Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

On this week’s episode, we’re going to speak with Jackie Alpers. She’s an award-winning photographer. She’s an author, a recipe maker and a food lover. She recently wrote the cover article for the Tucson Travel Guide. It’s called “Women’s Work: The Past, Present and Future of Tucson’s Mexican Food is Female.” We’re going to learn more about Jackie and the premise of her story in just a few minutes.

Today is March 20th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio.org- we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app.

Reach us by email contact@lifealongthestreetcar.org — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Smeagain, “Chef’s Special.”

Transcript

Tom Heath
Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo, and you’re listening to KTDT Tucson. Thank you for spending part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown, Tucson Community sponsored a rock and roll radio station.

Tom Heath
On this week’s episode, we’re going to speak with Jackie Alpers. She’s an award-winning photographer. She’s an author, a recipe maker and a food lover. She recently wrote the cover article for the Tucson Travel Guide. It’s called “Women’s Work: The Past, Present and Future of Tucson’s Mexican Food is Female.” We’re going to learn more about Jackie and the premise of her story in just a few minutes.

Tom Heath
Today is March 20th 2022. My name is Tom Heath, and you’re listening to Life along the streetcar each and every Sunday. Our focus is on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban core. And we shed light on hidden gems. Everyone should know about from a mountain to you, Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 991 FM available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot org, also available on your iPhone or Android by getting our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app. And if you want to hit us up on the show, our email addresses contact at Life along the streetcar dot-org. That same URL will take you to all of our past episodes. You can find us on social media, and wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Tom Heath
Well, downtown Tucson has told us to take a hike. He believed that fact, starting today. They want you to take a haiku hike. This is a process that started a few years ago, I think, in 2019, and they solicit haiku poetry from our local poets here in the Tucson area. This year’s theme was metamorphosis, and and the winners are selected by Tucson’s Poet Laureate TC Tolbert. And the end result, then, is a acrylic, clear acrylic with the Haiku listed on it and placed in the Planters around the downtown area. So you can head over the website downtown Tucson, dot org for more info. But the Haiku hike in starts today on March 20th.

Tom Heath
Our Guest has also been sort of on a tour of her own of food. Her name is Jackie Alpers. She is a photographer by trade. She has gotten into the food industry years ago. She’s written some cookbooks, and she has just recently written article about the importance of the female presence in Tucson’s Mexican food scene. That story became the cover article for our Tucson Travel Guide. So we wanted to have her on the show and get a little bit her history and learn more about how and why she wrote this article.

Tom Heath
So we have with us today, a Jackie alpers with a very long resume, which were not going to go through all of it. But in essence, you are a photographer and author, a Recipe Maker, a food lover that I did. I get most of them in there?

Jackie Alpers
Thanks for having me on

Tom Heath
absolute pleasure. You know, you’re I keep track of you on through Facebook, and it seems like every other post is either a recipe or an award for a photography session that you did with one of our local restaurants.

Jackie Alpers
Yeah, it’s been an amazing Awards season this year. I, you know, I never think I’m going to win anything. So I just go for all of them. And this year came out better than I expected.

Tom Heath
So is your background in food or photography, or how did this? How did this match come to be?

Jackie Alpers
Well, my background, some photography. I have a degree in both fine art and commercial photography from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio and I my backgrounds, really, I was the managing editor of swan stock, which is a fine art photography sock agency that was based out of Tucson that was later acquired by Getty. And I did that for four years. So I really gained a background and working on a lot of different book covers magazine articles, articles, advertising campaigns, and from working on all those different projects. I realized how much I really enjoyed photographing food. And I got a job next working at Canyon Ranch as their media relations person. And I worked a lot with their kitchen and their chef, and I started taking photos of their food there. And that kind of evolved to me shooting a magazine articles for places like me, media Tucson, guide and Tucson lifestyle. And. And then I just was like all food, because I really was photographing food because it doesn’t really move around or talk back. You know,

Tom Heath
how did you get a? Maybe I missed this, but how did you get from from Columbus, Ohio to Canyon Ranch? What was the what got you out to Arizona?

Jackie Alpers
Well, I, after I graduated from college, I decided I wanted to find a new place to live. And so I took a road trip with a friend of mine across country. I thought I wanted was going to go to grad school in Santa Fe. I really wanted to study with Joel Peter Witkin, actually, in Albuquerque, who’s a fine art photographer there. And I got to I got to the University of New Mexico, and they’re like, well, you know, what? If you don’t have a 40 grade point average, we’re not even going to consider you as my own. Okay, wish I’d done that before. So I kept driving. And my friend was had decided that he really wanted to move to Tucson. And as soon as I got here, I knew it was the place for me. So I, we were so high, oh, packed up all my stuff and moved on out here.

