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Food as activism

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Cooking and eating together was an important part of daily life at the camp, and comes up a lot in people's account of being at the camp.

While some might understand the 'politics' of the camp to be about the blockades, the nonviolent civil disobedience, arrests and trials, for many the alternative practice of camp life was another crucial form of politics. Food was an intrinsic aspect of how direct action was understood and practiced, as not only for the morning blockades, but also as key in the work to manifest a different way of living and building community through collective food preparation, cooking and eating together.    

 

Cooking at camp: A form of direct action

 “The Clear Cut Café won universal praise for producing excellent vegan food for hundreds of people daily and for contributing to the creation of community by enabling everyone to eat together.” (Moore, 2015: 135)

Cooking at camp was seen as an important form of direct action for different reasons. Below are a few excerpts from interviews that demonstrate this.

Interview with Dana Kagis //

Dana:   […] Eem, - when I got here, I just, I set up camp. I didn’t know what to expect. I was with, em, I was with my mom’s love’s sister and brother who are a lot younger – a lot younger, about my age and we just went, we were gonna check it out. And the first thing I ended up doing at the peace camp was ere cleaning and and cooking a whole bunch of salmon, about 10 or 12 sockeye salmon that were donated and eating, of course, in between. By the end of the night I was so sick of salmon I couldn’t eat it for like two weeks – but it was my first active duty at the peace camp, that was cleaning, cooking salmon. But as time went on I ended up […] training peacekeeping and being a peacekeeper on the blockade and learning more about the issue and personning the front gate at the at the camp, which was located right next to the highway – so there were a lot of tourists stopping to see to see what was going on and I was also working in the Friends’ Office, cause I had done office work before that as well.

Interview with Jean McLaren //

Jean:    […] a lot of people had never used consensus before and never knew what it was and so used to somebody telling them what to do and, er, [sighs]--, or them telling other people what to do that it was hard for them sometimes. But I think it was a good lesson. I had a mother on Gabriola here say to me--, she came up to me at a school function she says, “I want to thank you for what you did for my son.” And I said, “What did I do?” you know [laughs], and she said, “He went up to that camp,” he was about 18 I think at the time, he went up to the camp to party and smoke dope and he said--, she said, “He started talking to you one day,” it was at the gate in a morning ‘cause I never went to the blockade and he was there and he knew me, you know, ‘cause I’d known him since he was a little kid, about four or five years old. And he started talking to me and I--, I just said to him, “Oh, Shamon, would you go and help in the kitchen?” you know, and he just, “Yeah okay, I will,” you know, ‘cause I said, “We need somebody to help with breakfast,” ‘cause he hadn’t gone to the blockade. And so he went and from then on he loved working in the kitchen. And he--, and he settled right down and the next thing I knew he was helping with other jobs and that around the camp and he went back home and he was--, I mean he was--, had been really irresponsible before that and he went home and he was great. And I still see him every once in a while, “Hi, how are you doing Jean [laughs]?” yeah. So I was glad about that, that maybe I was able to help influence some of the people to be more cooperative, to work together, to see that working together works and it’s fun [laughs]. Yeah, there are a lot of people that came to the camp that wanted to do direct action as far as, you know, covert direct action. And, erm, we decided early on that we weren’t going to do that because it wasn’t conducive to getting more people there ‘cause people when you do something like that they’re afraid, but if you do something where they can feel safe and feel together and collective, erm, I think it--, well I know it works better. Violent action doesn’t work. It might work for the minute but it doesn’t really work. […]

Interview with Kim Black //

Kim:    It reminded me of Woodstock.

Niamh: Where you there?

Kim: I wasn’t at Woodstock. I was 3 or something like that.

Niamh: Right, I was just checking.

Kim:    No, but it just reminded me of, that kind of like, slap it together kinda aesthetic, it reminded me of summer homes I’d had with me and my kids, we’ve had to camp a couple of occasions in the summer time, and, and it struck me as incredibly well organised, especially since it was stuck out in the middle of this hell hole, you know. It felt really smoothly, smoothly put together and, the whole food thing by itself, I mean, can you imagine having to feed all those people, you know.

Niamh: I worked in the kitchen while I was there.

Kim:    And I mean it was great, I mean the food was delicious, and it was hot and, you know, filling and really tasty and nutritious. And it happened, you know. And I loved the respect that everybody had for each other and the feeling of, there was an instant community. Anyone how like stepped onto the property, right, was like part of this family, and that was really nice. Lots of smiles, and you know, easy to talk to people that you’d never seen before and finding out their stories. We were encamped way, way from the main area, under these rocks, that’s where the Denman islanders all stuck together. We tried to figure out how we can have boiling water in the morning so that we can have coffee [laughter] We were all like ‘ok, let’s all get our thermoses and fill them with hot water now’ [laughter], and there was a lot of, there was a lot of laughing going on too.

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