“Then I became part of Cuir Kitchen Brigade, and it was just, like, how do we do this work and honor these people who suffered this terrible natural disaster, through food? And how do we feed them?”
Alicia talks to Luz Cruz and Ollie Montes de Oca, members of the Cuir Kitchen Brigade that formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Organizing as a collective solidarity group, they flew to Puerto Rico to distribute pickled seasonal produce and run workshops on jarring and preserving foods. They discuss developing connections between activist groups in New York City and San Juan, their work with Tijuana’s chapter of Food Not Bombs, and the broader importance of food to social justice movements.
Written and presented by Alicia Kennedy
Produced by Sareen Patel
ALICIA KENNEDY: This is Meatless, a podcast about eating from How We Get To Next. I’m Alicia Kennedy, a food and drink writer. I’ll be having conversations with chefs, writers, and more, about how their personal and political beliefs determine whether or not they eat meat. The show asks the question, “How do identity, culture, economics, and history affect a diet?”
In this episode, I talk to Luz Cruz and Ollie Montes de Oca of the Cuir Kitchen Brigade, a collective, launched from New York after Hurricane Maria, that is in solidarity with Puerto Rico’s agroecology movement. We discuss their work on the island’s farms, a recent trip to Mexico to work with Tijuana’s Food Not Bombs, and the role of food in social justice movements.
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ALICIA KENNEDY: How do you feel about having a name that rhymes? It’s, like, my Terry Gross question.
LUZ CRUZ: I mean, like, I have no idea. People definitely, like, smile at it, and they’re like, “Oh, it rhymes.” I also get a lot of people who don’t recognize that it is a, like, Spanish name, and so they call me “Luzz,” which is like the worst thing in the world.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh my god. That’s extremely strange, that instinct. “Luzz,” yeah.
LUZ CRUZ: Yeah. They’re mostly, like, mid-Westerners.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh, yeah.
LUZ CRUZ: Yeah, the long U, or something like that, but yeah, people definitely take notice that my name rhymes.
ALICIA KENNEDY: So, can you each tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: You want to go first?
LUZ CRUZ: Sure. I grew up in Harlem in New York City. What did I eat? When I was a kid, well, when I was a kid, I mean, my mom did a lot of the cooking when I was a kid, and so I ate, like, standard rice and beans and meat, and some sort of salad on the plate. And then, like, shortly after she started working, which was just like when me and my little sister started going to school, my dad started cooking. And like, my did is like, I think I get my love of food from my dad, he’s just like, as terrible as it is, he loves the watching the Food Network, and is always like experimenting with weird foods. I mean, like, he would still feed us, like, definitely standard Puerto Rican dishes, but would also just do some weird things to food that always turned out really good. Yeah, so I mostly ate rice and beans and, like, always a meat, and definitely some sort of salad on the table.
ALICIA KENNEDY: What kind of weird things would he do?
LUZ CRUZ: I think one time he made some like, it was just like a weird French fry dish. I don’t exactly remember what was in it, but there was, like, meat and cheese, and like, he was just like, “I saw it on the Food Network,” and I was like, “OK, I’m going to eat this, but, like, this is weird,” or, like, this past Thanksgiving he made, or rather Indigenous Peoples’ day, he made these mashed sweet potatoes, but he threw in, like, coconut milk instead of, I don’t know what else he would use, but he threw in coconut milk. So, they were, like, really sweet, and also threw in a banana, and I was like, “This is weird, but it’s really good.” So, like, he’ll just do things like that, basically.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: I grew up, I guess, mostly in southern New York, so, like, about an hour outside of the city. Very similar, like I remember eating a lot of fast food when we were younger. My parents were both working, so it was the easy option, but when my mom cooked, it was usually just, like, rice and beans, some sort of meat, very similar. And on the few occasions that my dad cooked, it was Eggo waffles, you know?
ALICIA KENNEDY: So, now, both of you are very deeply involved in food. Can you talk about how you got to this point, and also what you are doing right now?
LUZ CRUZ: I think that, like, I mean, I was raised in a very typical Puerto Rican household, both of my parents were born in Puerto Rico, and while there is, like, some assimilation, there’s also, just, I grew up in Spanish Harlem, so I was always around the community of Puerto Ricans and have a huge family, and so, like, food as the central point to, like, having discussions, or just gathering with each other was always a thing in my life.
