Last Thursday March 20th, YBCA held one of its regular ConVerge public events, this time with a “foodie” theme to connect it to the Rirkrit Tiravanija-curated exhibition currently in the galleries. Since Rirkrit’s own practice famously involves Thai cuisine, YBCA’s lovely, tireless curator of public programs Katya Min organized an event, hosted by Mike Arcega, where about 16 artists and arts thinkers/writers shared dishes inspired by our post-colonial, immigrant family backgrounds.
It was originally conceived of as a small-scale potluck, but somewhere along the way, it became clear that we were going to need to prepare food for as many as 50 or more people each. None of us are food industry professionals, so after about 16 respective heart attacks, we all figured out how to step up our catering game and anticipate the crowds that did indeed descend upon us. Since the food was all free, it ended up feeling like an art nerd’s bourgie soup kitchen with Depression-era bread lines.
The dishes were often fascinatingly hybrid, like Thea’s Filipino Cajun Jambalaya (in honor of Filipinos’ little-known influence on Louisiana culinary history), Dorothy’s ube waffles, or Mark’s “camp stew,” inspired by his family’s Japanese internment camp recipes.
I chose to play it more or less straight, and made a classic Filipino Chicken Adobo (but the slightly-less-common version with coconut milk.)
While food has often come up in various incidental ways in my art practice, I’ve rarely made actual dishes AS part of a performance or social practice-type event. It was definitely a little disconcerting, but a good experience. I think I just have too many friends and family who’ve cooked, hosted, or done art/food things professionally to feel particularly cavalier about my own casual stab at it last week.
Still, it went well. The cooking-in-large-batches thing wasn’t so bad, especially with the use of a large suburban kitchen and a little oversight from Mom Woff. The thing that really just about made me lose my mind was delivery: transporting 4 large containers of soupy, liquid-y adobo in the back of a car on a freeway and through San Francisco’s inclines is not for the faint of heart. Each speed bump, brake, turn and hill in the 2 trips it took to get the food to YBCA (at rush hour) gave me one more white hair. I’m surprised I have any brown hair left.
Insider pro-tip: museum bathrooms are perfectly viable places to prep one’s rice cooker.
Contributors and dishes:
Ken Lo/Love Potion
Alex Wang/Panini Bouchon Americain
Thea Quiray Tagle/Filipino Cajun Jambalaya
Dorothy Santos/Ube Waffles
Jova Vargas/Jamaican Bun and Cheese
Dave Kim/Korean Kimchi Jjigae
Mike Arcega/Filipino Spaghetti
Taraneh Hemami/Toot Candy
La Chica Boom/Tostadas de Frijoles con “Tapaskeets”
Jenifer Wofford/Adobong Manok sa Gata
Sita Bhaumik/Masala Chai
Kimberley Arteche/Suman sa Lihiya at Budbud
Andrew Wilson/Pot of Beans and Rice
Mark Baugh-Sasaki/Camp Stew with Rice
Eliza Barrios/Cassava Cake (and a little Dinuguan, as well)
All photos courtesy Tommy Lau Photography and YBCA, except the last 2, which come from Rio Valledor and myself.