Article by: Lauryn Costik
Just two hours west of State College, Pittsburgh is a city whose dominant culture centers on its beloved sports teams, long-standing philanthropic traditions, and Primanti Brothers’ famous french fry-topped sandwiches. Yet nestled inside Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park is an institution that reflects and promotes a very different set of cultural traditions.
Here in the center of the city lies Conflict Kitchen, a small, takeout-only food stand serving up a rotating menu of dishes from nations and regions that the United States is currently in conflict with, such as Palestine, Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran. The kitchen was co-founded in 2010 by artists and academics Dawn Weleski, a Stanford master of fine arts graduate, and Jon Rubin, an internationally established artist and professor of arts at Carnegie Mellon University. Their aim is to provide a fresh, innovative perspective of current political issues around the world and to foster informed discussion amongst their customers.
Each menu focuses upon the cuisine of a specific nation, and collaborates with individuals of these nations to create authentic, quality cuisine. Currently, Conflict Kitchen is focusing on the cuisine of Iran, serving dishes like Khoresh-e-Fesenjan, a dish consisting of walnut- and pomegranate-marinated chicken and steamed rice, along with other items such as Jujeh Kebabs and pickled vegetables. Menu items at Conflict Kitchen also come wrapped in packaging with news headlines from the country of origin of the dishes they are serving.
During the course of each version of Conflict Kitchen, the kitchen also holds various events, lectures, and collaborative events that reflect the viewpoints of those immersed in the cultures of these various nations, as Conflict Kitchen works to provide an alternative portrayal of nations and cultures often villainized in the American mainstream media. Such collaborations include the promotion of “guest Instagrammers”, like Iranian photographers Adele Ghalibaf and Pouria Sarhadi, as well as film festivals and themed potluck dinners.
Conflict Kitchen works to further its mission even more by hosting K-12 classroom workshops that “seek to expand the engagement that the public has with the perspectives of people living within each region of focus and their culture,” with program formats like cooking lessons, art projects, and even call-and-response stand up comedy.
As summer rapidly approaches, and we students pack up our belongings and embark on journeys of our own, consider making Conflict Kitchen a stop on your itinerary, and enjoy a meal that has the potential to expand your global awareness, and your taste buds.
Feature Image Credit: Brandon Shea
To take a look at their menu/causes/events visit their website here: http://conflictkitchen.org/