And then, also, like, my dad loves plants, and my grandfather was a sharecropper in Puerto Rico, and so I have this, like, ancestral lineage of farming and food. I mean, my dad has a coffee tree in his apartment in New York City that grows coffee on it. So, I always grew up around food and farming in that context. Then, when I was in high school, I took a horticulture class and started growing, like, food in a greenhouse, and becoming more, like, in touch with, like, land and actually production of food, and like the power that that has. And sort of, from there, I just, like, had various jobs, I started working GrowNYC distributing their, like, CSAs, and just getting more involved in the food justice world.
For a really long time, it was always food justice, and how do I feed these, like, individuals, these, like, front line communities are affected by all of these socioeconomic issues. Somewhere in there I was like, “I need to start growing food.” And so, you know, I started volunteering at the Halsey Community Garden in Brooklyn, and eventually, like, got a job upstate farming, and did that for a little while. And then, like, you know, in the past couple of years, it was just me travelling back and forth to Puerto Rico, and then recently, in 2017 after the hurricane, I spent five months there doing work on farms and just getting to know all these people who had their land destroyed, but also getting to know all of these practices that, like, most people don’t know about, and, like, things that you can’t learn in a farm school.
And so that’s just, so that’s, like, sort of, how I got involved. I’m also a diabetic, and so, like, food is actually like life or death for me in a lot of ways. And so just needing to, like, have that be my focus for me personally, and then also, you know, growing up in Harlem, people, like, don’t have that much to eat, and when they do it isn’t the best of things, and so how do I, like, do this work in a way that honors those people and provides them with opportunity, and honors, like, my ancestral lineage? So, like, shortly after the hurricane, actually the night of the hurricane there was a potluck dinner at my house, and shortly after that one of the collective members, Pao Lebron, was working at the Greenmarket through GrowNYC and received all of these donations from farmers, and they were supposed to get brought back to Puerto Rico, but because of flights and all of this, sort of, stuff, we were just like, “Well, what do we do with this produce that we have?” And so the idea of, like, pickling came to mind. So, we, like, started to have this canning sessions where we pickle all this food, and through that I think Cuir Kitchen Brigade was born.
I think the idea of Cuir Kitchen Brigade was, had been, like, seeded years prior to the hurricane happening, through this conference that Mi Gente had that Pao had attended. We were, like, this hashtag that, and another chef from Puerto Rico, Paxx uses, #queersinthekitchen, sort of popped up in that respect. Yeah, then I became part of Cuir Kitchen Brigade, and it was just, like, how do we do this work and honor these people who, like, suffered this terrible natural disaster, through food? And how do we feed them?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: What is my connection to food? I grew up, my parents were very big on gardening, so that was something we always, like, had our own cilantro, basil, all these things. We would grow a lot of, like, spices and stuff like that.
So, I know that was something that’s always been around me, but then working, I’ve been working predominantly in, like, the service industries, usually with food, so I, kind of, got a little bit more connected to making food in big amounts, you know, like when you prep. You know what I mean? I’ll cut, like, 30lbs of onions, you’re crying but, you know, you do it. And that kind of, I don’t know, that kind of work just resonated with me, it resonated with a lot of values, just, like, the idea of making a lot of food, I really enjoy just making big batches of food.
So, when I started getting involved with Cuir Kitchen Brigade, it was just because Luz was just like, “Hey, we need to sort these packets of seeds that we’re going to send to Puerto Rico,” and I, kind of, just slowly started getting more and more involved, and it was just work that really strongly resonated, you know? And, yeah, we’ve come a long way.
LUZ CRUZ: Yeah. A lot has happened since 2017.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Absolutely. So, the Cuir Kitchen Brigade is, kind of, known for the canning more than other things, I don’t know if that’s a valid thing to say?
LUZ CRUZ: No, that’s pretty valid.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Yeah.
ALICIA KENNEDY: OK. I mean, fermentation has, kind of, a history in queer communities, like Sandor Katz is kind of the fermentation guy, but what was the process of learning those techniques like, and what does it mean to you to, to, to go in that direction, to go towards pickling and fermentation?
LUZ CRUZ: I think that, like, pickling and fermentation is always something that I had done, or just the idea of preserving foods, or using preservation as a means to make medicines, like I make tinctures all the time, and that’s just alcohol and herbs. I think that, like, for me, it was just always this thing that I’d been interested in, because it was this science-y thing that also had to do with food, and, like, every time I look at a pickle, my mouth just waters. It just has that, like, effect on me.
