Chef Andrew Zimmern, four-time James Beard award winner and creator and host of Bizarre Foods, sang the book’s praises.

“I have touted Queens for 15 years as the greatest food destination in the world. This book will help you fall in love with the food from this special place and, more importantly, its people,” he said.

Garner said her first goal in oral history was “to document the incredible diversity of stories that anyone could potentially hear any given night at QNM, and to share a bit of that magic with an even larger audience.” So, two years ago, she started Columbia University’s masters program in oral history, for guidance, while setting up her thesis, “The Queens Night Market Vendor Stories Oral History Project.”

“Overall, John was in charge of curating and editing the recipes and headnotes for the book; he helped draft and edit some vendor stories, I helped test some recipes,” she noted. “Most importantly, John kept me well-fed and hydrated during long hours writing at my desk!”

In “The World Eats Here,” you’ll meet hardworking vendors like Joey Batista of Joey Bats Café, whose Pastéis de nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts) are to die for; Wanda Chiu of Hong Kong Street Food, whose pan-fried noodles remind her of cold winter mornings before school; and you’ll find out more about chef Kika Radz of Brooklyn Dumpling, who makes tasty Kopytka (Polish potato gnocchi). 

You can learn to make many dishes that have actually been sold at QNM, like Jaina Teeluck’s favorite Mauritian Chicken Biryani recipe (sold at the Pereybeurre tent), or Institute of Culinary Education-trained chef Hendra Lie’s Tahu Gejrot (Indonesian fried tofu), or Liia Minnebaeva’s Bashkir farm cheese donuts — a treat from her childhood in Oktyabrsky in Western Russia, which she sells under the Wembie tent.

“Oral history is a great way to find those under-told stories in the first place, to hear directly from people who have experienced something you haven’t, and to make sure you’re getting the story right,” Garner said, noting that her vendor interviews will be archived and available to the public for educational use in a few years. 

Garner said she hopes to start integrating audio clips into the live Saturday Night Market experience itself this spring as a free audio installation. A handful of audio clips will be online starting in April, as a “soft launch,” which will be developed over the course of the next season, adding participating vendors to the project each week, according to their interest.

Next up, a vendor portrait short video series profiling these same vendors, based on the oral history videos. These videos will be released online throughout the season so the public can get to know the vendors better (QNM is still looking for distribution partners).

“There is an incredible diversity of lived experiences represented at QNM: people who got into food vending coming from a huge array of professional backgrounds – and that’s part of what makes it so special,” Garner said.

To preorder The World Eats Here, visit www.theexperimentpublishing.com/catalogs/spring-2020/the-world-eats-here.

When released, it will be available wherever books are sold, as well as at QNM.