( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) City Tasting Box Celebrates the History and Culture of Memphis Cuisine While Supporting Local and Black-Owned Businesses
ENSPIRE Contributor: Abby Ladner
Memphis, Tenn., is a city with rich culture, known for art, the blues, and, most of all, its food. For visitors and locals alike, the food scene of Memphis is a defining part of the city. That’s why City Tasting Box is working to bring the taste of Memphis to people’s door. With their boxes, they share the flavors of Memphis with food-lovers near and far while supporting local restaurants and food artisans.
City Tasting Box was founded in June of 2020 after Cristina McCarter had her food tour business halted by the pandemic. Trying to find a way to adapt to this change, McCarter and her friend Lisa Brown decided to team up and start their business venture together. Both McCarter and Brown wanted to find a way to support the local food scene and give food artisans another outlet to share their craft and draw in customers while their industry was struggling. With this mission in mind, the two created City Tasting Box, an e-commerce shop that brings their local favorites to people all across the nation.
Their motto “Eat Local. Be Kind.” is at the heart of every box curated by City Tasting Box. Each collection contains a variety of flavors, balancing sweet, savory, salty, and spicy to capture the core of Memphis cuisine. In addition to sharing their products, City Tasting Box shares the stories of the people behind the food, highlighting the craft of the Bluff City’s finest food artisans.
City Tasting Box also uses their company to celebrate the Black community’s impact on the food scene and culture of Memphis with The Majority Box, released in February for Black History Month. The Majority Box is a collection of Black-owned products from Memphis food artisans. The limited-edition box celebrated the history of Memphis as a majority-Black city as well as the impact the Black community has had on the culture of Memphis. “Memphis is a majority-Black city,” Brown said. “You can’t really talk about our heritage—food, history, music, and culture—without highlighting all the greatness that comes from the Black community.”
“Each artisan, chef, and business owner featured in The Majority Box has an amazingly triumphant and inspiring story,” McCarter said. “Most of their recipes used to create these packaged goods go back generations—Makeda’s Cookies, Chef Tam’s, Mae’s Gourmet Jams, Cxffeeblack Guji Mane Ethiopian Coffee. That is history. That is heritage. That is worth telling and sharing with the world. You can taste the passion.”
With City Tasting Box, McCarter and Brown are hoping to not only support the local food scene themselves but encourage others to do so as well. Recognizing the importance of eating local, they say, can help support the local economy and foster a sense of community.
“Living local is not a trend,” McCarter said. “It’s a lifestyle. Understanding our economic buying power is a lesson that most of us are still learning. With our purchasing decisions, we choose to keep a small restaurant owner in the business, we tell a small-batch culinary artisan that we see you and support you. Our buying power is how we invest in our local economy. And we simply want to give everyone the opportunity to invest in the Memphis food scene and our collective stories.”
City Tasting Box celebrates the bold flavors, tenacity, and resilience of the Memphis food scene. Their collections encourage people to not only explore the food of Memphis but to shop local and support Black-owned businesses as well. To learn more about City Tasting Box, visit their website. Keep up with City Tasting Box on Facebook and Instagram.