Eating like [and with] the 'enemy' at world's first Conflict Kitchen

Thursday 10 June 2010 00:00

Enter the "Conflict Kitchen," a waffle shop turned takeout restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where cuisine from ‘axis of evil' nations food is cooked up along with foreign policy dialogue since June 1.

Three artists collaborated on the ‘food for thought' project Jon Rubin, professor at Carnegie Mellon University School of Art and director of the Waffle Shop, John Peña, adjunct assistant professor of art and Dawn Weleski, assistant director of the Waffle Shop.

The Conflict Kitchen will rotate foods from nations that the US has conflict with and in June opened as "Kubideh Kitchen" an Iranian takeout shop.

On June 4, Weleski explained to Relaxnews, "Most likely, we will follow up Kubideh Kitchen with Afghani cuisine, followed by North Korea, and then perhaps Venezuela. Really, the take out restaurant could go on for years, with the conflicts the U.S. is currently involved in, from stated war to the most intricate policy decisions."

"We aren't looking to promote any message, necessarily, or promote change. We're merely looking to start a conversation, one that might be a little more personal, one that is more of an exchange, whether it be around the politics, the culture, or daily life. It is easy to forget that behind all of the governmental conflicts there are people and a culture. When this personal connection is lost things become dangerous", continued Weleski.

On June 5, "Kubideh Kitchen" held its first live Skype meal event with Pittsburgh locals and 30 Tehran artists, professors, and musicians aged 22-35 hosted by Tehran artist, curator and professor Sohrab M. Kashani. Both locations shared the same meal:

The next event is scheduled for June 26 where youth issues will be explored with under 30s in Pittsburgh and Tehran. The Conflict Kitchen has been a cross-disciplinary project and students, interns, community organizations have all helped out.

And, the take out window has become a space where patrons from all over Pittsburgh have come to discuss religion, daily ritual, politics, and cultural differences and similarities, all initiated through food.

In 2006, artist Michael Rakowitz created an educational cooking workshop 'Enemy Kitchen', that took place in classrooms and galleries. Rakowitz born to an Iraqi-Jewish mother, developed the Enemy Kitchen to "seize the possibility of cultural visibility to produce an alternative discourse" with a compilation of Baghdadi recipes.

In the same vein as the Conflict Kitchen, Rakowitz has found "food opens up a new route through which Iraq can be discussed-in this case, through that most familiar of cultural staples: nourishment."

The Conflict Kitchen differs from the Enemy Kitchen in that it is an actual restaurant and not presented to the world as an art project but a yummy new fresh fast food to try that comes with a side of social and political awareness (thanks to the sandwich wrapper covered in themes and discussion point facing US/Iran today).

If you have no intention of being in Tehran or Pittsburgh in the coming months, it might be interesting to turn your next dinner party into an exotic adventure or conflict kitchen where education, politics and religion all have a place on the table.

For more information on the Conflict Kitchen, visit: or
Learn more about the Enemy Kitchen:

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