The author of 'Feed the Resistance' talks about community, activism, and cooking.
My activism is really bound to this election and administration. Before this election, I'd had the privilege of not having to be that involved. You know, I'm a white person in this country. But I think I've always been a community-minded person, as are lots of people who work in and around food. And I just really came to understand how powerfully food can create community.
Immediately after the election, I started cooking food and delivering it to my local chapter of Citizen Action New York, a local grassroots organization with a number of offices in New York state. I first went to them kind of looking for some direction and guidance after the election. The lead organizer asked me what I do, and I told her I work on cookbooks. She said, 'Great, you'll be part of the food team.' I asked her who I should report to and she said, 'No, you're gonna start it.' And so she sort of opened my eyes to seeing that I could do what I was doing anyway—working with food—but with greater meaning and purpose.
I began reaching out to people—not full time activists, just people who were interested in supporting all the great work that's being done. For every single meeting and phone banking session and canvassing that goes on, we provide them with a meal. That food serves a number of purposes. It saves Citizen Action a lot of money because it's volunteer-provided food, so they don't have to order anything. The food tends to be healthier, which is good for everyone. And it acts as an incentive for people to show up. It's also very much as an act of love, showing support for all the people who are working there. Activism in the kitchen has a great legacy—it's gone on in every single generation for all kinds of civil and human rights movements.
I also started thinking about my own kitchen. When I cook for my family and friends, what are we talking about and what are we eating? I've used my kitchen table as a place to open up new conversations, which I think is something everyone can do. And I felt a really wonderful way to expand this work would be to put it in a book, which is also something I have a lot of experience doing. Why not use that experience to be part of something forward-moving?
At its core, Feeding the Resistance is a book of recipes and ideas to help you get involved. All the content was made by myself and about twenty contributors, and all the proceeds are going to the ACLU. Hopefully the book will inspire lots of people to figure out exactly what kind of activists they are.
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Writing the book was a whirlwind. From when I first pitched the book to it being available on shelves is under a year. I felt the book was really born from a lot of momentum. There are a lot of cookbooks that take a lifetime to create, but then there are some books, like Feed the Resistance, that are really born from a moment in time. All the people who contributed responded so wonderfully and were so generous with their recipes and essays and thoughts. It's a real community effort.
The folks who wrote the essays in the book are a mix of people I had known and also people I wanted to know better. Jordyn Lexton, who runs the program Drive Change, contributed an essay about starting a food truck social justice program; they train formerly incarcerated, mostly young people how to cook and connect with consumers. It's a really powerful essay. Shakirah Simley wrote a wonderful essay about how food and activism can be tied together, but it's also a really personal story about her and her brother—basically it's a rumination on race and food. Mikki Halpin, who has an action newsletter called Tiny Letter, contributed an essay about making activism sustainable. So the essays include the emotional and the practical, a mix of everything.
All of the recipes I created for Feed the Resistance are intended for home cooks—I'm not calling for ten sauces that are on your restaurant list. And it was about making food that was also affordable, not calling for expensive ingredients. And it's food that is very easy to share—that was a big goal. Simplicity is always something I think about, but it had a greater purpose in this book.
My hope is that the people who purchase the book will not only read it, but will also get involved with their communities. There are so many practical ideas in the book. The book is really recipes, literally and figuratively, for getting involved. My hope is everyone who reads the book will take some of what they read and be inspired to do something.
I would say that working on this book has completely clarified my work for me. I don't think I'll ever approach anything I do again without all the things I've learned from putting this book together. Food is a really tangible way to approach everything, politics included. Every single decision we make about food is a political one. I think really understanding that can inform our power as consumers and as a collective. And that to me is very powerful. It also gives me a lot of hope.