Hudson Guild Community Center, New York City (organized by More Art)
Villa Montalvo, in collaboration with Saratoga High School students (organized by Montalvo Arts Center, California, December 2007)
With the help of my Iraqi-Jewish mother, I have compiled Baghdadi recipes to teach to different public audiences, including middle and high school students. Preparing and then consuming this food opens up a new route through which Iraq can be discussed—in this case, through that most familiar of cultural staples: nourishment. Iraqi culture is virtually invisible in the US, beyond the daily news, and Enemy Kitchen seizes the possibility of cultural visibility to produce an alternative discourse. Future plans include a public access cooking show and the inclusion of Iraqi dishes on New York public school cafeteria menus.
On one occasion, a student walked in and said, “Why are we making this nasty food? They (the Iraqis) blow up our soldiers every day and they knocked down the Twin Towers.” One student corrected her and said, “The Iraqis didn’t destroy the Twin Towers, bin Laden did.” Another said, “It wasn’t bin Laden, it was our government.” In this way, the project provided a space where the opinions, myths and facts that are perpetuated in a country during wartime could be communicated and discussed.
After eight weeks of learning how to cook Iraqi food, the students at Hudson Guild Community Center proposed to teach me something about their own families’ recipes, since they now knew so much about mine. One student, Hyasheem, asked, “Do Iraqis make Southern fried chicken?” I answered that no, to my knowledge there was nothing like it in Iraqi cuisine. “Well, then let’s invent it,” he said.
Enemy Kitchen barbecue at The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum on Memorial Day, 2009. Together with members of the Chicago chapters of Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW) and Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW), we cooked Iraqi kofta on the grill instead of traditional hot dogs and hamburgers.
Enemy Kitchen staff, comprised of Iraqi refugees and American veterans of the Iraq War, outside of Milo’s Pita Place, an Iraqi restaurant in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood that operates the truck. Most Iraqi restaurants in the city call themselves Middle Eastern or Mediterranean to protect themselves from jingoistic attacks. Enemy Kitchen is the city's first Iraqi restaurant to publicly declare itself as such.