A food culture column through the lens of diaspora, race, queerness, and community published online and in print at The Uniter.

FeedingDiaspora

Through writing, the entanglements of food, cultural identity, home and romance are made evident. Embodying food metaphors or food stories with desire sparks visions of utopia. Sex is love-making is home-making. The body is a site of various kinds of intimacy. It is the material location of connection, longing, fulfillment, nourishment, healing and pleasure.

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Boodoo sees food as an important point of connection between families, friendships and Communities of Colour. While the shirts are highly personal, they also speak to a collective experience, she says.

Brenden Gali’s illustrated shirt is a black long-sleeve with a remixed sardines can on the front and roosters on the sleeves. The symbols are an homage to Brenden’s childhood food favourites (sardines and jasmine rice), attention to packaging and his Chinese zodiac sign, Boodoo says.

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Bhangu says that one participant spoke of Seva, the Sikh and Punjabi practice of making sure others are well-fed and comfortable in your space, as the ideal artist-run centre. “He described the perfect institution as having four doors, meaning it is an open, inclusive, generous and kind space. Seva is while you’re seated on long mats and someone comes around to give you food.”

The way Bhangu’s values and practices became echoed in the conversation struck me. By understanding herself as both guest and host and destabilizing the relations in the room, Bhangu embodied and enabled non-hierarchical community-building.

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In institutions, “some, more than others, are at home in these gatherings,” Ahmed says. Being a feminist killjoy is a disorienting feeling, because of the ostracization that is felt as a consequence. Being a queer or trans diasporic killjoy of colour is even more difficult because of the way it amplifies vulnerability and risk, as well as feelings of alienation and displacement.

Because sharing meals is so often a tool of resiliency for diasporic people, it can be devastating to feel misunderstood or misaligned with your family at a dinner. Ahmed describes the way feminists are experienced as disruptive: “another meal ruined” and “another meeting ruined.”

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Despite a weariness toward personal, familial, political and economic turmoil, I am energized by the capacity for food and other kinds of pleasure as regenerative sites of ease and care. Seeds of truth, interdependence and resistance will always come into fruition.

I reluctantly return to my optimism and hope as I fixate on the possibility for more, for something else. As maree brown puts it, “by tapping into the potential goodness in each of us, we can generate justice and liberation, growing a healing abundance where we have been socialized to believe only scarcity exists.”

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“The translation of body to page, and back to body, is the crux of how both love letters and recipes communicate. Food is a love language of the body. Cooking then, is the ritual of both a planned and spontaneous symbiosis between ingredients, places, bodies and intentions. It is always inherently connected to identity. It is always inherently relational.”

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“When diasporic chefs create meals, they are creating moments of home to share with others. This act of sharing and consumption is then elevated through various strategies of intentional place-making. Chefs have the power to perform creative interventions, not only through the foods they prepare, but also through the contexts they create.”

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“‘Can desire for the other ever be innocent without the insinuation of race?’ she asks. ‘Nevertheless, the looming fear will always be a commodification of the Other. That the Other is viewed as a meal, to be eaten, consumed and forgotten.’ In other words, because we live in a white supremacist colonial context, power dynamics have a role to play in everything. Desire – whether for food, romance or sex – has racial implications.”

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“Food creates space for intergenerational knowledge to be shared. Food provides room for specificity and room for play. The infamous phrase “you are what you eat,” coined by Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, holds true on a different level for diasporic peoples…To feed diaspora is to be connected to identity and place. Aside from sustenance, food provides intimacy, ritual and ties to ancestry and land.”

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