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Apr 02
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Fearless in the Kitchen

Afganistan at Conflict Kitchen

Afganistan at Conflict Kitchen

A Culinary Embassy

COLUMN: Kitchen Wisdom

by Lisa Harris, Column Co-Host
photos courtesy of Conflict Kitchen, with permission from Jon Rubin

Kitchens are wonderful places where we come together and share ideas. Offering food from one’s own culture opens the door to different perspectives of how and where we live in the world. It also shows us how we are so much alike, as we share the human experience.

“…We put on a hat and gloves to shield ourselves, fearing that we might get burned. The colourfulness of relationships, household chores, business enterprises and our general livelihood are too irritating. We are constantly looking for padding so that we don’t run into the sharp edges of the world. That is the essence of wrong belief. It is an obstacle to seeing the wisdom of the Great Eastern Sun, which is seeing greater vision beyond our own small world.”
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Rather than rallying around political decisions to shun certain places in the world, two artists chose instead to look beyond country designations to see who lives within their borders.

The result was an art installation called Conflict Kitchen, a restaurant framed by a small, colorful take-out window that only serves food from countries with which the US is in conflict.

“How are we going to respond to real opposition that arises in the world? As a warrior, how are you going to relate with that? You don’t need a party-line logic or a package deal response. They don’t really help. In my experience of how students usually relate with conflict, I find that they tend to freeze up when someone is very critical of them. They become non-communicative, which doesn’t help the situation. As warriors, we shouldn’t be uptight and uncommunicative. We find it easy to manifest basic goodness when somebody agrees with us. Even if they’re half agreeing with you, you can talk to them and have a great time. But if someone is edgy and negative, then you freeze, become defensive, and begin to attack them back. That’s the wrong end of the stick. You don’t kill an enemy before they become the enemy.”
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Informal discussions with speakers at Conflict Kitchen

Informal discussions with speakers at Conflict Kitchen


Conflict Kitchen is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The name alone elicits a powerful image as it dares to challenge the status quo of our understanding, or lack thereof, regarding countries with which we are in conflict. Artists Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski hoped to draw people to the space, offer a taste of something they might never have had before, and allow the opportunity for dialogue to arise regarding different cultures.

“A warrior should be capable of artfully conducting his or her life in every action, from drinking tea to running a country. Learning how to handle fear, both how to utilize one’s own fear and that of others, is what allows us to brew the beer of fearlessness. You can put all of those situations of fear and doubt into a gigantic vat and ferment them.”
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Live Skype meal with Tehran

Live Skype meal with Tehran

The restaurant chooses countries that reflect current geopolitical events. Residents living in those countries and the US are consulted and interviewed to get a sense of their life, culture, art, and personal perspectives. These perspectives are then printed on the food wrapper that holds the simple street food items, introducing the customers to some of the aspects of each culture. Not everyone agrees with the ideas and thoughts that are offered, which opens up the opportunity to share more varied views of each place.

The project goes beyond the storefront venue, hosting other opportunities to engage in conversation, education and debate. Some of them include:

Research trip to Cuba

Research trip to Cuba


– Live Skype meals shared between the US and Tehran.
– Informal lunch hour discussions bringing in foreign perspectives.
– Hosting Pittsburgh’s first Persian Cultural Festival.
– A local school visit to the restaurant to pose questions to Afghani-American and Iranian-Americans.
– A live Skype cooking lesson with North Korean defectors who are currently living in South Korea.

So far, Conflict Kitchen has featured the countries of North Korea, Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela. They are currently featuring food from Aghanistan, and recently provided an informal Ukrainian lunch with conversation about current events in Ukraine. Their next focus will be on Palestine.

For more information about Conflict Kitchen, visit their website at: conflictkitchen.org. They also can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @conflictkitchen.

Quotes from The Warrior Tradition: Conquering Fear by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Lisa Harris

Lisa Harris

~~
Lisa Harris
is a freelance writer and free-range chef with a background in ecology and environmental science. She is always on the lookout for seasonal, local foods, and the farmers who provide them in the Great Lakes Region, where she currently lives. You can follow her on Twitter @thesavorymuse, find more of her experiences and stories in her blog, earthskybelly.wordpress.com and in other publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

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1 response to “ Fearless in the Kitchen ”
  1. The current menu sounds really good. This is interesting but how does it tie in with Buddhist teachings?


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