“Our Daily Bread” Focuses on Food Traditions

by Sarah Henry on March 11, 2011 · 22 comments

in bay area bites,food events

MJ's Brass Boppers lead a Second Line to CounterPULSE Theater. Photos: Van Nguyen-Stone of Jomi Jomi

Amara Tabor-Smith knows how to throw a party. I know this because I’ve taken her dance classes at Rhythm and Motion, housed now at the ODC Dance Commons in San Francisco, for almost 20 years. It might be early in the morning but there’s a feel-good groove going on in that dance studio. The Oakland-based choreographer and performer has created a tight community, it’s a bit like going to church, if church is a place where you shake your booty, swivel your hips, and stamp your feet. Tabor-Smith’s energy, spirit, and modern dance moves have inspired legions of fans.

In the past year or so we’ve discovered a mutual interest in food. Tabor-Smith has hosted food parties and events, including “Visceral Feast” at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley and “Fresh From the Oven” at the Tenderloin National Forest in San Francisco, as she workshops a performance piece about food traditions inspired by her mother’s family gumbo tradition, and recent trips to New Orleans, Senegal, and Congo (find more details on her blog.)

So it’s no surprise then that Tabor-Smith hosted a soiree featuring movement, music, and food on Tuesday in honor of both the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and Mardi Gras.

The event, dubbed an Eat-In, kicked off with a three-block Second Line featuring authenticly festive NOLA beats by MJ’s Brass Boppers. The Second Line started at the corner of 8th and Mission Streets and snaked its way to CounterPULSE, a non-profit performance space for emerging artists and cultural innovators where Tabor-Smith is currently an artist-in-residence.

Home-style cooking at the Eat-In hosted by Amara Tabor-Smith at CounterPULSE on Tuesday.

The meal was pot-luck and appropriately home-style. Rice, beans, salad, and Tabor-Smith’s trademark Jamaican-style Coconut Cornbread, which features buttermilk and shredded coconut, accompanied her Recession Roots Stew. A fellow dance student, Claire Bobrow, had whipped up a pile of crepes in honor of Fat Tuesday and adults and children were happily slathering them with Nutella.

Among the attendees spreading the gospel of good food: Nikki Henderson, executive director of People’s Grocery, and Dannae Washington, who helps runs the West Oakland food justice and education group’s Grub Box program. Also on hand: Chef Bryant Terry, author of Vegan Soul Kitchen and co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, whom Tabor-Smith collaborated with on “Visceral Feast.” Chowing down in the crowd: Students from Mission High School and Pie Ranch youth worker Mary Ann Brooks, who helps these teens make healthy connections within the food system.

The Eat-In was part of a series of food-focused meet-ups culminating in a performance piece at CounterPULSE in April called “Our Daily Bread,” a collaboration between Tabor-Smith’s Deep Waters Dance Theater, director Ellen Sebastian Chang, and visual artist Lauren Elder.

“Our Daily Bread” is billed as a program of dance, text, and video that examines food traditions and how they’re linked to cultural identity — and impacted by industrialized agriculture, fast food culture, and the global food crisis. How do you, for instance, recreate your mother’s gumbo when fish stocks are threatened and some species contain dangerously high levels of toxins?

And the thinking behind the community gatherings leading up to the performance premiere?

“These events are about sharing food, coming together, cooking together, and eating together, which is something most of us don’t do enough of these days,” says Tabor-Smith, who also teaches at UC Berkeley. “We’re at a time when food has been exotified and people focus on restaurant dining. But there’s nothing more beautiful than sharing a home-cooked meal together.”

Event Details:

Our Daily Bread
April 14-24, Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m.
CounterPULSE
1310 Mission Street
San Francisco
Tickets $15-22 available at Brown Paper Tickets.

Scenes from the upcoming performance piece exploring food, "Our Daily Bread" features dancer Amara Tabor-Smith. Photos: Ana Teresa Fernandez, courtesy of CounterPULSE

Scenes from the upcoming performance piece exploring food, “Our Daily Bread” features dancer Amara Tabor-Smith. Photos: Ana Teresa Fernandez, courtesy of CounterPULSE.

