INTERVIEW: Julia Turshen, food activist and author of Feed the Resistance
Resistance comes in all shapes and sizes, and food can be a powerful tool for activism and a way to support those on the front line of pushing for political change. Julia Turshen is a award winning food writer and cook. Her most recent book ‘Feed the Resistance’ is a handbook for activism, combining a love of food and a desire for change. She talked to Rebel food about how her love of food became a means of resistance.
SO LONG AS OPPRESSION EXISTS, SO WILL RESISTANCE. AND WHEN IT COMES TO THE SPECTRUM OF RESISTANCE, THERE'S A PLACE FOR EVERYONE. WHILE NOT EVERYONE HAS TO DO EVERYTHING, IT'S IMPORTANT TO DO SOMETHING. IN A COMPLICATED, NUANCED WORLD WHERE SO MUCH HAPPENS IN THE GRAY, BEING ON EITHER END OF ANY EXTREME HOLDS TEMPTATION. WOULDN'T IT BE NICE IF THINGS WERE JUST CLEAR AND CUT-AND-DRIED? IF WE COULD JUST ALL SHOW UP IN THE SAME PLACE AND DO THE SAME HING AND SEE TANGIBLE RESULTS? SINCE OPPRESSION COMES IN SO MNY FORMS, SO MUST OUR RESISTANCE.
JULIA TURSHEN - THE RESISTANCE SPECTRUM
Can you tell Rebel food a little bit about you and your background with food?
I have cooked since before I can remember. I taught myself to cook through devouring cookbooks and public television and food (preparing it, thinking about it, talking about it) has been the thread through my whole life. I also loved school and writing so I went to college as a writing student. I started interning in food media during college and have been working on cookbooks ever since.
You have recently released a book ‘Feed the Resistance’ a collection of essays and recipes. Tell us more about the book and where the idea came from?
In the wake of the election, I found that feeding people, the thing I love to do and have dedicated my life to, was also a way for me to resist. I started cooking for activists in my community and figuring out other ways to use food as a means for connection, progress, and action. I reached out to other members of the food community to find out ways they used food as a form of activism. The result is Feed the Resistance, which is as much a response to the call to action as it is an amplifier: we want to inspire you to do something on your own. The book is filled with recipes, essays, and lists of ideas from a diverse group of chefs, writers, and activists to help you get involved and all of the proceeds go to the ACLU. [The American Civil Liberties Union is an organisation defending individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the United States Constitution]
The book has received a lot of positive responses and press recognition. What do you think that says about peoples openness to engaging with these ideas and thinking about their own power to help instigate change?
It warms my heart and affirms my belief that food is one of the most accessible ways to create and sustain community, connection, and compassion.
In collecting recipes and essays for your book what has inspired you or moved you most about the many ways in which people are using food to instigate change?
I think just the fact there are so many ways. Look at the work Jordyn Lexton does at Drive Change and Shakirah Simley does with Nourish Resist. Food can be everything from a form of healing to a powerful means of movement-building.
What is it about food that you feel makes it a great tool to envisage and instigate social and political change?
Because it's something we all have in common. Food tells us who we are and lets us make ourselves seen and heard. Also it's such a tangible way to understand our power. When we begin to understand how inherently political food is (from where you buy it to how it's priced, everything about food is political), we begin to see how we can use it as a means of change.
There is an excerpt from an article you wrote that talks about the ‘resistance spectrum’ in which you talk about there being a place for everyone in the spectrum of resistance. I love the simplicity of that, so often people feel like they cannot find a place or a role in changing their society or the systems that don’t suit them, when in fact even small acts can be monumental. To the people reading who are feeling frustrated or unsure where to start what would your advice be about finding their place in the spectrum of resistance?
Reflect on what skills you have and what you enjoy doing and then think about ways to apply those skills and passion to making the world better. It's just about adding deeper meaning to things you already do. It's not about reinventing the wheel, it's about make the one you're already turning even more impactful.
If you'd like to buy a copy of 'Feed the Resistance' head on over to Chronicle Books