The Art of Edible Dissent

“Peace Meal Supper Club™ is a unique evening of fine food and progressive discussion, focused on strengthening ourselves as agents for positive change. I create a 4-course menu focused on a theme, such as Pollination, Fair Trade, Cacao, or even humble-but-life-giving Dirt. I share my research into the topic via in-depth essays on my website, which will hopefully inspire the conversation during the meal. It’s like a concept album which you can eat.”

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Art is an expression of dissatisfaction with the state of one’s world. Or stated another way, an artist struggles within their dissatisfaction with the world around them. Like many other art forms, mine is meant to illuminate, challenge, and suggest.

Peace Meal Supper Club popped up in St Catherines, Ontario, in January of 2016.
Peace Meal Supper Club™ popped up in St Catherines, Ontario, in January of 2016. This event benefitted the Unbound Project of Keri Cronin and Joanne McArthur. Photo courtesy of Joanne McArthur.

I explore the  dissatisfaction side of the equation through a multi-media inter-disciplinary examination of overlapping systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. Food is an intensely communicative art, telling us stories that reach from gender and race to undocumented agricultural workers, dirt, seeds, and the Mississippi River.

My diners and I have explored social movements–such as the never-ending campaign for fair treatment of workers–and the subversive empowerment of Border Radio; the collapse of social and environmental systems; and the celebration of freedom and self-improvement embodied in the African-American celebration of Juneteenth. Peace Meal Supper Club™ has provided a lens to explore post-Columbian-Exchange globalization, the status of Fair Trade cacao, and the humanitarian tragedy of successive and worsening refugee crises.

All of this with food as the primary medium. The taken-for-granted is often the most impactful.

From the Camellia menu, this course takes us along the Tea Horse Road in ancient China, where tea and other goods were traded for war horses.
From the Camellia menu, this course takes us along the Tea Horse Road in ancient China, where tea and other goods were traded for war horses.

On the other side of the artistic equation is the hoped-for outcome. The goal is to re-imagine our world, to once again envision Utopia, and to offer gratitude for all who helped us find it.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias.”

We iteratively establish Utopias as stepping stones, mile markers to which we can refer when our course needs correction. With each new stone, we are more resilient and capable, winnowing ourselves into the core of what matters. As the powers-that-be successively nudge us closer to calamity, we revert to the soil and the sun and the simple. In this sense of recursion, Utopia–and Peace Meal Supper Club™–is Tao: returning to the simple sustaining forces that cannot be named, neither can they be dormant for long.

Recurring themes, regardless of any supper’s stated topic, have been several:

  • Our significantly artificial food system
  • Diminishing habitat and diversity, among animals, plants, and culture
  • Reduction of keystone species and other signs of systemic collapse
  • The overwhelm of industrial agriculture
  • The overall struggle for fairness, reaching through civil rights, gender equality, and the rising awareness of animal rights
  • Identity, dominion, imperialism, exploitation, extraction, displacement, and the silencing of dissent

The overlay is complex and intricate. Peace Meal Supper Club™, with its multi-sensory qualities, offers everyone an access point and therefore hope.

The simple truth is that Dirt is linked to Seed is linked to Globalization is linked to the Mississippi is linked to the Farmworker is linked to Social Justice. We do not live in a disconnected world, even though we sometimes see the symptoms in isolation.

The unspoken but very pronounced theme of Peace Meal Supper Club™ is this: We must not operate in single-issue mode. We cannot let ourselves be disconnected and dispossessed.

Dining al fresco with Peace Meal Supper Club: Cacao in Hyde Park, NY.
Dining al fresco with Peace Meal Supper Club™: Cacao in Hyde Park, NY.

Professor Chien-hui Li, a fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, provides the wisdom borne of a broader view: “While there may be every need for the animal movement to focus on sharply-defined targets in order to achieve short-term goals, there is an equally urgent need to engage with wider literary, religious, scientific, political and other traditions, and to cultivate the state of mind of belonging to much broader social forces striving in the same directions of charity, equality, and justice. This could not only strengthen activists’ faith in something of a deeper nature and broaden their outlook, but also affect the spirit in which their work is undertaken and make it all the more powerful and appealing to others.”

This unified view of rights, fairness, compassion, and progress moves us one step closer to Utopia.

Peace Meal Supper Club™, like many artistic projects, posits an alternative worldview. It attempts to reset our mindfulness, in a comprehensive scope, towards our eating and therefore our existence. It asserts that Food Is Everything.

My hope is that my creative use of food will stimulate creative discussion regarding our rendezvous with progress. It is our responsibility and privilege–I should say it is the responsibility of our privilege–to make great changes in the way the world operates.

Reciprocity is never-ending. What we give to others, we receive for ourselves.