What feeds you? An exploration of resilience, sense of place, and food
This question has followed me around my entire life. Who and what contributes to my healing, development, growth? Literally, physically, romantically, academically, environmentally; what gives me strength?
Growing up Jain, I was taught critical appreciation and curiosity about the natural world through the lenses of food and non-human connection. I also grew up in an affluent New Jersey suburb where I had easy access to hiking trails, farmer’s markets, and my Nani’s cooking in Queens. My family, queerness, privileges, religion, experiences with whiteness, and more all contribute to my sense of place.
I ask this question to other Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QT2SBIPOC) because we are not often given the space we need to deeply consider our relationships to environment and healing. For me, there is a lot that keeps me going in the wake of environmental catastrophe, personal hardship, and activist burnout. But, it boils down to sharing meaningful food with meaningful people.
However, many folks do not have positive relationships to environment because of the disproportionate and systemic harms that are placed onto them, specifically Black and Indigenous communities. So what does relationship to environment look like when your rivers are polluted, when you have to grapple with the history of lynching in your forests, when your community’s treaties are not followed, when you do not see yourself represented in the mainstream media? What keeps you going? What feeds you?
I want you to take five minutes and deeply think about the question. What are you favorite recipes? What part of the world do they come from; who grows and harvests the ingredients? Is it easy to find where you currently live? Is it expensive? Do you know how to cook it or is it a dish that only your grandparent can create and that you dream of? Is it harder to find because of drought? Have climate change exacerbated wildfires made it difficult to share this meal with loved ones? How have histories and realities of imperialism, colonialism, and slavery impacted this dish and your connection to it?
Food is inextricably linked to nature, culture, and community; and all three of those things have the incredible potential to feed us and to harm us. Through the Environment and Society Fellowship, I have the opportunity to explore these ideas with four environmental justice communities in Arizona and develop a cookbook to highlight how food and sense of place feed communities and build resiliency in the face of pollution, climate change, and injustice. Stay tuned and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know about upcoming recipe tasting events!
Figure 1. Photograph of part of Kunal's extended family. Kunal is pictured second from the right in a black t-shirt.
Figure 2. Photograph of Kunal eating a meal in Tucson, AZ.