By Ali Kokot, City Director, pineapple SF
Missed Cherry Bombe Jubilee SF? Fear not! In preparation for our SF city launch, Ali Kokot, our City Director headed to Cherry Bombe Jubilee SF to get the scoop from west coast women in food, and she rounded up her top takeaways from what proved to be an inspiring day of talks & workshops from the community.
1. We Must Be Resilient
These are somber times in the Bay Area and throughout our country from the recent strikes of devastating natural disasters from the Napa Fires to the string of hurricanes. Shakirah Simley, an activist, heading up Nourish Resist, acknowledged this trying time but reminded the women in food community present that, as a woman, being resilient is not a choice - “we must.” She encouraged the women present to set aside feelings of defeat and to instead regenerate. For some, this meant "cooking our asses off!" She reminded us all that “your personal capacity is greater than you think," leaving us with an inspiring call to action: "I know that you're tired and I know that you're sad, but it's time to get those feet up ladies because we have work to do!"
2. Food Can Surmount Prejudice
Whatever prejudices we may have about another culture, the table is the perfect place to unravel them. Reem Asil of Reem’s in Oakland spoke about some of the challenges of finding a place that felt true to her community as a woman of Syrian heritage. She wanted to showcase the true culture of her people and found an outlet to do this through cuisine. She shared how she popularized "Arab Street Food" when the word Arab was considered a bad word and shared these delicacies with an audience once ignorant to anything beyond their own vision of Arab culture and cuisine. She proved that food can start a narrative and help us paint a new perspective.
3. Appropriation is a Privilege, Or Is It?
In a panel on Assimilation, Appropriation and Affirmation in cooking we heard two reigning perspectives – that appropriation is a positive, a complement to other cultures, or that it dilutes that culture’s cuisine, usually without permission. “We're pushing back," said Dominica Rice-Cisneros, of Cosecha, on the appropriation of Mexican traditional recipes and their Americanization. At her establishment, tortillas are made by hand daily and the likes of a "The Taco Bell hard shell” you won't find in her restaurant, because “you won’t find it once you cross the border to Tijuana." In contrast, Yasmin Khan, author of The Saffron Tales, loves when people take Persian food and make it their own. In a similar vein, Andrea Nguyen described that in Vietnam, which has been colonized by so many people – there was a sense of empowerment in taking the French’s inundation of the baguette and making it Vietnamese as the Banh Mi. Preeti Mistry recalled when all of a sudden there was a craze around "Chai Tea" in the U.S..Chai means tea we learned...hence “Tea Tea”…. Chai being the traditional drink of her people – Mistry expressed that many Indians felt that Americans, who didn't have the right to, were making money off of misappropriating an Indian cultural tradition.
4. Use Your Nose
Mindy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes gave a dynamic presentation on the connection between smell and flavor. She passed two scents around the room, a Thai Basil and a Sweet Basil – reminding us how much distinction there can be – “flavors that take us in two different directions” – from the same plant. She encouraged us as we cook to “create a memory bank of smells" and most importantly, to “shop with your nose."
5. Help the Planet Be Self Sustainable
Karen Leibowitz, owner of the Perennial urged us to take a new approach towards fighting climate change, away from being conservationist and towards regeneration. Instead of focusing on doing and using less, she asked that we focus on doing more but in a way that benefits our environment. She said, “only action makes us feel better – and begged us to carry this message and make it lighter. She is a fan of using regenerative agriculture practices to cultivate perennial plants (hence the name of her restaurant) which are the most effective at drawing C02 out of the air and down into the soil. Varieties like Kernza wheat, make a fine sourdough like the one served at The Perennial’s table. This builds healthy soil and allows for the ”repair of the world.” Leibowitz’s motto: “Healthy Soil Healthy Food Healthy Planet.”
6. Keep Your Connections Close and Take Risks
Liz Prueitt, of Tartine Bakery reminded us that as you get older “your connections only get richer, they keep coming around.” It was the women she worked with early on in her career at a San Francisco restaurant called Zola who mentored her and helped her decide she wanted to be a restaurateur. Gabriela Camara of Cala argued that sometimes it's easier to take risks as a woman because nothing is expected of you. One such risk she has taken at Cala was to start a program to hire people coming out of prison who needed work, which has been a success. She urged, "why would one sit with convention if you can do more?”
7. Food Is Personal, We Must Connect Face to Face
In her keynote talk Alice Waters was introduced by a woman whose livelihood she has closely supported. Trini Campbell, owner of Riverdog Farm has known Alice for over 30 years as one of her exquisite produce purveyors. At the end of her interview, Alice walked up to the podium and made a plea that we all continue to connect with and support our farmers, without whom our food would not be possible. She shared her vision for free, organic school lunch across America’s schools and suggested how lunch could have new academic meaning for kids: “Maybe you're studying the Silk Road in history class and enjoying a spiced lentil soup,” this way, she said “you're digesting your lessons along with your food.” She also shared her experience going to the new 365 store in Silverlake, LA. “I felt scared,” she said, looking at spoiling food stacked high and not an employee in sight, “there was no one to talk to about what this is or what's in it.” There was no replacement she felt, for the face to face connection that can imbue food with a meaning far beyond lunch.
And so, in the spirit of real life connection with each other and the food community around us, we're celebrating the women in food in DC with team Cherry Bombe Tuesday Oct. 24th. Join us, won't you?