Wilmington Gets First Kosher Eatery in Years

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Rabbi Steven Saks presents the kosher certificate for Drop Squad Kitchen to Abundance Child. | Photo provided

Drop Squad Kitchen features a menu of dishes made with nuts, fruits and vegetables — ingredients that are meat-free and dairy-free.

And the vegan soul food restaurant also has become the first restaurant to receive kosher certification in Wilmington, Del. in 20 years.

Rabbi Steven Saks, who enjoyed some tacos at the restaurant — his first meal out in 10 years — hopes the restaurant can help grow Delaware’s Jewish community.

“It’s one of these chicken-and-egg type of things,” said Saks, head of the Vaad HaKashrut of Delaware, who certified the restaurant. “In order to help a community grow, it helps to have a kosher restaurant and, if a community is big enough, it can support a kosher restaurant.”

Besides tacos, the restaurant serves a mix of soul food cuisine like cornbread, chili and mac and cheese, as well as smoothies, shakes and burgers.

Abundance Child, the founder and owner of the restaurant, said she did not seek out the kosher certification. Drop Squad Kitchen has always attracted Jewish customers, and people had been coming to her for a while to tell her she should get kosher certification. She said the whole process only took about a week.

“Nowadays, vegan is hopping,” Child said. “Vegan is the new black. Everybody wants their plant-based something. … People want different types of options so much that they they’re willing to eat a veggie burger at McDonald’s or Burger King.”

Child grew up in a biracial family — her mother is black, and her father is white. When she went to college in Atlanta in 1993, she made friends with people from around the world who were vegetarians, so she became a vegetarian herself to try to fit in.

“I had low self-esteem around these deep, conscious people, who were conscious about everything, down to what they ate,” Child said. “It wasn’t even about any animals or anything like that. It was about, ‘No, our ancestors never ate this kind of food, and this is not good for the melanin content in our body, and African holistic health, and all this kind of stuff.’”

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, she had adopted a completely vegetarian diet, and found the diet made her feel healthier and stronger and cleared up her skin. When she got pregnant with her first child in 1995, she switched to a vegan diet.

Vegetarianism and veganism are more mainstream now than when she first got into it, when there were far fewer options for that kind of diet, Child said.

“The greening of America has definitely helped me,” she said. “It was like I said, everything was divine order, the right time, right place. No matter what, no one can take away from me my first vegan restaurant. No one can take away from me the only kosher restaurant right now. These are good things, and it’s just because I followed my heart, which was give the people good food and a good experience — clean, fresh, vegan, soul.”

Her restaurant began with her vending vegan soul food and with a radio show, where she empowered listeners to eat healthier. The show, and her eventual restaurant, were inspired by Drop Squad, a 1994 satirical movie about a militant squad that kidnaps black people who have betrayed their community and reprograms them to change their ways.

In a similar fashion, Child said, she seeks to reprogram the diet of the black community. She started Drop Squad Kitchen to mesh soul food with healthy veganism. She also caters and teaches classes on how to cook and eat healthy, including for people on food stamps, as she was when she became a young mother.

“My people suffer from a lack of knowledge, and we are, at a rate faster than most people, dying from diseases that we volunteer for,” she said. “We don’t know that it’s not cool to eat pork, bacon and all this types of things, greasy food.”

In 2012, Child’s mother, who ran Molly’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, suggested she start selling some of her food out of the ice cream store. News of the restaurant spread through word of mouth, and not too long thereafter, customers started showing up to Molly’s looking for Drop Squad Kitchen.

The growth of the restaurant has been a learning curve, Child said, aided by the business acumen of her mother, as well as help from the rest of the family. Her brother assists with bookkeeping, her sister helps makes the chili and the lasagna, her 15-year-old daughter performs a variety of different tasks, and her 22-year-old daughter makes the vegan meats.

“Why we eat soul food is because our grandmothers put so much energy and love and time into the food, because it was Christmas and now they finally had enough sugar, so your yams were candied,” Child said. “That’s why it’s soul food, and I’m going to give people that same love, that same spirit, that same vibration, but it’s going to be unapologetically healthy —  by any greens necessary.” 

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