And so, it was always this thing that I loved, and then there’s, like, in the history of it, we don’t often associate pickling, or fermentation, or preservation of foods to Latinx culture, but it’s very much seeded in Latinx culture. I mean, like, pique, for instance, you know, originally, like, started off as pineapple rinds in a bottle with water, like, it being heated under the sun, and, like, fermented that way. When we think of things like pitorro, like, it’s moonshine. And so, like, it was very much still a part of my culture, and I remember my grandfather always having a bottle of pique, like, there was one that we used, and there was one that was in process. It could have been sitting there for, like, three years, but we weren’t allowed to touch it. And so I think that, like, for me, my interest in that was just remembering growing up and remembering him, like, instilling those values in me.
And also being, like, the world of fermentation as we know it is so white, at least, what we’re introduced to, and so how can we use this as a way to, like, feed people which is what it was initially about, of like, “We’re in immediate need, what’s the thing that will help this situation and not spoil this food?” Preservation. And then, later on, it just became this thing of, like, how does this connect to my culture, actually? So, yeah.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Wait, what was the question?
ALICIA KENNEDY: And, and do you think food presents a unique, kind of, opportunity for solidarity and community action?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Wait, what was it?
ALICIA KENNEDY: Do you think that food, like, in general, can create, kind of, a unique space for, like, solidarity with communities in need, and for collective action?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I feel like if you see, even in general, if you’re having, like, some kind of meeting, getting people together, something that’s really going to bring people together is a meal. You get, like, a group of people, they could have different beliefs, opposing values, but if you get a meal together, it just really brings out the sense of, “Let’s just talk about it, let’s share,” you know? And I feel like that’s what creates the most amount of influence on things, is being able to communicate and being able to, kind of, just, like, share your different ideals with other people, and that way you can build on things, and that way you can grow on things and motivate each other.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Right, right, right. So, what has the response been like to the jars when you brought them to Puerto Rico, when you brought them to Mexico? What is the response like to jars of pickled produce?
LUZ CRUZ: In Puerto Rico, I feel like people were excited about it, and people were happy that it was a thing that was being provided to them. I think there it was, like, food was so scarce. I remember leaving Puerto Rico in February for a week, and coming back and, like, still in February, like, the supermarket shelves were pretty bare. So, the idea that, like, food was being given to them and this food was coming from farmers, they were super excited. In Mexico, I think, in Mexico it was less, like, in Puerto Rico, we presented the jars to people and like, you know, Pao had mailed some of the jars to Centros de Apoya Mutal, which just are centers of mutual help that were cooking these giant community meals for people. And so we don’t, they had sent thank you cards and stuff like that, so we know that they were super happy about it.
In Mexico, it was less of, like, presenting jars to people. We did, we ended up taking over the kitchen at this place called Enclave Caracol that’s been, sort of, a hub for the migrant caravaners, you know, every single day they have, like, law consultations that happen there. So, there’s always people in and out of the space, and they also run a chapter of Food Not Bombs out of there. And so we just had the ability to, like, take over the kitchen and actually use the stuff that we had canned in the meals that we were making. Which I think was like the first time we had actually even done that, because most of it was just, like, distributing food, distributing food, but us never really, like, behind the scenes, cooking for people.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: But it also did make me realize how dynamic the idea actually was, to be able to present all of these canned foods. The way that we would get produce over there was we would go to markets and ask for “merma,” which is the term they use for basically food that can’t be sold, but it’s still edible. So, we, it was a lot of, like, creativity, you know, being like, “OK, this is what we have, and then this is what we have canned.” It was a lot of, like, “OK, well we can mix this with this, and then we’ve got this,” you know? And being able to understand that, like, you can eat things straight out of the jar, but you can also make meals with these things, you know?
LUZ CRUZ: Yeah, we had a little bit of, like, Chopped Tijuana. At one point we had, like, four cases of avocado and five cases of cucumber, and I was, like, lead point person in the kitchen for just being like, “This is what our menu’s going to be,” and just, like, telling the volunteers things that we needed help with, but they’re just sitting there being like, thinking, Ollie just being like, “What are we going to do? I don’t know. Oh, we’re going to this, and then this, and then this, and then this,” and, like, even one of the collective members of Enclave Caricol, who’s a sweetheart, was just, “You came up with that menu really fast.” I just think on my feet, that’s what I’m good for.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Can you discuss, because you were in Puerto Rico for a while after the hurricane, and working on, like, actually doing work restoring farms. What was that like, and what were you doing there?
