In praise of beans and rice

By Violet

For the past 5 years I’ve lived in radical community. I’ve lived on queer land projects, in squats and cabins in the woods. I’ve slept in tents, attics, couches and huts. I’ve been a resident, guest, and traveler. On the most intimate level, my involvement in radical community has come primarily through THE KITCHEN. I’ve cooked for hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I’ve cooked in chaotic communal cook spaces, on propane camping stoves in squats, cast-iron wood-stoves, and over an open fire.

Over time and with experience I’ve observed that liberated cooking spaces are remarkably consistent in many ways:

* They serve as an open kitchen and feeding ground for many

* they are mostly stocked with items that are either dumpstered or bought on food stamps

* they incorporate food from backyard gardens

* cheese, yogurt, peanut butter, nuts and meat are the first things to be eaten, often in a frenzy of scarcity mentality and greed
* there is usually an ample supply of condiments, notably Bragg’s liquid aminos and Sriracha pepper sauce and nutritional yeast

* people regularly don’t do their dishes much to collective chagrin

In other ways radical kitchens vary wildly. Land projects formed before the 1990’s are frequently vegetarian spaces. Squats NEVER are.

There are certain patterns with dumpstered food. The big “scores” of cheese and prepared health food are usually infrequent, at most periodic i.e. the second Sunday of the month. Produce can be secured almost everyday. Sometimes it’s only a few half rotted green bell peppers other times hundreds of bruised organic apples. Often there is both great abundance and variety of fruits and veggies.

Ungodly amounts of bread are always available somewhere close by. ALWAYS. And have you ever noticed how much dumpstered bread radicals eat? Bread with cheese. Bread with butter. Bread with peanut butter. Eggs and toast. Jam on toast. Toast by itself. Not that there’s anything wrong with bread or anything, in moderation. But have you ever noticed HOW MANY PUNKS HAVE GLUTEN ALLERGIES?? Allergies are caused BY OVEREXPOSURE. They grow worse over time. One of my uncles worked in a bakery. He developed gluten allergies after being around wheat flour every day. I’ve heard anecdotally that this is a fairly common experience. The dominant culture has a certain attitude towards health that is so ubiquitous it is almost invisible, even in radical community. The basic assumption goes something like this: “the primary importance in life is PRODUCTIVITY and INCOME. To achieve this end it is totally okay to sacrifice the health and well-being of your body. When the body starts to fail there are HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS that will take care of you making your PRODUCTIVITY AND INCOME absolutely necessary to pay for medical care.” This is of course ADDICT-LOGIC that doesn’t really make any sense. I’ve seen gluten-allergies play out in ways where people feel alienated within community. They need their own separate cast iron. They are frequently inadvertently poisoned by other people’s carelessness. THIS IS A SERIOUS ISSUE. On the same level as black mold in residential space, bike accidents and drug abuse.


Diets are inherently political. “Apolitical” or “apathetic” is still a form of political engagement

What we choose to consume has long-term consequences, both for ourselves and for the larger social order. Boycotts have been an effective means to create change. Our food choices create a collective momentum. This collective momentum creates, in part, our reality. Freeganism is political. Veganism is political. Eating local is political. Likewise buying factory-farmed meat is political. Shopping at Walmart is political. Going deeper, how we care for our bodies is of the utmost political importance. Do we treat ourselves as THINGS to be USED and then DISCARDED? Do we lavish ourselves with love and treat our bodies as sacred objects, as universes onto themselves? Do we treat our bodies somewhere in between? If so, where on the spectrum? How do you treat your body? This question is of the UTMOST SIGNIFICANCE.

Your body is the fundamental unit of who you are. What is the point of radicalism that doesn’t incorporate self-care and love into its ideology?


Have you ever noticed how excited everyone gets about eating rice, beans, vegetables and tortillas for dinner? They are one of the easiest and cheapest meals to make. They are at the most basic vegan and gluten free. They meet almost everyone’s needs and are healthy and delicious to boot. Dry beans can be intimidating. To cook them well one needs either to plan well in advance or have a pressure cooker. This is a different rhythm than instant convenience, but is not without its charms. I’ve seen it as breakfast, lunch and dinner.