It seems writers are always looking for a spark of inspiration.
They become addicted to searching for something mind-blowing, a lightning bolt of genius, an earthquake of ideas or a roar of knowledge that annihilates the ignorance.
That’s exactly what Conflict Kitchen is.
This take-out restaurant serves food from countries the U.S. is currently in conflict with, hence its name. Jon Rubin, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and Dawn Weleski, an artist, created the five-year-old business.
Based out of Schenley Plaza in the heart of Pittsburgh, the project hadn’t faced strong rejection until it introduced the Palestinian menu a few months ago.
Outcries from the Jewish community and a death threat temporarily closed the business. Conflict Kitchen was deemed as being anti-Israel, which is ironic because Rubin is Jewish.
The restaurant has since reopened, and the public flocked to it once more, supporting its mission and originality.
I ate there a week ago while I was volunteering at the Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference. I had a two-hour lunch break and was ready to experience what Pittsburgh had in store, whether it was devouring a bubble tea or using my McDonald’s app for the daily deals because, let’s face it, I’m still a college student.
Instead, the city slapped me with Palestinian food, complete with a mammoth load of information about the region.
As I was eating a Mezze platter, I read about the psychological impact of the occupation of educational and environmental farms that work with children in refugee camps surrounding Bethlehem. To my enjoyment, I learned puns are “are huge and sprinkled throughout Arabic literature.”
Conflict Kitchen’s attention to detail really intrigued me, whether it was in the information displayed on the pamphlets or the authentic taste of the cuisine. The restaurant never failed to accurately display the represented country.
Conflict Kitchen has served Venezuelan, Afghan, Iranian and North Korean food, and is one of the only restaurants where the people of Pittsburgh can get food from those regions.
Rubin and Weleski took something simple and forged a bridge from it to create an opportunity to foster coexistence and awareness.
Which brings me to this—wouldn’t it be incredible if there were a Conflict Kitchen in D.C.?
The metropolis of art, music and politics could help the restaurant thrive and reach thousands, teaching them about lands the media has distorted. It would unite neighbors and colleagues and open discussion and minds to the anecdotes of those countries.
As a Venezuelan-American woman, I understand the vitality and impact talking with the natives of that particular land can have, hearing their experiences of diaspora, exchanging information and expanding the fabric of the heart and the mind.
The next nation the bridge will touch is Cuba, which was recently dropped from the state sponsor of terrorism list. The menu is complete with a mouthwatering selection bursting with tostones, yuca con mojo and empanada de picadillo.
I might just make the 6-hour drive to Pittsburgh to buy everything on the menu.
Photo courtesy of user somenametoforget via Flickr.
Karla Casique is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.