LUZ CRUZ: It was really intense. I had always had this, like, idea that I wanted to go back to Puerto Rico and to live there. So, I had that opportunity to, like, have this job organizing volunteers who wanted to help out restoring farms on the island, and they were from all over, but it was really intense. It was really intense to live there and, you know, while I was living there it was always, like, “This feels traumatizing in a lot of different ways, and I feel the collective pain of these people.” And, you know, but I always felt, like, I wasn’t there during the hurricane, so, like, I didn’t have as bad as these people, but in retrospect, you know, I did spend the month living without water and light, and, like, having people tell me that, “No, what you’re feeling is post-Maria trauma, and, like, you have a right to claim that.”
So, it was really intense living there, but a lot of the work was going to these farms and talking to these farmers and doing land assessments with them in terms of, like, what they needed on their farms in order to get back up and running, or just like even begin the process of being back in production, because the idea was that we wanted to get them back into the farmers market as soon as possible, because 90 percent of the food on the island is imported. And I think at the time of the hurricane, it was, like, 100 percent of the food. And so, that was a lot of the work that I was doing there, and it was just, like, creating these really personal relationships with these people who had lost everything, and in a lot of ways it was holding their trauma for them. And in a lot of ways it was, like, some of these people hadn’t been back onto their farms since before the hurricane had happened, and so it was just like reintroducing them to this place in this different way, but then also, like, a lot of regrowth.
Just, like, showing them that they still have a chance, and that, you know, their options for survival are still there, and like, “Look at this community of people who are here to help you do this thing.” And so, it was really beautiful in a lot of ways. Also, like, there were a lot of fun times and a lot of really interesting ways of construction that happens there, and I think that, like, there was also this re-education, because a lot of the volunteers were white. And so, it was just, like, well, you know, a learning experience for them in terms of, like, they’re used to having a certain standard of construction, or farming, or whatever it is there.
But like, Carlos Lago, the, like, 70-year-old farmer who spent 20 years of his life on this farm, using a lawnmower instead of a tractor to, you know, cut down these tall grasses, it was just like amazing and hilarious and, you know, the group from Vermont, who were a part of this, like, cooperative called Buffalo Mountain, they were just in awe and in shock at, like, the ability that this man had in terms of, like, using tools that aren’t, like, quote-unquote, traditionally used in agriculture in the United States. So, it was just a lot of that when I was there.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Yeah, no, it was a, it was a very, like, immersive experience, you know? We had, like, prepared everything, everything was, like, organized in a very specific way. We would, like, bring food. We would all just, like, cook in the farms and all of that, and share meals together, which I thought was a really, really wonderful way to, like, start the day. It was a lot of, you know, like, throwing a pickaxe into the ground and just digging things up and, like, moving things around, and it was a lot of really hard work, but it really makes you realize, like, it’s hard work. It’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of these people do it, you know, like, on their own. And, like, seeing the after-effects after the hurricane, you know, I remember all of the farmers that we did speak to, they would all make comments about, like, “I used to not be able to see that house over there, I didn’t even realize I had so many neighbors,” because of all of the nature that was there before.
LUZ CRUZ: It was also, it was also, like, a different experience for you, because your mom was born in Puerto Rico.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Yes.
LUZ CRUZ: So, like, you were going back to this place that your mom was born in, for the first time ever.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Wow, it was your first time ever there?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Yeah, it was my first time, yeah.
ALICIA KENNEDY: What was that like?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: It was, it was very interesting, because, you know, like, I remember having a conversation with my mother on the rooftop of this place that we were staying at, and her being like, “Oh yeah, I was born in this hospital two blocks from where you are right now.” You know, like, realizing and making connections, because my grandfather, he was exiled from the Dominican Republic and he lived in Puerto Rico, and he stayed in this place called Miramar which was, like, down the street from where I was at, and I remember skating past that place to get to where this place I was trying to go to, and just feeling, like, the sense of, like, “Woah,” this place that I, you know, never felt I had such strong connection to, but seeing it and being there and feeling it was very intense.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah. And had you been there many times before?
LUZ CRUZ: Oh, yeah, I had. Yeah.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah. What were some differences you noticed from earlier visits?
LUZ CRUZ: I mean, just the, the energetics, in the energetic sense of the island. I’m about to get real woo-woo. I mean, energetically there was just a big difference. I, in my visits to Puerto Rico, you know, I have been going with my family predominantly. I think up until, like, 2012 I had only gone to Puerto Rico with my family, which is such a different experience than going by yourself.
