Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Anarchist Dinner

I met an anarchist vegan here in Oakland who let me know about a pop-up "restaurant" that he was in the process of dumpster-diving and otherwise gathering food for which to cook.  Of course, I had to check this out.

The event took place in the basement-like outside structure of a house folks call "The Free House" because, apparently, it is free to live there, although contribution to building and changing the house itself is very much appreciated.  I got the impression that if someone is handy, helpful, an anarchist or pretty close, and wants to live in Oakland for free, it would not be very difficult to find acceptance there.

The basement-like area (it has an outdoor entrance -- actually, two, one on either side) is an art space.  Here's one wall.

This was early, so the place wasn't packed.  Actually, it would seem that no anarchist was quite organized enough this time (lol) to get the word out about the dinner, so it was unusually poorly-attended.  They had a menu with prices, but it was really by donation, and there was so much food leftover afterward that everyone remaining ate what they wanted.

I brought my new friend Christopher along with me, and we ordered a few things.  I got the Corned "Beef" Hash and also some vegan donuts.  Christopher, who tries to eat what he calls a "high raw vegan diet," and does not eat gluten, settled for some Palak Paneer, which isn't raw, but it's still good food that was not bound to contain any vital wheat gluten, like mine did.
The plating is not gourmet, but that's not the kind of dinner these folks do.  The hash was really good and flavorful, although I personally would have used less seitan and also shredded it into the hash rather than having large pieces.  Later on, when I ate more of it mixed in with other stuff, the amount a seitan was far less overwhelming.  Also, best vegan donuts I've had to date!  I mean, the trick is to actually deep fry them, which is simply not something I'm willing to do at home, and it's also incredibly bad for health, but I didn't care, I wanted to eat them, and I did, and they were great.
Sadly, I never ended up getting to try any of the Palak Paneer, but I think it looks like it tastes really good.  I mean, the thing with the casual style of cooking these people were doing is that it is really real, honest, make-do-with-what-you've-got, prepare, taste, alter, taste, serve.  Food Not Bombs style. 

Later, I went up to their kitchen to check it out and steal some pictures and also to eat some more grub.  This house is particularly concerned with issues of gender equality and rejecting hetero-normative culture.
So, that is their sink.  See the cardboard sign above it?  It says "Consent Is Sexy."  Cannot say I disagree. I think it's interesting that this is the message that appeared in their kitchen.  It shows where their activism is primarily focused.  I dig it.

I really liked how their compost bag looked, although I kinda wanted to tell them that they could take those ends and put them in water and grow more veggies!
Here was one of the people doing most of the cooking.  In the front, I think that was the only non-vegan item, still vegetarian.  Unfortunately, it seemed to me that very, very few people in this group were vegan, or even vegetarians.  Most described themselves as "ex-vegans," and when I'd ask them why they turned back, no one had a very clear answer on this.  Then I'd ask why they were vegan in the first place, and their answers were all along the lines of it being the anarchist thing to do at the time.  What I get from this was that they never actually got down and dirty with the philosophical ideas that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, that non-human animals' lives are worth no more or less than human lives, and that it is not OK to participate in an oppressive system that harms everyone -- environmentally, psychologically, and systemically.  Nevertheless, they're still keeping these dinners pretty damn vegan, so, cool.

Everything in the next picture was vegan, and the bread, in particular, was ahhhhhmazing.  It was all really good, though.  I ate a bit of each thing on this counter.

OK, one more of the food.

...And one to show you the cool chaos of the place.

Interesting stuff.  Oakland has a lot of different people who are engaged in various forms of advocacy, and this house is only one example.  I love how easy it is here to meet new people and make friends and be a part of the expansive scenes with all their various sub-sectors. 

To close this post, allow me to show you this picture I took of this weird and beautiful, dirty and lovely graffiti art space at the Marina in Oakland that the anarchist fellow I referred to at the start of this post brought me to see.
I love it.  Art out of dirt and debris.  I think about how this marina must have once been filled with non-human animal life.  There are still some interesting birds there to see if you sit and watch, but mostly, it's a human playground of junk now.  How did the piano get here?  In a way, this space feels like it rebels against the human debris, but in another, it embraces it, owns it.  I don't think that the many people who had a part in creating this space had any focused idea behind its intentions.  It makes me feel both full and empty, both hopeful and hopeless.  It's hard to describe.


  1. This makes me really happy. I want to start an anarchist restaurant!

    1. If it's vegan, I'll fly over to eat there! :-)

  2. Sounds like moving to Oakland was a great idea for you. With all the food available at the pop-up, it's so sad that not enough people showed up. Maybe you can become the publicist for the next one, and draw a larger crowd!

  3. LOVE IT!! We have a similar co-op in Memphis that used to hold vegan stir-fry nights. As far as I know, those are no longer happening. And similarly, I think there's no longer a vegan requirement to live there...although there once was. This new generation of anarchists need to get back their vegan roots. :-) That dinner sounds fab! Especially the donuts!


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