In one year I went from thinking I should be making documentaries to crowdfunding my way on board a train across the country to create a series of them.
April 2014. Chicago. The Purple Pig.
The Purple Pig is one of those places that doesn’t post its menu prices on its website. It’s not a place where you find yourself at 2 p.m. on a weekday with a journalist’s salary unless you were me, someone who was in a quarter-life crisis and didn’t know it.
I was meeting with a former professor of mine, someone who has come to be a mentor to me. I had meant for the conversation to be a chance to catch up. But as are most meetings with your mentors, it turned out to be about life instead.
“Purpose” was our topic of conversation, in particular, what mine would be. This was not a new subject for us, as she had helped me figure out my senior year of college whether I would move with my friends to NYC to pursue acting, or continue down the path of journalism. Ultimately, I picked the latter, and was working as a Capitol Hill reporter in Washington, D.C.
“Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?”
I thought about it for a moment. “Eventually I’d like to move into documentary work. I want to be telling stories that inspire people to act.”
“Yeah, people were completely taken aback and pleasantly surprised that someone was going to ask them about something other than the rockets and the siege. Of course, it all figures together, but they were all just extremely delighted that people were thinking about them, and interested in learning about them, as human beings.” –Laila El-Haddad, who grew up in Gaza, speaking in Bon Appetit magazine about the Palestinian families in Gaza she interviewed for her recipe book The Gaza Kitchen. I enjoyed reading the whole interview–a conversation between El-Haddad, her co-author Maggie Scmitt, and Israeli chef and author of cookbook Jerusalem Yotam Ottolenghi–and learned about the politics of naming food, the creation of new recipes when conflict makes ingredients unavailable and the struggle to establish a cultural cuisine in a nation of immigrants.
“The question of ‘is this our food, or is this your food—who gets to name this food,’ is not occurring in a void. If it occurred in a void it would be silly, but it’s not in a void. It’s in this intensely laden political question, with so much life and death material sustenance also being debated. So these food items become sort of symbols of a much bigger, much broader question of ownership.” –Schmitt