Located in Pittsburgh, the Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. The food is served out of a take-out-style storefront that rotates identities every six months to highlight another country and the idea is to spark dialogue and engage the community. 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. Often live international Skype dinner parties between citizens of Pittsburgh and professionals, documentary filmmakers and activists from the conflicting nations are organized.
Conflict Kitchen is the brainchild of three artists, John Peña, Jon Rubin, and Dawn Weleski who started the project in 2010.
The project works with communities in Pittsburgh that representative of the different conflict countries, and they come up with a menu of the street food you would find in the major cities of each country. They have included vegetarian and sometimes vegan options on every menu, and have so far covered food from Afghanistan, Iran, and Venezuela, with Cuba and North Korea planned for the future. With each iteration, the store front is redesigned and the restaurant name is spelled in the language of the country the project is highlighting. The 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.
Operating seven days a week in the middle of the city, underlying goal of Conflict Kitchen is to get people talking, engaging, and learning about countries, cultures, and people that the U.S citizens might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of U.S. politics and the narrow lens of media headlines.
"The food we sell is a great storytelling device," said Rubin. It helps "our customers to engage with the project, which is trying to expand the conversation that [customers] might have, or introduce a conversation they might not have about what the politics and daily life are like in those countries."
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