by Nikki Henderson
One of my favorite memories: eating my father’s food experiments. Every so often, the six-foot, muscular beast of a man would roll up his sleeves and dive into the kitchen. Flour would fly, rouge apples would squish underfoot, and hours later a somewhat-suspicious looking pastry would peek from the oven. My brothers and I initially scoffed at dad’s “apple crumb cobbler”, but the ill-shapen crust creation soon became a household favorite. Our mouths would water at the sound of knifes slicing through apples and spoons scraping against the sides of bowls. We would sit down at the kitchen table and just…indulge. The whiney complains would drain from my brothers, my teenage angst would rise away with the steam, and our moods improved with every apple-filled bite.
The Pleasure of Food could be the ultimate weapon for change-agents of today. If families, organizations, and individuals harnessed this wonderful feeling of comfort for their aims, those in power would be defenseless against them. I could stamp my feet and bang my fists against a brick wall if I was trying to change local legislation, or I could show up at a press conference with tasty organic in-season fruit and distribute them to the reporters. Even if they refused to talk to me, they would take one of my apples—mission accomplished. They will remember my apple, and with the right t-shirt, the name of my issue and the sweet taste of working with me to resolve injustice will never fade away.
I would love to see social justice organizations and individuals use the pleasure of food in this manner, as a strategic tactic in the struggle. What if kicking-and-screaming town hall meetings concluded with plate after plate of home-cooked food? Congressional deliberations should have fruit and veggie platters, full deli bars, and sweet tea. Rallies and protests about the harshest of circumstances—police brutality, gang violence, and crime—need decades-old recipes filled with love to shatter the hate.
This is urgently needed to help create change and ease the strain of communities. The food system is brother to many other broken systems, from energy to the economy. Many good soldiers in the social justice movement have tried to weave together broken jobs, broken communities, and broken families with little to no success. Fighting for those without the means to fight for themselves requires every discipline, every strength, and every shred of compassion. Maintaining sanity after finding oneself repeated victim of a shattered system requires the same. This battle is draining to all involved—a good meal can replenish all involved.
Every act of celebratory activism involving the pleasure of food weaves a thread of joy through circumstances in desperate need of hope. If a more direct “Food as a Catalyst for Change” movement arose from the greater food movement, I would be first in line for a plate.