How many people does it take to make a salad? All of us!

How many people does it take to make a salad? All of us!

We are in full effect with the food parties and gatherings that will lead up to the remount of Our Daily Bread at CounterPULSE coming up this November 15-18. Though I love the performance work, I have to say these parties are what really FEED me! (yes, pun fully INTENDED!)

Coming together with folks in public as well as private spaces to share food, stories and get to know folks in deeper ways is really what it is all about. Food is at the heart of every major issue and experience that we know, whether it is the lack of food, the abundance of food, the love of food, the fear of food- it is the essence of everything. The only thing more important than food for our survival is water- and that is a whole other topic that I will save for the next blog entry…

September 22nd was the first day of fall, and my Deep Waters Dance Theater crew in collaboration with The Luggage Store Gallery, CounterPULSE and participants from the UC Berkeley project titled, From the Field to the Table. All of us came together for a Fresh From the Oven Food Party in the Tenderloin National Forest where we made some giant salads together. We subtitled this Fresh from the Oven Food party: Falling together; in honor of the changing of the season and the spirit of coming together to share food. The salad idea was inspired by a conversation I had many years ago when I was interviewing folks for the first incarnation of Our Daily Bread. I interviewed a group of youth from Oakland Technical High School. They all had these beautiful and painful stories about food, and one that stuck with me in particular was from this young man who talked about his experience as a little boy living in a housing project back east. He shared his memory of how on Fridays everyone who lived on his floor would eat “Slumumbo”. He described Slumumbo as Slum Gumbo- a stew that was made up of ingredients that each resident on his floor would add to the pot. Everyone family on the floor would provide one ingredient to the pot, they would choose one family’s kitchen to cook it in, and then-everyone would eat.

This image and the way this young man recounted the experience stuck with me so profoundly. He had a huge smile on his face as he shared it and such a sense of longing for that experience as well. He ended it by sharing that though his family was economically in a difficult place in those times, he really missed the bond that was created with his neighbors through those meals….

Tangent #2- so, in addition to remounting ODB with my company Deep Waters Dance Theater, I am also working on a five week community engagement project which is being produced by UC Berkeley through the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. It is being led by Paloma McGregor, a long time performer/member of Urban Bush Women and a fantastic facilitator of UBW’s community engagement work.

This project that I am co facilitating along with UC Berkeley Professor Lisa Wymore is titled, From the Field to the Table (FFTT). During this five week process, participants (made up of both UC Berkeley students and community members) have been learning UBWs principles for entering community, learning about food justice issues and most recently had a two day intensive undoing racism workshop with members of the People’s Institute for Undoing Racism and Beyond.

Getting back to this past Saturday (I come from a long line of tangent Queens and kings!)- I wanted the Fresh from the Oven food party to have a theme that would connect all these folks that would be there together. So, as I remembered the story that this young man told me some years back, I decided we would make a Salad together in the forest!

When I first announced this theme to the participants in the FFTT workshop who I knew would be coming to the forest (most of them for the first time) most people had questions about how this would happen.

“you mean we’ll make the salad in the forest?” asked one young woman

“yep” I answered

“How will we do it?” someone else asked

“I have cutting boards, knives and a great big salad bowl” I answered

“How much should we bring?” someone else asked

“Just bring one ingredient for the salad or to make a dressing” I answered

There was some disbelief it would be enough. I too wasn’t sure..but I decided to trust the story I heard so long ago and see what would happen.

Saturday rolled around. The day was beautiful…sunny, warm, with the sun doing it’s transition thing that it does once fall rolls around. And the TL Forest was and is, breathtaking. If you have never been there, you must check it out:

Darryl (Luggage Store Gallery co-founder and my big brother) got the brick oven heated up, DJ fflood set up the music, I set up the cutting stations for the salad, Travin Mckain who is a current artist in residence in the TL Forest (and an amazing human being!) picked beautiful and fragrant herbs that we put in the water where people washed their hands.

Then the folks showed up and we made salad!

It was amazing. Kids from the neighborhood helped out, folks brought ingredients and we made this huge and delicious salad. There was enough for everyone. There was a mixture of folks who lived in the neighborhood and folks who had never been to the TL Forest before.

It was simple and profound…the connections that are made when people cook then eat together cannot be understated. It has a healing effect that cannot be explained other than food + connection= changes lives…

Our connections to one another is important. Our food is important.

Speaking of changing lives, vote yes on prop 37 this November. This state proposition that would make it mandatory Label GMOs in our food- has the potential to have a global impact. Educate yourself on this issue and vote!

Look out for DWDT appearing in an internet advertisement in support of Prop 37 campaign.

More to come…


Red Beans and Ricefully yours,



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