Join Us TODAY 3 PM ET/2 PM CT For “Hidden Assets,” A Call-In Show And Live Chat On Immigration

Throughout the past two years, Changing Gears has looked at the role that newcomers play in the Midwest. This afternoon, we’ll be talking about them — and talking with you. 

Join us at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT for “Hidden Assets,” a call-in show airing on WBEZ Chicago, Michigan Radio and ideastream Cleveland. We’ll also be holding a live chat here at ChangingGears.info.

WBEZ’s Steve Edwards will host with a variety of scheduled guests, including Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, and Changing Gears reporter Niala Boodhoo. The Changing Gears team will chat with you here during the show.

On Wednesday, Join Us For “Hidden Assets,” A Call-In Show And Live Chat on Immigration

Throughout the past two years, Changing Gears has looked at the role that newcomers play in the Midwest. On Wednesday, we’ll be talking about them — and talking with you. 

Join us at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT for “Hidden Assets,” a call-in show airing on WBEZ Chicago, Michigan Radio and ideastream Cleveland. We’ll also be holding a live chat here at ChangingGears.info.

WBEZ’s Steve Edwards will host with a variety of scheduled guests, including Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder. They’ll be looking at ways the Midwest is trying to attract immigrants, and how they can be a competitive business advantage for our region.

“Hidden Assets” welcomes your participation, on the air and here.

Staying Connected To The Old Culture, While Fitting In With The New

When we asked what cultural traditions people have kept or lost, many wrote about the difficulty of fitting into American culture while staying connected to their own roots.

Yen Azzaro tried to learn her mother’s native Mandarin Chinese in college, but never mastered it. “I never learned how to read or write Chinese. Sometimes I feel inadequate or guilty about this,” said Azzaro. “But most of the time I just feel relieved that I understand some Chinese. Many people my age worked so hard to assimilate; they lost all knowledge of their native tongue,” she said.

Those who hold on to traditions often have a way of adapting and updating them to reflect new cultural experiences.

Sausage making in Anette Kingsbury's family. Credit: Annette Kingsbury

One way to track those changes and adaptations is through the way people cook and share food. We heard from a Sicilian family that once made 700 cannolis and another that (enthusiastically) honors their Sicilian roots by making hundreds of sausages.

Our culture project incorporated many stories from people who keep up a family food tradition and put their own spin on it.

Sharlene Innes writes: “The most important Polish tradition for my family and for me is Wigilia, the Christmas Eve celebration. We come together to share a meal which now includes items like a large nacho prepared by my Mexican-American brother-in-law.”

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Cake, Shortbread, or Pastry? Mazurek Is All That, And More

As part of our Your Family Story series, we’re collecting recipes that have been passed down within families. Send in your mother’s, grandfather’s, or cousin’s famous recipe for goulash, pozole, dumplings or any dish that your family has enjoyed.

We’re collecting recipes until midnight tomorrow. We’ll publish all the recipes. The winner, to be chosen by the Changing Gears team, will be announced here and on our partner websites. They’ll collect a grab bag of public radio goodies.

Today, Changing Gears Senior Editor Micki Maynard shares this recipe for Mazurek:

My father’s family, which is of French descent, has been in the United States for many generations, settling primarily in Massachusetts. But my mother is a first generation American. Her family came to the United States around 1905. Her father hailed from what was known as Byelorussia, and now Belorus, an area also known as White Russia.

My mom learned European dishes from her mother and New England recipes through my dad, so we enjoyed a varied menu at home. I’ve always heard my mother say what a good cook my grandmother was. But, I didn’t know until this year that my grandmother was co-owner of a bakery in Grand Rapids. The Northwestern Bakery stood on Leonard Street, although the building is no longer there.

Each Easter, my family gathers for brunch, and Mazurek (pronouncd mah-ZUR-eck) is always the last dish that is served. We sit over coffee and tea and enjoy this dense, rich pastry, very much like a soft shortbread. My mom was always the Mazurek baker, until she offered to teach me. She also shared the recipe with my brother, who baked the Mazurek that you see here.

