The Colonized Kitchen?

Since starting my University career I have taken an interest in food, farming and how these two issues tie into social justice especially in Latin America. I followed small organic farmers in rural Puerto Rico, taught gardening and cooking to hispanic youth in Austin, worked in a left-y bar (whiched I dubbed the Communist Party) in Brazil, volunteered on farms, and along with one of my closest friends helped found “The Food Studies Project” at the University of Texas in Austin. All of these experiences culimated in an internship with La Poderosa Media Project in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador.

View of Bahia de Caraquez

Photo taken by the beautiful and talented Allison Corbett

Every summer La Poderosa offers an intensive film making workshop to teenagers in South America with the help of students from universities in the USA. The American students get the benefit of the workshops and the opportunity to take Spanish lessons while fully immersed in another culture and language. I had heard about them years ago, but did not need Spanish lessons. Luckily, the group had decided to make a short documentary about traditional Ecuadorian cooking and needed an intern. I was more than happy to take the position even though I knew absolutely nothing about Ecuadorian cuisine.

Typical plate in coastal Ecuador. Also by Allison Corbett.

The idea was to get young people excited about their traditional cuisine in an age where fast convenient foods dominate, and dietary related illnesses are on the rise. My job was to interview locals and write down recipes and food habits from the past and present and help select who would be filmed. Nearly all expressed that people were healthier in the past and feared for the health of their younger counterparts. I also could see the pride they took in sharing their traditions with an outsider who was interested in learning about their culture. That is when the idea for this blog came to me.

Traditional food prep by Allison Corbett.

When it comes to food colonization happens in several ways. The most obvious is when the colonizer takes massive amounts of resources from the colonized (ex. coffee, bananas, avocados) this has been going on since Europeans “discovered” the Americas and does not look like it will be changing any time soon. Another and perhaps less talked about form of colonization is cultural. Many cultures are loosing their food traditions in favor of convenience foods to the detriment of their well-being. In a fast-paced, globalized world it is understandable…most of us are overworked, tired and underpaid, but I firmly believe that food IS culture and to lose those traditions would be to lose ourselves and our history. Luckily, there seems to be a growing resistance and this blog is but one manifestation of the local/traditional food movement.

In this blog I will share recipes, anecdotes, and a bit of politics from Latin America in an attempt to decolonize my own kitchen. I will try to use as many local and seasonal products as possible and speak to my local organic farmers who are waging their own battles against the conventional agricultural machine. I look forward to embarking on this adventure! Stay tuned for some recipes from my Mexican grandma.

p.s. If you liked the photos in this post check out Allison’s blog