"Feed The Resistance" | An Interview on Allyship With Bestselling Author, Julia Turshen
In a society of buzzwords, I've intentionally chosen to ground SafeWordSociety's mission in a very popular one, VISIBILITY. My focus is primarily on promoting the work and narratives of the #QTPOC community but more specifically, supplying the larger community with accessible tools to do so as well. Navigating that larger community, consisting mainly of non-QTPOC and non-POC, has been significantly draining as of late and largely in part to unrequited emotional labor. As I've heightened my requirements for accountability, doors have opened to allies who are committed to providing tangible opportunities at visibility for our communities. True, genuine allies are something I come across very rarely and so when it happens... I'm grateful. So, I was beyond excited when THE Julia Turshen, mentioned The SafeWordSociety Podcast on her Instagram page and then sent a DM about how much she loved the work and was looking forward to supporting it! I clearly jumped at the opportunity to ask all of my best questions about her latest project, Feed The Resistance and learned about the role of sustenance and community in her life. Enjoy!
An excerpt from Julia's introduction:
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.
KM: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do!
JT: Hi! My name is Julia Turshen and I write cookbooks. Which means I cook at home all of the time, think about food when I’m not cooking, and then try to write it all down as best I can so that others can do the same. My goal is to get home cooks excited to be in their kitchens and comfortable once they’re there.
KM: “Feed The Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting Involved” was named the Best Cookbook of 2017 by Eater and reads a lot like an anthology of self-care and self-preservation. Why was this an important project for you?
JT: It was, and continues to be, important for me mostly because it’s not about me. The book is a community effort and reflects the contributions of over twenty of the smartest people I know working in and near food. In addition, all of the proceeds from the book go to the ACLU which basically means that every single person who has purchased the book has not only supported everyone in the book, they’ve also put their money towards the protection of civil liberties.
KM: I truly appreciate that in your intro you speak to being gay, white, educated and financially secure as some of the privileges that afforded you to historically play the “sometimes activist” role. How did promoting the visibility of other cultures and communities become an important aspect of your own resistance?
JT: I’ll give you a bit more background before answering if that’s okay. I have cooked since I was a little kid and taught myself how to cook from cookbooks. I was obsessed with them. It was like looking at a forecast of the dinner parties I might get to cook one day in my own home when I was a grown up. It was pure fantasy on the page. And part of why that fantasy was so accessible for me was because I saw myself reflected in the pages. I saw that the authors were white and that the people and food reflected in the photographs looked like me and my family and what we ate. As an adult I get to do the thing I’ve always dreamed of: I get to make the types of books I relied on so much as a kid. And now that I have experienced this enormous privilege of knowing what it feels like to do that, and to have my voice supported and heard, I feel so invested in making sure I extend that privilege to as many people as possible. So promoting visibility for other cultures and communities beyond my own helps me not only better understand my various types of privilege, but also take steps to make that privilege more equitable. So much of my resistance comes not from being loud, but from passing whatever microphone I have over to someone else who doesn’t have the same access to it as I do. And making sure that microphone is plugged in and amplified as much as possible.
KM: What was your process for finding varieties of representation, in your contributors, to include in the book?
JT: My goal was that as many people as possible could pick up the book and see themselves reflected in it. That feeling of connection could come through race, location, age, occupation, gender, sexuality, or even perspective. The book is so much about creating and sustaining community and while there’s no one way to do that, there’s definitely no way to do that if you don’t feel connected. The process of getting the contributors on board was again very much about community, about asking one person to be involved and then having them suggest someone else and on and on. I also made sure to mention to everyone I reached out who else I was reaching out to so that it was clear whose company they would potentially be in.
KM: What are some lessons about allyship and accountability you think folks can learn from this book and the stories within it? How can this book help to promote a more open-dialogue?
JT: One thing I learn over and over again is that one of the most valuable things an ally can do to hold themselves accountable to the communities they support is to, quite simply, listen. Also, educate yourself. Do not ask the communities you wish to uphold to do that work for you. Feed the Resistance can help with all of the above (and more!) in so many ways. There are essays like the one from Shakirah Simley that help us understand how food justice cannot be achieved without racial justice and what it means to not just be an ally, but an accomplice. Shakirah also breaks down how food and the spaces where we gather for it are prime for these conversations and this work. There are recipes like meatballs from Thosh Collins and Chelsey Luger that help us understand how taking charge of our own health and well-being is, in and of itself, an act of resistance and how indigenous cultures have been doing that since long, long before wellness was trendy. There are also recipes like Cheryl Day’s Chocolate and Espresso Pie Bars that remind us of the legacy of food in movements, especially the Civil Rights movement. Cheryl uses her recipe to introduce us to Georgia Gilmore. There are also lists of ideas and resources for ways to be more active in your community.
KM: What’s the most surprising thing about the reception of the book? What are you most proud of?
JT: The most surprising thing for me has been how wide-reaching the book is. I’ve spoken to journalists as far as Australia about it. It goes to show that food as a means of activism is something that’s applicable everywhere. I am most proud of the spotlight being cast on the contributors, like Tunde Wey’s essay being featured on Eater.
KM: What’s a recipe from the book you’d suggest for a beginner cook?
JT: Von Diaz’s Arroz a Caballo, which is basically like 10 recipes for the price of one, is so simple but so good. It’s basically just rice with an egg, but she does such a beautiful job of showing you how incredibly versatile that is and all the things you do with it. Stephen Satterfield’s recipe for baked sweet potatoes with oven-roasted tomato sauce and polenta is also very simple, but so nourishing, affordable, vegan, and easy to make on a large scale.
KM: What’s on the horizon for you and what should we look out for?
JT: If you ask my wife she would say I should take a nap! I’m a bit of a workaholic though. I have a new cookbook coming out in the fall called Now & Again and I’m very excited about it. I’m also working on a website that will be a digital directory for the food industry featuring only women and gender nonconforming individuals and focusing primarily on POC and the LGBT community. I’ve also got a potential podcast and a book with a friend going on the back burners. I’ll keep you posted.
To keep up with Julia's amazing work be sure to check out her website!