Tom Heath
What year was was this that you ended up in Tucson, then?

Jackie Alpers
1993 oh my God, been almost 30 years now.

Tom Heath
So, Jackie, I think we were on the same road trip, because I moved here from Columbus in 1993. We’re gonna have to talk about that on a different show. Here I am. Shocked. Did you go? Did you go to college there? Yeah, with I went to Ohio State.

Jackie Alpers
Oh my God. Okay, that’s amazing.

Tom Heath
We will catch up separately on that. I don’t want to to take all the time. Period T tuna. Good things

Jackie Alpers
here. Oh my goodness gracious till we must be like the same age. Almost. Oh, oh my gosh, I’m

Tom Heath
so you get into photography, and then I’m get your page and give the photography you liked for photographing food. But something changed because a few years ago, you put out a cookbook. Yeah. So it’s not just a photography. Now, you’re creating food as well as photo for photographing it.

Jackie Alpers
Yes. Okay, so I don’t remember what year it was, but may was maybe 13 years ago, whatever you thought was I, my husband was, was telling me that I needed to start a blog. And this was kind of a time where blogs were like, kind of there was a whole mommy blogger thing, or like it was like, kind of just people who didn’t have anything to do with their lives, and they put out recipes. And I was like, I don’t do that. I’m not like a mommy blogger. I’m just you know, I, he’s like, well, your food photographs, and your recipes need to be documented somewhere in as I can. But I listened eventually. And from that blog, I just got a lot of attention. So he’s just start kind of putting up my own recipes and photographing them, or other people’s recipes that I like. I’d photograph them, and the a lot of the recipes would get like picked up by media outlets and things kind of escalated. And then one day, Margaret Alaura McGuire from Quirk books emailed me, and she said, I want to write a book about sprinkles, and I want to do about cup sprinkle. She’s an editor, and I want you to be the one to write it. And I was like, okay, and so much. And I’d already photographed a few cookbooks for other people. But this was the first one that I said I wrote as well, and I don’t even like sweets. But she knew that I certain visual, you know, style that she liked. And the whole idea of writing this book on sprinkles is really about teaching people creativity in the kitchen. You know how there’s not really arts and school any, not much anymore. And a lot of kids don’t really have any understanding of like, you know, how color works, or how to make something look a certain way. And so that was really the basis for that book is too kind of let people Express themselves in a way that wasn’t. There were no Stakes, you know, if you decorate a cookie and you don’t like, you just eat that cookie, and maybe, you know, decorate another cookie. So that was the goal for that book. And I think it came out really well and pretty happy with it. But it wasn’t really the book that I wanted to do. This taste of Tucson book would have been kind of simmering on the back burner of my mind for years. And I kind of pictured a couple of. So nobody was really that interested until the Tucson city of gastronomy designation came from UNESCO. And then people started really perking up their ears. And suddenly that’s Norm. Food was a thing that they were interested in, and and I wouldn’t have been able to make the book before that, because really, it was challenging enough just to get people to understand Mexican food for a weird reason, especially a unique kind of Mexican Regional Cuisine that nobody ever heard of before.

Tom Heath
So you, you, these recipes, then Taste of Tucson. Those are those are other people’s recipes that your photography, you take a picture as though that’s your you created those dishes. Or are you re replicating some of the dishes in Tucson as well?

Jackie Alpers
They are there are 15 rest? Well, no, there’s, they’re mostly mine. There were 15 local chefs who contributed recipes, or either they contribute a recipe, or we work together on a recipe. So for example, Travis Peters from the parish he had, I was like, I want to do pork torta, but but I wanted to be a little bit different than like the one that he had at the parish, which a little more Southern. So he came up with a recipe for for the for the pulled pork. So it was a bit of a southern South Port Port, but it had a snoring slant. And then I came up with a recipe for the pork torta itself and photographed it. So but that is only a that was only about 15 recipes in the book out of 50. So most of them are my own creations, and I photograph them all, or their modified versions of Creations from other chefs like I have from else sir, I really love this dish. The fake rancheras. Yeah, that’s like one of my all-time favorite dishes in Tucson. And so I was eating lunch there, and the owner was there. And I was like, would you mind giving me the recipe for me? Look, I want your recipe in the book. I don’t want to do another version, because it’s the one I love. And she said, yes. So that’s just her recipe credited to her. And I photographed it.

Tom Heath
And we back to finish up the second part of our interview with Jackie Albers in just a moment. But first, I want to remind you that you’re listening to Life along the streetcar in downtown radio 981 FM and available for streaming on Downtown Radio, dot-org.

