This weekend I listened to a Splendid Table episode featuring artist Jon Rubin. Rubin co-founded Conflict Kitchen, which is a storefront take-out place in Pittsburgh that rotates its menu every six months to highlight the cuisine of a country with which the United States is in conflict. From their website:
Our current Iranian version [of the restaurant] introduces our customers to the food, culture, and thoughts of people living in Iran during a time of increased calls for military intervention by the U.S.. Developed in collaboration with members of the Iranian community, our food comes packaged in custom-designed wrappers that include interviews with Iranians both in Iran and the United States on subjects ranging from street food and popular culture to the current political turmoil.
Rubin talked about using food as an entry point for people to engage with issues and topics that they might normally avoid. Staff are trained in the art of conversation, which is as important as serving up orders and running the cash register. They are educated on the issues, but are not experts. They are equipped to help customers come to a deeper appreciation of the intricacies of the conflict. And of course, consuming the food of a people with whom we are in conflict breaks down the walls a little. This kind of eating cannot help but change us. Whatever happens between our two countries, with every bite, we ingest a bit of empathy.
So friends. Help me think about this as a template for the Lord’s Supper.
Many of us celebrate World Communion Sunday in October by using different types of bread from around the world. That’s lovely. But a Conflict Kitchen-inspired Eucharist would go deeper and be potentially more transformative. I imagine that the tablecloth, furnishings, blessings and prayers would be indigenous to a specific part of the world, bearing something of the complexity of the situation. How poignant it would be to have the table set with these items that bespeak of conflict, and then to share bread and wine at that table. Such eating is a liturgical act of hope, a leaning into a future that is not yet here—a future of peace.
Final thought: our denomination’s (PCUSA) General Assembly will be in Pittsburgh. How about a field trip?
Image: a recent iteration of Conflict Kitchen, highlighting Venezuela.