A taste of justice

Think of agents for change in American eating habits, and Berkeley’s Alice Waters and Michael Pollan come immediately to mind.

Indeed, eat-more-greens advocates can appear as white as Wonder Bread.

On the menu at La Pena Cultural Center last night: some much-needed color in the conversation about good food matters.

Visceral Feast, a work-in-progress performance piece, featured Oakland-based eco chef Bryant Terry (author of Vegan Soul Kitchen, a health-conscious reinterpretation of popular African American and Southern cuisine sans meat, and co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen), poet Aimee Suzara, dancer Eyla Moore, and choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith. (Full disclosure: I’ve taken Amara’s Rhythm & Motion dance class for almost two decades. The girl knows how to inspire joy and shake her booty like nobody’s business.) Ajayi Lumumba Jackson provided musical grooves.

The food-focused event explored big themes, including family, home, love, cultural identity, and community and, since the evening was all about eating, bite-size servings of vegetarian gumbo and chocolate pudding did the rounds.

Haitian Sandrine Malary made a heartfelt plea to help her people rebuild her country, literally from the ground up, as part of a seed gathering effort she’s organizing.

The audience was asked to contribute food memories, which were incorporated into the evening’s entertainment. The man seated next to me wrote simply but eloquently: “I miss my mom’s chai.”

Just one quibble. The 90-minute show, part spoken-word performance, part poetry slam, part singing chef (we’re talking hip-hop beats not Broadway tunes), and part mealtime musings accompanied by music and movement, didn’t completely blend together to make a whole dish.

But clearly these socially conscious artists and activists wanted to serve up some fun and good feelings, along with feeding the crowd on a steady diet of the visceral connection between cultural roots, eating, and hunger — and the importance of equal access to healthy, sustainable, local, and affordable food for all.

I can’t quite put my finger on the missing ingredient, or perhaps it just needs a little more time to marinate — what I do know is such a refreshing recipe is a welcome addition to the dinner table.

Visceral Feast runs as a three-part series. On March 14 the program features a multi-generational food theme; the April 25 event is billed as an international food tasting.

Photos: Amara Tabor-Smith (top) and Aimee Suzara (bottom) by Alan Kimara Dixon. Photo: Bryant Terry (center) By Sara Remington.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.

 

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