Tom Heath
So if her Jackie a tells her story of how she got into photography, food and cookbooks, and now we’re going to learn about her cover story for the Tucson visit guide here that comes out from visit Tucson and features two iconic female, Mexican restaurant owners and operators. But I think it’s a good segue, as you’re talking about your favorite dish being from a, you know, a female chef, a female entrepreneur, because most recently, and I think the purpose for the call was because we I just saw the visit Tucson, the official travel guide and on the cover is a couple of our famous chefs with Carlota Maria. And then I see a popup on your Facebook page. It said, hey, I wrote the cover story for the, for the Tucson guide, and just fascinated by that. So, tell me a little bit out the article, and you know your thoughts and where you came up with your concept.

Jackie Alpers
Well, it was, it was kind of a joint brainstorming session with damn Gibson, who’s a communications director at visit Tucson. He approached me. And he said he wanted to do a story on women’s shafts. He wanted to include both Carlota and Maria. And it could. And I said, well, I really like there to be a historical component and how they, how women chefs as a whole hat influence and the cuisine, the local Cuisine. And then I want end of a long research Journey where I ask for help from there was a woman who wrote that a couple of books about restaurants and in Tucson and their history. And I asked her, you know, for some early if she was for early examples of women chest, and you know a lot. And I started seeing that a lot of them weren’t really documented other than the ones whose families had really kept the story going there, a comprehensive understanding of how these women chefs really forged Sonoran Cuisine and to into what it in Tucson into what it is today. And because it was off, women were often ignored, even though they were working in the kitchens from the beginning, usually it with their husbands, or even sons who would get the credit for the restaurant. And so their stories were never told

Tom Heath
Interesting. And so on the cover, you know, just to clarify, we have Maryam, a zone of Boca tacos to cala, eat tequila, and then Carlota Flores of El Charro, Cafe and many other Concepts. And the article, I think, is well done because, you know, I thought, you know, like, with Maria, you know, talking about her history and how she got involved, it was because of her mother and Carlota getting involved because of her great aunt. So there were women leading and driving women.

Jackie Alpers
Oh, all of the stories were so interesting. And and with Maria, I had no idea what her background was, because I had only known who she was today. And so it was, it was really great to be able to we sat down on the zoom together, because I’m done a lot of things with Maria over the years. I mean, we’ve, we did to some Festival of books like we did the cooking thing together, and we interviewed each other. And we’ve talked about a lot of stuff. But I never really dived into like what her personal history was until I sat down Zoom with her for this book. And it was after she was on Top Chef and had come home. And I ain’t even know she was doing any of that into, you know, until it until was airing.

Tom Heath
So it’s really keep that to keep that super secret for ya. Yeah, for that

Jackie Alpers
I don’t like, why can I not get up? Because we’re going to do is Tucson Festival of books thing right? When she was there? And we had agreed we’re going to do this demo together. And I was like, what’s going on? Like, think? She was in her normal skin, say anything now, I know. But but when we sat down on the zoom to talk about this, this her personal history and I realize how entrenched she was into the history of Tucson, and how her mother-in-law and her ex-husband and that whole family that started. Papagayo had such a huge influence on her that I never knew about that. Papagayo was really amazing for her, because she had been, she was going to school here, and I was just working. And I pop a guy was a waitress. And for some, you know, she was lucky enough that. The owner, who is who is why counter name right now, but her the female owner said, you know, you let her cook and come up with her own recipes in the kitchen. So she got this big break from another woman who saw potential in her. And I thought that was such an amazing story.

Tom Heath
Yeah. And then with Carlo tell, you know, we’ve talked about the history of Monica Flynn, especially now it seems a hundred years later, you know, she’s getting the some of the credit she deserves with a building named after her in a restaurant named after her. But you know, 50 years of, of Monica Flynn, running the El Charro restaurant and I and I liked in your in your article, talked about Carlota, you know, taking over, you know, basically 50 years ago and taking that and turning it into really a dynasty.

Jackie Alpers
Yeah, that’s is amazing. And and I have a similar story to to Maria’s, and that my first job here in Tucson was at El Charro. I got a job as a busser, and I quickly started bartending. And the at the time, the bar was in the kitchen, like in the back in the corner. And I’d also make dessert. So I’d stay in the back in the back. And I make mark we that millions of margaritas and kind of got entrenched into the whole kitchen situation that was going on there. And I learned so much from that job. And Carlota really saw potential in me and helped me become a photographer and and taught me so much about about what Sonoran food is like. She had she had all the servers at the time, spent a day in the kitchen, cooking with the chef, so that you really understood how the food was made. She’s, she’s kind of doesn’t, and she’s brilliant, and she’s she’s a great mentor to so many people, not just myself.

