Iraqi ‘Enemy Food’ Opens ‘Cultural Dialogue’ in the US

What happens when your ‘perceived’ enemy prepares lunch for you?
What happens if you have all the negative stereotypes about him, but you are invited to eat his traditional food in your own neighborhood?
Did you ever think of food as a means of communication and a space for dialogue between people who come from very different cultures that are –at times- in ideological opposition?

Michael Rakowitz took the initiative. The Chicago-based artist used the recipes of his Iraqi-Jewish mother to stage an art project: Enemy Kitchen.

First, Rakowitz worked with school students teaching them how to cook Iraqi food. While preparing and consuming the food together in a stress-free atmosphere, they slowly started to open up, talk about their perceptions and stereotypes, share thoughts and feelings, ask questions and generate a healthy debate centered on Iraq and the US military intervention there. The meal turns into a form of socio-cultural engagement.

Next, he did the same with US soldiers from the Iraq Veterans Against The War and the Vietnam Veterans Against The War through a kofta barbeque.

Finally, the project took a new turn with the introduction of a food truck in Chicago that moves from place to place, offering Iraqi dishes served by US Iraqi War veterans and Iraqi refugees in the US. The meals are served in paper plates that resemble the china dishes looted by the US troops from the palaces of Saddam Hussein (another projection on the US ‘intervention’).

What’s next? The truck will be touring neighborhoods where military recruiting is heavy. Desired outcome? You can guess.

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