A Taste of Justice

by Sarah Henry on February 22, 2010 · 13 comments

in food events,food security

Think of agents for change in American eating habits, and Berkeley’s Alice Waters and Michael Pollan come immediately to mind.

Indeed, eat-more-greens advocates can appear as white as Wonder Bread.

On the menu at the local La Pena Cultural Center last night: some much-needed color in the conversation about good food matters.

Read my entire post on the foodcentric performance piece Visceral Feast over at Berkeleyside.

I first learned about the evening from accomplished choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith. (Full disclosure: I’ve taken Amara’s Rhythm & Motion dance class for almost two decades. The girl knows how to inspire joy and shake her booty like nobody’s business. Believe me when I say she raises the roof. There’s a reason I think of dance class as my church.)

Well, turns out, Amara, artistic director of  the Oakland-based Deep Waters Dance Theater, has been investigating edible issues, such as where food comes from and its impact on the community and the environment, in performance pieces that address the soul and spiritual connections to eating and cooking.

Last year she showcased a work in progress, “Our Daily Bread,” as part of an artist in residency at CounterPULSE, a non-profit theater in San Francisco.

Amara describes herself as “mostly vegan” not initially for political reasons but because she doesn’t care for the taste of meat. But she cooks meat for others and acknowledges her roots as a child growing up eating her mother’s gumbo.

She’s planning several food parties as part of her exploration of eating this year. One she’s dubbing Raw Meat, where she hopes raw food folk will dialogue with confirmed carnivores.

Find Amara’s Recession Root Stew recipe, inspired by the times and in the spirit of African American food traditions, right here.

It’s vegan, can feed lots of folks, and includes dinosaur kale, cilantro, and coconut milk. Sounds just the dish for a cold winter’s night.

At last night’s performance the audience was asked to share a favorite food memory.

I listed my sister’s pavlova and family barbecues with the proverbial “shrimp on the barbie” (Aussies call them prawns). And Vegemite on white toast, comfort food when you’re sick. All of these foods remind me of home.

The man seated next to me wrote simply, “I miss my mom’s chai.”

Now it’s your turn.

Photo credit: Alan Kimara Dixon

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheryl February 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Sarah: Great post. I opened your link to Lord of the Dance and enjoyed reading that one as well.
I, too, love to dance but am not as fortunate as you to find so many wonderful, caring teachers. Lucky you!

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Sarah Henry February 24, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I know, Sheryl, I’m spoiled…Rhythm & Motion rocks!

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Frugal Kiwi February 24, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Mmm, pavlova- I haven’t had a pav this summer. But boy do I miss good pulled pork with my family in Tennessee.

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Sarah Henry February 24, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Do you ever make it back for a taste of home, Frugal Kiwi?

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Alexandra February 25, 2010 at 5:39 am

Wouldn’t call it a favorite food, but one that always makes me thoughtful is kasha, ie. buckwheat groats. When my Dad first came to the USA from Russia in 1924, he went through a tough period with no money at all. His roommate, also starving, was from Poland. This man taught my Dad to cook buckwheat groats, which are very filling and cheap. Dad taught me his recipe. Whenever I make “kasha,” I remember not everyone has enough to eat, a phenomenon that is again more prevalent than one might expect in a country like ours …

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Sarah Henry February 25, 2010 at 1:18 pm

You raise a good point, Alexandra, about food insecurity, all the folks that don’t have enough to eat.

And it’s funny that something like “kasha” reminds you of your Dad. When my son and I eat porridge (oatmeal) I think of my father, as that’s what he eats for winter breakfast as well.

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Jennifer Margulis February 25, 2010 at 11:14 am

My grandpa used to make the best salads. I miss them.

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Melanie Haiken February 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I can’t eat an artichoke without thinking about my dad, a Brooklyn boy who moved out to California having never eaten vegetables that hadn’t been – as he put it – taken out of a can and boiled to within an inch of their lives. My dad was a lawyer and when I was a kid he represented an artichoke grower in Castroville and started coming home with these big bags of artichokes straight from the field – he was so excited! We ate artichokes for weeks at a time whenever he had to make a trip down to see his client, and he was just as thrilled every time. He just couldn’t get over the fact that these were thistles and you could eat them and that they had this tender heart in the middle that was like a treasure hunt…a good metaphor for his life, I think.

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Sarah Henry February 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm

See, just when you think you know almost everything about someone..Now I understand your devotion to the artichoke (a pretty special veggie, to be sure), in a whole new way, Melanie.

As for thistles with tender hearts that you have to hunt for…a good metaphor for life, indeed.

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Susan February 25, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I know it’s terrible for me, but I love my Mom’s Kraft Mac & Cheese. It’s good comfort food!

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Sarah Henry February 25, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Hey Susan,

You’re not alone in having a pretty cheesey (ha!) mom-related comfort food.

Everyone needs a couple of edible guilty pleasures, no?

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MyKidsEatSquid March 1, 2010 at 7:38 pm

During the holidays my mom would make these tender crescent rolls filled with almond paste, butter and nuts. Almonds always remind me of my mom and good cooking.

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