Tom Heath
And with the notoriety that came from, you know, Maria’s television appearances. And, you know, Carlota is just that brand with her family just continues to expand. You know, they just opened up the Monica downtown, which fantastic place. You know, I think that’s where you get into the future of Mexican restaurant as female as well.

Jackie Alpers
Yes, well, I there so many women right now who are doing amazing things, and that’s another. That’s another part of what I want to do to cover the article is that the one of the wonderful things about Tucson is it creates an environment where women can Thrive that. I teach on this one of the more inclusive places that I’m aware of, where and especially women who are Cooks and really grow into being whatever they want. I mean, there’s so many restaurants like that. And for so many for so many years, even like Wendy at Garcia, tumeric, oh, her, she’s doing amazing things and the Anita Street Market where she was a little bit afraid, I think, or, you know, challenge to take over from from her grandmother who died during covid, but is now taking the Reigns back and kind of growing into herself. And there’s, and that’s just there. Just a couple of stories there’s, there’s so many.

Tom Heath
Yeah, I know, like panko with. So see a Suave running that all the she’s not a chef, but she’s, you know, the entrepreneur entrepreneur behind that. So and I you know, in your article, you put in parentheses, you know, sort of an open invitation to anyone to steal this idea and write a book. But this sounds like the sounds like your territory. I would imagine, you’ve got to be thinking, writing a book on this topic.

Jackie Alpers
Yeah, I’ve already started. I’ve already started to write my my next book, which isn’t just going to be about about the woman’s chest in Tucson. It’s going to be a continued bill. I guess I’m one of the women Chefs of Tucson at this point, because it my next cookbook will include some of that in it. You know, it will definitely address the women chefs and the history of women chefs in Tucson, in addition to having a bunch of new recipes from me and from other local chefs, not only female, because even though being female is a big part of a very cool thing here, it’s more than that. I mean that there are so much they’re merging of so many different cultures here in Tucson that all embrace the region in ways. So there’s their restaurants who are incorporating it into Chinese dishes or Japanese dishes, or, you know, Middle Eastern dishes, and will in ways that you won’t see anywhere else. And I, that’s another thing that makes, you know, the region. So special. And so I want to make sure that all of those chefs, or especially black chefs, you know, to I’ve got the woman who has this great blog collards or the old kale. And I can never hang, because I only just think them odd name, but she’s amazing. And she’s already agreed to give me a recipe for the book which which will be influenced by her African-American Heritage mixed with her Tucson upbringing. It’s kind of bigger than that.

Tom Heath
Okay, can’t wait to see to see this. This book come out. Your other two have been fabulous, and it’s it’s thank you, Jackie alpers. You, you are a photographer. You’re an author recipe developer. People can catch up with you. I think it’s a Jackie’s happy platecom at your website.

Jackie Alpers
It’s actually just Jackie alperscom. I do have a Blog with my recipes at Jackie’s happy plate. But you can get there from just going to Jackie offerscom if you

Tom Heath
wish, I would highly recommend if you’re on Facebook to, to connect and follow, because the photography on your page is just it’s just absolutely

Jackie Alpers
stunning you very much. And please, if you have, if if anyone hasn’t picked up a copy of taste of to of Tucson, please do. It’s available wherever books are sold Amazon, the book stop all the local bookstores and take a knee. I’ll carry it. Why I love where I live also carries that they’ve all been so supportive of this book.

Tom Heath
That’s fantastic. I will put some links on our page to some of the stuff we talked about today. And Jackie, we’re gonna have to have you come back on here and shoot, cheering your next book, rolled out, and talk about the the accomplishment there.. Well, that’s going to do it here for episode number 195 as we get ever so close to that 200th episode, just a few weeks away here in April, huge shout out. And thank you to Jackie Albers. She has extremely busy schedule with deadlines, and such as she’s doing a lot of writing and photography, and invite you to check out her Facebook page, which will link to because it’s got some really cool photos of and stories and recipes of food here in the Tucson area. And if there’s a topic you think we should be covering use that social media, Instagram

Tom Heath
and Facebook to tag Us in something you find interesting, or something we should be sharing. You can always email us contact it Life along the streetcar dot-org. Well, as we wrap up here today and honor of our guests, we’re going to leave you with a little music today from a group called me again, SME AG AI n. It’s from a 2022 single of theirs. It’s called chef’s special. My name is Tom Heath. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more Life along the streetcar.

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