This post originally appeared on KQED’s Bay Area Bites.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

NoPotCooking March 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I’ve never been to a really good potluck dinner and now I’m daydreaming about one!
NoPotCooking´s last [type] ..Naan Pizza

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Sarah Henry March 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I have to ask: What kind of potluck dinners have you been to, NPC? Really bad ones?

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The Writer's [Inner] Journey March 11, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Incredible, visceral photos. Food not only as tradition, but as performance art. Wow!
The Writer’s [Inner] Journey´s last [type] ..Reading &amp Writing With a Critic’s Eye- The 5-Question Book Critic Interview with David L Ulin

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Sarah Henry March 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I’m curious to see what Amara has cooked up for her upcoming performance. This piece has been marinating for some time.

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Ruth Pennebaker March 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm

This looks like such an incredible event. Wish I weren’t so far away.
Ruth Pennebaker´s last [type] ..My Great-Grandmother’s China

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Sarah Henry March 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I’ll let you know, Ruth, if the show goes on the road.

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Casey@Good. Food. Stories. March 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm

It looks so cool, but the fuddy-duddy in me wonders… were you able to eat those tomatoes after the performance? Hope food didn’t go to waste!
Casey@Good. Food. Stories.´s last [type] ..CC’s Modern Stone-Age Attempts at Paleo Baking

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Sarah Henry March 11, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Casey, you’re a crack up. And I hadn’t thought of that. Let me check.

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Sheryl March 11, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Well, I must say…I’m intrigued. Food and dance. Sounds like a really fun, unusual happening. Wish I could be there.

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Sarah Henry March 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm

To be honest, Sheryl, I’m not sure what to expect, as it’s been a work-in-progress. I’m intrigued too — that tomato scene looks intense.

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MyKidsEatSquid March 11, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Oooo. I’d like to get my hands on the recipe for the coconut cornbread.

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Sarah Henry March 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm

You’re not the first to ask, MKES, so I’ll make a point of nudging Amara for the recipe the next time I see her in class — which will be tomorrow if I wake up in time.

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Jane Boursaw March 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm

What a great concept, and I love the photos.
Jane Boursaw´s last [type] ..I Am Number Four- Going for the Smallville Crowd

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Sarah Henry March 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm

The images are so simple in some ways but very stark and dramatic.

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Jennifer Margulis March 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Amazing photos. So much fun. And I too want that coconut cornbread recipe!!

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Sarah Henry March 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

Thanks for the reminder, Jennifer, I need to ask Amara for that recipe.

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Kris @ Attainable Sustainable March 15, 2011 at 11:41 am

How funny. As soon as I saw mention of the coconut cornbread recipe I was going to ask about it; I see other commenters felt the same way! Share, share!
Kris @ Attainable Sustainable´s last [type] ..Homemade Pizza is the Ultimate Fast Food – Really!

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Sarah Henry March 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I just this minute put in an email request for the recipe, Kris. Stay tuned.

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Steph Auteri March 16, 2011 at 5:21 am

Every time I read this blog, I think, “Man, that Sarah Henry goes to the coolest places and events. I really must move across the country just so we can hang out.” I love this eat-in idea (and those photographs are amazing!). I enjoy hosting potlucks (perhaps because I usually end up with the leftovers ;), but none of mine have been quite this interesting.
Steph Auteri´s last [type] ..Having Trouble Defining Your Specialty How To Determine What Makes You An Original

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Sarah Henry March 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Steph, if you do decide to swing by, give a holler in advance and we’ll plan a food fest of our own in honor of your visit.

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Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi March 18, 2011 at 9:37 am

Looks like more fun than a hoot in a holler!
Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi´s last [type] ..Sterling Earrings Giveaway by Silverworks

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Jon May 13, 2011 at 5:58 pm

That looked pretty awesome stuff. I remember watching a great play many years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe, think it was called Fragile, was about eating disorders. Powerful and provocative.
Jon´s last [type] ..A Review Of Flat Stomach Advice

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