Feed the Resistance: The Power of Food and Getting Involved
We’re proud to be publishing Feed the Resistance by Julia Turshen, author of the bestselling Small Victories. With stimulating lists, extensive resources, recipes from a diverse range of celebrated chefs, and essays from activists in the worlds of food, politics, and social causes, Feed the Resistance is a practical and inspiring handbook for anyone hoping to make a difference.
In her introduction, excerpted in part below, Turshen talks about how the book came about and the power of food. Read on for her thoughts, plus a recipe for her Baked Oatmeal + Apple Squares.
We’re living in a time of upheaval and the call to activism is loud and clear. In figuring out the shape of my own activism, I keep thinking about heroes, about folks like John Lewis who don’t wait for permission or instruction. I am constantly reminded that heroes operate in all different ways. Many are loud, while many embody that beautiful Rumi quotation to “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
I am fairly new to regular activism. While I am a gay, Jewish woman living in rural America, at the end of the day I am a white, able-bodied, cisgender, educated, financially secure person in America. Therefore my resistance has always been on my own terms. I have always had the luxury of choosing when, where, and how I want to be active in my community (if at all). I understand how rare this is.
A silver lining of this new administration is the transformation of so many folks, myself included, from being sometimes activists to being fully committed members of the resistance. It’s no longer a few sprints here and there. It’s a marathon and our cadence is ours to determine, so long as we keep moving.
For me, that movement comes in the form of feeding people in all the ways I know how, but doing so with greater purpose and recruiting others to do the same since we are indeed stronger and more capable together. I have always regularly volunteered with food pantries, hunger relief organizations, and programs like God’s Love We Deliver and Angel Food East (they both provide homemade meals for people homebound with chronic illness).
But I haven’t always quite seen the connection between this kind of work part and the resistance. It took something else for me to connect the dots. A few days after the meeting in the church, Grace and I were on our way out of another meeting in our community at Citizen Action of New York, a statewide group with a local branch not too far from our home. “Did I hear you say you knew about food?” Callie, the meeting leader, asked me as I reached for the door. I told her I did and that I write cookbooks. “So you’re organized. You can be our Food Team Leader.” When I asked her what the Food Team was, she informed me that it wasn’t yet. That I would be starting it. In that moment, Callie let me know exactly how I could both reframe the work I was already doing and also amplify it. I know food and I know how to effectively organize. Why not just put those skills toward feeding, quite literally, the resistance?
From that day forward I was put in charge of communicating with other folks in our community who also love to cook and wanted to do something helpful. Together we would make sure there was something to eat at every single meeting at our Citizen Action branch. Together we would make sure folks like Callie and other organizers didn’t have to think about what was for dinner. In saving them that time and providing the food, they could continue their important work and be guaranteed the comfort and nourishment of a homemade meal. Just like cooking for people in my community who cannot cook for themselves, feeding the resistance was something I could, and continue to, happily commit to. An extension of my profession and my passion, this work fuels me, too. Finding that connection makes the work, and my resistance, sustainable.
In this work I am constantly reminded that food has true power. On the most basic level, resistance, just like any other active thing, needs to be fed in order to sustain. Beyond that, food touches on just about every single issue that matters. Being interested in food, really caring about it, has a domino effect. You start caring about where it comes from, what it means to the people you are feeding, and what it means to be fed.
To think deeply about food is to also think deeply about the environment, the economy, immigration, education, community, culture, families, race, gender, and identity. Food is about people, all people. It is the most democratic thing in the world, lower-case “d,” and affects all of us. All of us. It is the thing we, the entire world!, all have in common. Therefore it also has the power to inform us about where we come from, inform how we express and share ourselves, and ultimately has the power to bring us together with empathetic understanding. It is no wonder that bread, fruit, wine, and even water itself are symbols in just about every religion and culture.
Food is also so wonderfully tangible. Part of why I love to cook is because there’s such a clear sense of completion and accomplishment. In all times, but especially during uncertain ones, there is something so beautifully comforting about cooking a meal from start to finish. Peeling and slicing onions and watching them soften in hot butter might not be the answer to world peace, but it is nice to know that when I do just that, I am one of millions around the world doing that exact thing at the exact same time. When we cook, we are in solidarity. There is power in that.
Cooking cannot only balm our emotions and sustain, it is also a constant reminder of transformation and possibility. Just watch things like flour and buttermilk get stirred together into a shaggy dough and then, just like that, stand tall in the oven as they become bronzed biscuits. Cooking shows us over and over again that we can make things happen, we can make change happen, with just our own hands. Food is metaphor personified and within that there is reaffirmation of what we can accomplish.
This book happened really quickly. I realized that the work I was doing in my own community could be exponential if I put some of it down on paper and shared it with you so that you can better feed your own resistance, whatever that looks like, and hopefully share it with those around you.
Feed the Resistance is a mix of practical and purposeful and it features contributions from some of the smartest and most inspiring people I know. Putting this book together offered me the chance to reflect a lot on not just what I cook in my kitchen, but what others cook in theirs and what food means to all of us.
Baked Oatmeal + Apple Squares
Photo by Sasha Israel
These baked oatmeal bars are the easiest way to make oatmeal not only portable, but also really packed with flavor and long-lasting energy from things such as grated apple and ground flaxseed. They’re great whether you’re headed to a march or just driving your kid to school and need something healthy to eat on-the-go. If you don’t have or like apple, you can use two handfuls of fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries (no need to thaw if frozen), or even grated sweet potato or carrot. These can also be served for dessert if you warm them up and top them with ice cream.
Makes nine 2 1/2-inch [6-cm] squares
- Baking spray
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 Tbsp honey 1 cup [240 ml] whole milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp ground flaxseed
- 2 cups [170 g] old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 large apple (any kind), peeled, seeded, and coarsely grated
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F [175°C]. Spray an 8-in [20-cm] square baking pan with nonstick baking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray that too just to be safe.
2. Place the eggs and honey in a large bowl and whisk well to combine. Add the milk and vanilla and give it another whisk. Sprinkle the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon on top and whisk well to combine. Add the ground flaxseed, oats, and apple and stir well to combine everything. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan. Spread it out so that it’s in an even layer and press it down with a rubber spatula.
3. Bake until the oatmeal is firm to the touch and golden brown on top, about 35 minutes. Let the oatmeal cool for at least 15 minutes and then transfer it to a cutting board. Cut it into nine 2 1/2-in [6-cm] squares.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or wrapped well and frozen for up to 3 months (defrost and warm in a toaster oven or 300°F [150°C] oven before eating).
Photo by Sasha Israel
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