Looking Back at 2013: Street Food Crosses Cultures
Conflict Kitchen in Schenley Plaza / photo: Ben Filio
Sprout looks back at 2013’s memorable projects, stopping off for lunch at Conflict Kitchen which moved from a tiny East Liberty storefront to a full kitchen in Oakland with the help of a Sprout Root Award this year.
When you look around at all the people, projects, and organizations that make Pittsburgh such a surprisingly remarkable place to call home, you might not notice just how instrumental The Sprout Fund has been in catalyzing those unique community assets. For example, did you know that Sprout was an early supporter of Conflict Kitchen and made a special investment to help the project move to its new location in 2013?
Conflict Kitchen is half takeout eatery, half political art project that only serves food from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Rotating its menu every few months, Conflict Kitchen has featured cuisine from Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.
But the project is about more than just food. Each version of the restaurant includes educational outreach to connect Pittsburghers with the people who call these countries home. From cooking classes to Skype sessions, Conflict Kitchen illuminates the human qualities that connect people despite conflict between states.
As Kubideh Kitchen, Conflict Kitchen served the Persian takeout that represents the people and culture of modern-day Iran. That iteration of the restaurant featured interviews with Iranians living in Pittsburgh as well as a live simulcast dinner with people living in Tehran. As Bolani Pazi, Conflict Kitchen served traditional turnovers and rice pilaf, opening the kitchen on a tour of Pittsburgh’s schools to educate students about our neighbors in Afghanistan.
“Conflict Kitchen engages the general public in discussions about cultures that they might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of U.S. politics and the narrow lens of media headlines,” said artist and professor Jon Rubin of the project’s political purpose. He and fellow artist Dawn Weleski originated the idea in 2010, aiming to bring cuisine and political discourse from around the world to Pittsburgh. Since then, the duo have passed the reins to capable chef Robert Sayre, but the purpose of the eatery remains the same: open lines of communications about the world through the shared medium of food.
With a $25,000 Root Award from The Sprout Fund, Conflict Kitchen moved to a new location on Schenley Plaza in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, the center of the city’s university and education community where it can bring its message of humanity (and, of course, its delicious food) to hundreds more each day.
By supporting progressive, compassionate projects like Conflict Kitchen, Sprout is working to make Pittsburgh a welcoming and educated international city of the world where people love to work, play and, of course, eat!