Queer Food Is Now: A Diaspora Co Retrospective

Happy Pride! This weekend marks the return of NYC’s Pride parade, which had to be canceled last year for—well, obvious reasons. Pride also describes how we feel to be carrying not just one of our favorite queer producers, one of our favorite producers period: Diaspora Co, founded by the amazing Sana Javeri Kadri. Since we last featured them, Diaspora Co has only grown—you can even find their spices in Malai's Turkish Coffee ice cream, sold in our freezer! Their turmeric, which we’ve carried for nearly two years now, is unlike any other you’ve ever tasted, and that has everything to do with the how, who, and where of harvesting and processing it. 

Unlike many companies that deal with spices or other desirable crops that don’t grow in North American soil, Diaspora Co is owned by a member of the community responsible for caring for those crops. Sana didn’t visit a far-off land to find her inspiration, being herself born and raised in Mumbai, India. Instead, her company was founded for the important mission of empowering spice farmers, bringing flavor back to spices, and telling the story that’s literally in the name—Diaspora Co. 

We asked Sana these questions last year, during a more fraught time in the world, but we think her words are important enough—and inspiring enough, as warm as a cup of haldi doodh made with Diaspora’s incredible turmeric—to get a replay. 

A smaller image of jars of spices made by Diaspora Co against a pink background. One small jar of turmeric, one small open jar of peppercorns, one large jar of turmeric, and one large jar of Sannam chiles.

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.