And so I was always, like, in the mountains in Morovis at my grandmother’s house, and visiting family that I only ever saw once a year. So, going there and being there after the hurricane, there was less of this, like, the joy of being on the island had, sort of, like, dissipated to varying degrees, but there was also still this huge sense of resilience. And you know, the people that weren’t going to, like, see this through had already left, or who couldn’t see this through, because, you know, I don’t blame anyone for needing to leave the island. You know, under colonialism, like, things like that happen and they force you to leave, but the individuals who did stay and had the, like, resolve to stay were just so resilient and just set on building this thing from the ground up in the way that they wanted to see it prosper. And so I think that, like, it was just a completely different experience in terms of having only spent time there with my family and, like, not really having a community of people there, in terms of, like, queer community very specifically.
Then, like, you know, after 2012, starting to go there more on my own and then, like, going after the hurricane and seeing all of these people who I had been, like, in community with for some time, and just talked to them about, like, in particular, how the queer survived. At 4:00pm, every single day, they would meet at this, like, one restaurant in Rio Piedras, and if one person didn’t show up then there was a problem, and they would go searching for them, or just, like, the ways in which people develop methods of checking in and community accountability were so different. So, like, those were, you know, most of the, like, differences that I saw there.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Totally. And so, the Cuir Kitchen Brigade, and I don’t, I don’t know whether you eat meat, either of you? So, we’re coming to the big question. No, but you did work with Food Not Bombs in Mexico, Food Not Bombs is specifically a vegan organization. So, but I’ve only seen you work with vegetables, so, but what is the role of, like, animal labor and animal products in, like, what are politically motivated movements? Where do you see, like, meat, or dairy, or eggs, in terms of, like, do animals have a role in what you do?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Not necessarily in Cuir Kitchen Brigade. I don’t think so. We don’t, like, with the food that we make, I feel like it’s almost always been vegan food.
LUZ CRUZ: Yeah.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Even with the meals that we make. It’s mostly vegan, yeah. I don’t think it’s even ever been vegetarian.
LUZ CRUZ: No. I mean, in my personal life, I’m going to coin this term from an earlier podcast of yours, I do identify as a flexitarian, but I generally, in my day-to-day will not, like, I don’t eat meat. Cuir Kitchen Brigade has, like, really only worked with vegetables. I mean, animal, animals’s contribution to, like, vegetables, is it’s always going to be there, you know, bees pollinating plants and that sort of thing. In, like, the direct connection of Cuir Kitchen Brigade, the meals that we’ve historically made, I think there was one soupe de jamon, like a ham soup that Pao had made at a queer soup night. But I don’t, I wasn’t there, but I think we leave it up to the collective members I think, like, because I don’t generally eat meat, I’m less likely to cook that for people. And when I met Ollie, Ollie was a vegan.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Yeah, I was vegan for, like, five years, but now I’m a vegetarian, you know, I can’t get enough of the egg and cheeses. That’s a big one for me.
LUZ CRUZ: In New York.
ALICIA KENNEDY: What inspired you to go vegan?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: I think I was, like, 17 years old, and I had just, like, had torn my ACL, and had to like, I was, like, six months unable to do the things that I was accustomed to doing, and that, kind of, when I was able to run again it was a big thing for me. And I was just, like, “Wow, health,” you know? Then, I was just, like, maybe, you know, I was trying to work my way through, like, kind of eating better for my body and trying to take care of myself more, but out of just habit it just stayed with me for a very long time. But then I actually, I remember that I had started going vegetarian when we were in Puerto Rico, because, like, you know, I’m not about to be picky with what I eat right here, you know? Yeah, I think that was, yeah, five years of that.
LUZ CRUZ: Then Puerto Rico changed it all for you.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Yeah.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Why do you stay vegetarian? What connection do you have to not eating meat? Is it more ethical, or is it more, what are the reasons?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: I think it’s a combination. I think I’ve also just grown accustomed to it, and it’s just an easy way for me, like, I don’t think I can even make a chicken right now, you know? But with, I feel like there’s a lot of, you know, with, like, the political beliefs that becomes behind veganism, you know, there’s a lot of focus on, “Oh, if you’re not a vegan, whatever you’re doing is animal cruelty, this, this, and that,” but I also feel like, you know, there are just some people that really, they care more about animals than they do care about people of color.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Absolutely.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: That kind of shifts my desire to be focusing on, putting focusing energy on that when I could be focusing my energy on other things that I prioritize.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Of course, yeah. When did you start to eat less meat, Luz?
