"I love you all like cooked food," said a woman on the A train. She was yelling about our depressing political climate in the mode of a preacher, trying to incite the exhausted hordes to action; it was an odd feeling, to hear someone yelling on a subway who made sense. And that choice of words: "I love you all like cooked food," like a sense of home and comfort and nourishment — a love necessary to political resistance.
Revolution and food have gone hand in hand for centuries. Suffragettes used cookbooks to push women to fight for their right to vote. When the Bloodroot Collective, an ecofeminist restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, started to put out cookbooks in 1981, the first was called The Political Palate: A Feminist Vegetarian Cookbook. In all subsequent books, they begin with essays on feminism and the economics of running a collective, and you'll find a quote from Adrienne Rich beneath instructions on making nut butter. The co-author of their Best of Bloodroot collections, Lagusta Yearwood, furthers their work as an "antipreneur anarchist" at her New Paltz, New York, chocolate shop, Lagusta's Luscious, and café, Commissary; at the latter, the counter is branded with the words "Resistance is fertile." (For a taste of fertile resistance in New York City, stop into Confectionery in the East Village.) Beyond feminism and anti-capitalism, there are also anti-colonialist cookbooks like Decolonize Your Diet by the academic Chicanxs Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel, who focus on reclaiming the foods of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Recipes such as Chicano Power Chili Beans and Cashew Crema seek to connect health, flavor, and a responsibility to the land. It's a perspective I've seen in action in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, with chef Paxx Caraballo Moll's #queersinthekitchen hashtag on Instagram and the entire motivation of El Departamento de la Comida and Efecto Sombrilla, a café and store selling and cooking with local produce.
While the ties between food and resistance may have seemed theoretical to many before, the Trump presidency has created new urgency around any and all ways we can push back. This was especially apparent to Anna Brones, writer and publisher of the Comestible quarterly zine, which focuses on essays and recipes by women and nonbinary writers that explore issues like what we cook in the worst moments of our lives, or how we can create a class-inclusive food movement. Brones, an artist and author of the books The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, used this platform to release a special post-Inauguration edition, "Protest Fuel: The Revolution Must Be Fed." The pocket-size zine doesn't just have recipes, but essays on how food works into self-care and feeding your community. Chicanx food writer Teresa Finney's arroz rojo recipe is introduced by a brief essay on the humble food's ability to connect her to her roots in California no matter where she lives. "It's just basically super-important to me to remind anyone who will listen that Mexican immigrants deserve respect and care as human beings, not just as the people who make your fucking Mission-style burritos," she says. "This is what has made food political (and very personal) to me."
Anna and I talked recently about the project's inspiration.
Alicia Kennedy: When did your own journal come about?
Anna Brones: I'd had for a while the idea to do a small food magazine. I was just fed up with a lot of food media at the time — too much food porn, too little actual substance. So I had this idea for a quarterly journal, Comestible, an indie journal that has recipes but is heavy on essays and using food as a lens for looking at everything from gender to agriculture. It's more focused on food and food production than celebrity chefs. I crowd-funded that; did all the layout and stuff myself; I have it printed locally outside Seattle; I do all the fulfillment — it's definitely a one-lady show.