Alibi V.27 No.7 • Feb 15-21, 2018 

Cookbook Review

The Revolution Will Not Be Hungry

Julia Turshen’s Feed the Resistance provides recipes, ideas for activists

Feed the Resistance

Feed the Resistance

“In 1969, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense began their Free Breakfast for School Children Program out of St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland, California … This was a program that J. Edgar Hoover called ‘the most dangerous domestic threat to national security.’ ” This is the beginning of a recipe for grits in Julia Turshen’s book Feed the Resistance: Recipes and Ideas for Getting Involved. The recipe is contributed by People’s Kitchen Collective, a food-centered political education project in Oakland that serves an annual Free Breakfast in West Oakland in honor of the legacy of the Black Panther Party. It feeds 100, and it’s titled “The People’s Grits.”

Feed the Resistance is a cookbook and a handbook for activists, and it’s filled with recipes and essays like this. The idea for the book was born at the start of 2017, when the Trump administration issued its first version of the travel ban that targeted majority Muslim countries. Turshen, a food journalist and cookbook author, was at an immigrants’ rights meeting in New York when she was approached by an organizer. “Did I hear you say you knew about food?” the woman asked her. Turshen was quickly appointed the Food Team Leader—it became her job to cook for the organizing meetings. She was thrilled to be able to use her skills to help the people who were organizing, and she began to think about how food plays a role in activism and politics. “I realized that the work I was doing in my own community could be exponential if I put some of it down on paper and shared it with you so that you can better feed your own resistance, whatever that looks like, and hopefully share it with those around you,” Turshen says in the introduction.

And if Turshen and the other contributors to Feed the Resistance—chefs, writers and organizers from all over the country—are the ones in the kitchen, then it will be a very well fed resistance, indeed. The recipes are divided into three sections: easy recipes for those too busy resisting to cook; huge recipes for feeding crowds of hungry activists; and recipes for baked goods and portable snacks to bring to the meeting or the protest. There’s Turshen’s recipe for thai yellow curry vegetable pot, an easy and filling meal that can expand to feed many based on how many veggies you have in your fridge that day. In addition to “The People’s Grits,” there’s recipes for big batches of collard greens and baked sweet potatoes—a perfect three-part meal to feed a crowd. Plenty of the recipes are vegan (because you know how activists are) and most of them are very cheap to make (because you know how activists are).

In addition to the recipes, short essays by various contributors are interspersed throughout the book, each touching on the importance of food in the fight for justice. “How Food Can Be a Platform for Activism” by Shakirah Simley is a look into her experience talking her little brother through what to do and how to act if he gets stopped by the police. Tunde Wey’s essay is called “Food is Like Sex. It is the Provocation,” and it’s a beautifully original look into the discomfort and challenging of beliefs that should enter into sharing a meal (or a bed) with somebody.

“To think deeply about food is also to think deeply about the environment, the economy, immigration, education, community, culture, families, race, gender and identity,” Turshen says in the introduction. “Food is about people, all people.” It is easy to wax poetic about the unifying properties of food—it’s a very universal need—but Turshen doesn’t let these nice platitudes dominate her book, which is, more than anything, a call to action. The book ends with three lists: “Twenty Places to Reach Out To,” “Ten Ways to Engage That Aren’t So Obvious” and “Ten Things You Can Do in Less Than Ten Minutes.” These are all ideas and resources for the first-time or the would-be activist: the person who wants to get involved but doesn’t know the best way, or doesn’t know which organizations support their values. The ideas she offers are specific, caring and effective: Become a mentor to a young person through an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters. Bake cookies and bring them to your local first responders to thank them for their service. Sign up to escort somebody to an abortion appointment. Additionally, your activism could look like cooking a meal for some people in your community, bringing them together to break bread and then having some uncomfortable conversations about race, class, gender and, of course, food. As Tunde Wey says, “If discomfort is the beginning of the journey, then emotional labor is the transportive element.” It is time for us to get to work.

You can buy Feed the Resistance on Amazon or at chroniclebooks.com.