LUZ CRUZ: I started when I was, like, 17 also, but I remember being, “Dad, I am a vegetarian.” He’d be, like, “Chicken wing?” I’m like, “I don’t think you understand what that means.” “Fish?” “No.” And like, it’s like, I think it’s almost like this trope actually, because I’ve spoken to several, like, Latinx or BIPOC individuals who are friends of mine who have gone vegan or vegetarian, and, like, there’s just always this, like, story that some of us have of telling our parents that we’re not eating meat anymore, and them giving you a sideways look and then being like, “Chicken’s not meat, fish isn’t meat.” And it’s just, like, “I don’t think you actually know what this means.”
But I started when I was, like, 17, and I was on and off for a really long time. Then, like, more strictly, I would say, in the past, like, three to five years or so, probably more like three years, I’ve just, like, started to, like, not eat as much meat, and not incorporate it as much into my diet, because there’s just so many delicious vegetables in the world that I haven’t tried. But also, you know, if I’m in a place where, like, meat is a very cultural thing, I’m not going to not try it, because that’s just disrespectful. And also, like, I do want that experience of tasting different things that I’ve never had before in my life. So, that’s sort of that whole journey.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah. So, I’ve asked this question of a few people who do a lot of organizing, and work more closely, you know, with bringing communities together, but what, but you have actually, like, worked on farms that have endured terrible circumstances, and you’ve seen what it’s like when a food supply gets completely cut off. So what, to you, does a functional food system look like?
LUZ CRUZ: I think there has to, like, a functional food system in respect to Puerto Rico? I think that there has to be food production on the island. There has to be, like, the majority of the food that people are consuming on the island needs to be produced on the island. And I think that, like, that will help when natural disasters happen, that will help, sort of, mitigate those issues.
In terms, like, a functioning food system, I don’t think I’ve seen one, you know? I’ve traveled, you know, I was just recently in Europe and, like, went to farms there, and I’ve traveled and seen various different types of food systems, and there are tons of things that, like, work on different ones that I would totally pick and choose from, but in terms of a holistic food system, I haven’t seen one yet, but I also think that, like, food production needs to be put into the hands of the people who don’t have access to it. And so, like, you know, historically, we’ve built the United States agricultural system on the backs of black and brown people, and yet they’re the ones who don’t have access to these things. And so, like, bringing power back into those people’s hands is something that needs to happen as a way to, like, heal from trauma and heal with the land, and as a way to just give them some sort of economic opportunities in that respect. So my answer is that I don’t know what a food system looks like.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Yeah, I feel like I don’t know what that looks like specifically under capitalism.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Of course, yeah.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: There needs to be some adjustments there, you know.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, there’s no ethical food system under capitalism. So, what is next for Cuir Kitchen Brigade?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: We have a couple of events coming up, right?
LUZ CRUZ: Yeah. So, we’re helping cook, there is going to be a group of community chefs cooking. Leah Penniman wrote a book called Farming While Black, and there’s a book launch at the Mayday Space in Brooklyn, New York. So, we’re going to be helping out in the kitchen with that.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: It’s from 2:00 to 5:00?
LUZ CRUZ: Yeah. We’re also, February 3rd, we’re also, well, like, we’re helping out at various events, like book launches and movie screenings in the kitchen. Then, we also have another trip planned to Puerto Rico.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Nice.
LUZ CRUZ: So, we’re in the process of, sort of, planning that out, but we’re taking, it’s going to be a group of, like, six to eight of us going down to Puerto Rico, working specifically on a farm called Finca Flamboyant, that’s a queer land project in Puerto Rico. Then, visiting other projects and individuals who have farms that I got to know through my work there, so.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Right. Beyond that? I mean, you know, it’s a silly question, but, like, what is, you know, what’s a goal? Do you have any goals in terms of what you can do?
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: I mean, we did want to talk about those meals that we want to organize, potentially.
LUZ CRUZ: Yeah. I mean, a lot of, a lot of our goals right now, it’s hard to, like, say what’s the goal for Cuir Kitchen Brigade, because we are a decentralized collective, so there are other people involved who are doing other things in other places. I think the goal for, like, us two, as a part of the collective, is to just start being more present in terms of, like, feeding communities, particularly communities of color. So, organizing community meals in various places. We definitely want to go back down to Mexico again and work with those folks down there, but just figuring out how to feed people, or how to educate people on, like, food preservation. Yeah, just, sort of, continuing that work of, like, how can we prepare communities most affected by climate disasters through food, and whether it’s preservation or other ways of cooking, or teaching people how to live without meat.
ALICIA KENNEDY: Thank you both so much for being here.
OLLIE MONTES DE OCA: Thanks, it’s alright.
LUZ CRUZ: Thank you.
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