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By Crystal Colon
Enemy Kitchen is a social art project created by Michael Rakowitz in 2004. Initially it was an after-school cooking program for teenagers in Chelsea, New York aimed at engaging students on the topics of war and Iraqi culture. Michael has recently reincarnated the project as a food truck that will roam the streets of Chicago, providing traditionally prepared Iraqi cuisine served by American Veterans of the Iraq war. The food truck is currently part of an instillation called "Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art" at the Chicago Smart Museum of Art.
The goal of Enemy Kitchen is to serve up complex flavors along with cultural conversations. The project is working to bring together veterans, Iraqi refugees and Chicago citizens. As veteran and Enemy Kitchen member Greg Broseus stated, "People love to get together and eat; there is no better way to start a conversation."
Enemy Kitchen celebrated its launch outside Milo's Pita Place on March 19th in order to mark the ninth anniversary of Shock and Awe. Milad Sheer, owner of Milo's, along with his father and brother agreed to prepare and provide traditional dishes such as kibbeh, dolma, hummus and schwarma for the duration of the truck's tour. Rakowitz has also teamed up with the Iraq Mutual Aid Society (IMAS) to ensure that Iraqi refugees are included in the project and are given an opportunity to have their often silenced voices heard.
While touring Chicago two days a week (Sundays and Wednesdays), I am hoping not only to serve food but also to raise consciousness in the community. Most Americans have never met an Iraqi, and a large percentage of them have never met a veteran. By taking our food offerings to the public, we are providing a space for individuals of different communities and backgrounds to talk and share their experiences, all while stepping away from the mainstream discussions of war. Instead, we focus our conversations on the personal aspects of war and how every individual is affected by it.
For the veteran community, this project has the potential to begin repairing relationships with the people we formally occupied. While we can never fully repair the damage done to the country of Iraq or its people, collaborations such as Enemy Kitchen can start us down the path to reconciliation.
For more information on Enemy Kitchen you can go to www.michaelrakowitz.com/projects/enemy-kitchen. To see where to truck will be stopping next, follow its Twitter page at www.twitter.com/#!/EnemyKitchen. Milo's Pita Place can be found at www.milospitaplace.com.
Crystal Colon served in the US Army as a communications specialist from 2004-2010. She was deployed to Iraq 2005-06 and again 2008-09. Since her release from the military, she has worked on Veteran issues with several organizations including: Under the Hood Café, Ft. Hood Disobeys, March Forward!, and Iraq Veterans Against the War.