Want to add Mazurek to your repertoire? Follow this recipe.

Continue reading “Cake, Shortbread, or Pastry? Mazurek Is All That, And More”

What Midwest Leaders Are Doing To Lay Out The Welcome Mat For Immigrants

Last year, Alabama enacted the country’s most restrictive laws against illegal immigration. One week later, Dayton, Ohio, set out a welcome mat for immigrants. And it’s not alone.

In the second part of our look at immigrants and the Midwest, we’ve found many local governments are trying to attract immigrants as an economic development strategy.

Tom Wahlrab from Welcome Dayton speaks to Global Detroit.

Dayton got attention from all over the world last fall when its city commission unanimously approved a plan called Welcome Dayton to make it an “immigrant-friendly city.” Since then, the town has been inundated.

“We have people calling us from South Africa that read about us in the local paper,” Tom Wahlrab, one of the plan’s architects, said recently in Detroit. “We have people from North China that want to immigrate here, they thought we could help them.”

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The Cannoli Assembly Line: Efficient and Delicious

Michelle Guevara writes:

My great-grandfather migrated from Sicily. Like a lot of Italian migrants, he was poor but carved a name for himself and ended up having a large family.

I miss the big family gatherings. Most of us are grown now. Weddings and funerals are the only time the extended family gets together any more. The older generation held more of the old traditions together than we do now. I find that a shame. Those were some of my best memories.

I remember cannoli day, a tradition that my family and cousins continue to this day. Everyone brings a batch of cannoli dough and we set up an assembly line. A few roll the dough out then pass it along to those rolling the forms. They drop the rolls gently into the deep fryer.

Michelle demonstrates her cannoli rolling technique

Before the last batch is done, my cousins start dinner of spaghetti, meat balls or sausages, salad, and garlic bread. We fill our bellies to the point of bursting.

For dessert we eat…what else? Cannolis! By the end of the day, we pack the shells into boxes and divide them among the family. One day we made 700 shells.

-Michelle Guevara, Michigan

(In case you’re wondering—700 cannolis would add up to 4950 cubic inches of Italian dessert, or: one giant 3.5×1 ft cannoli.)

Most Americans have ethnic and cultural roots outside of the U.S. We’re asking you to share cultural traditions that are still important to you.

Changing Gears is looking for stories, recipes, songs, and pictures. We’ll be collecting these stories  on the Your Family Story page. They’ll also appear at changinggears.info and we’ll even put some on the air. You can share your story here.

Why More Leaders In The Midwest Are Looking To Immigrants To Rebuild Our Economy

Bing Goei came to the United States as a child. Now he runs a company with 60 employees and more than $5 million in annual revenue.

In many ways, the headquarters for Eastern Floral in Grand Rapids, Mich. is like a factory. It’s in an old building with brick walls. The floor is smooth, cold concrete. A noisy printer rattles off new orders.

But of course, it smells amazing in here. Designers stand at long wooden tables, primping and pruning flowers. Red tulips. White daisies. Yellow roses. And just about any other flower you can imagine.

Bing Goei, the owner, says this work is more like artistry.

“I think you have to be born with that.” he says. “I was not. I admit it.”

Goei says this with a laugh.

But he was born with something else that turned out to be its own asset. He was born with a foreign birth certificate. His parents were Chinese. He was born in Indonesia, then moved to the Netherlands. From there, they moved to Grand Rapids, like a lot of Dutch people before them. Except, they have a Chinese name.

And like many of those immigrants before him, Goei worked hard. He started in the flower business in high school. Now, Eastern Floral has seven locations, about 60 year-round employees – twice that around Valentine’s Day – and the company has over $5 million in annual revenue.

Goei says being an immigrant, and being an entrepreneur, there’s a connection there.
Continue reading “Why More Leaders In The Midwest Are Looking To Immigrants To Rebuild Our Economy”