Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA, that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict.
What a brilliant idea!
The food is served out of a take-out-style storefront that rotates identities every six months to highlight another country. Since opening in 2010, Conflict Kitchen has served food from Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Cuba and soon, North Korea.† It grew out of the Waffle Shop, a restaurant and art project started by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon Rubin.
Everything at Conflict Kitchen costs $5, cash only. But it’s not just about the food, as the Los Angeles Times explains:
“Our desire is to not to simplify, but to complicate the way … people think about another country,” said Rubin, an artist who hit upon the idea for Conflict Kitchen as he and Weleski (his co-owner) were trying to decide how to use the tiny storefront adjacent to Rubin’s Waffle Shop diner, which opened in 2008.
“We wanted to do takeout because we wanted to engage with people on the street, and we didn’t really have room for sit-down,” said Weleski, a former art student of Rubin’s who went on to manage the Waffle Shop.
Each iteration of the project is augmented by events, performances, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country. These events have included live international Skype dinner parties between citizens of Pittsburgh and young professionals in Tehran, Iran; documentary filmmakers in Kabul, Afghanistan; and community radio activists in Caracas, Venezuela.
Here’s how the Los Angeles Times described a recent U.S – Iran event, featuring khoresht fesanjan, chicken in a thick stew incorporating pomegranate juice and ground walnuts; a rice-based dish called tahdig; a spicy stew, khoresht gormeh; and stacks of barbari bread:
Sayre (the chef) placed the dishes on a table set in the nightclub adjoining the Conflict Kitchen, where the dinner party was being held and where a technician was trying to make contact with the Tehran-based host, an artist friend of Rubin’s. As the doors opened at noon, guests streamed in and began dishing food onto plates and sitting at one of the long tables set up to accommodate about 60 people.
In Tehran, diners gathered in a similarly appointed room, before the exact same meal, and before long, bilingual diners were helping the distant groups talk to each other through microphones passed around the tables. Conversation ranged from America’s obsession with Batman to Iranian views of Occupy Wall Street, and it pointed up some similarities between the Iranians and the Americans: distrust of media and government, for instance.
Awesome idea! Click here to see more of the beautiful storefronts from Conflict Kitchen. And next time you’re in Pittsburgh, you know where to grab lunch!
Photo Credit: studioforcreativeinquiry
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