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Mary Taylor

Mary Taylor makes things happen and watches people in New York City and Budapest. Founding member of the Open University and of Think Tank X, artist and situation-maker, she teaches anthropology at Hunter College and Cooper Union in New York.

Praxis, or, How I Loved Cooking in an Occupied Kitchen that day


Yesterday, in East New York, we helped to Occupy a foreclosed home.

In this same neighborhood lies Liberty Kitchen- one kitchen that used to feed the people living on "Liberty square", or just plain old "Zuchotti". It lovingly lends itself to that changing group that shows up to cook the dinners that are even now served at Zucchotti.

I loved that next to me-washing, chopping, cheffing, sorting, and, of course, being- were Christians who normally do the same thing to serve for the hundreds of people they serve right there at their soup kitchen, Liberty Café, daily.

I loved that a crowd of strangers came together to do this, and by the end of they day we were not so strange to each other.

I loved to see the food donations in so many proportions from a can of soup to crates of local cabbage that flooded in, and from which our chef (who spoke Spanish when necessary but whose English reflected more of a Slavic grammar) took the task of deciding of what the meal would consist/menu would be.

I loved the staff meal, where people did also toast to the revolution (in Spanish).

But no, this was no consensus driven kitchen. There was no time for the speed of the GA. This kitchen reflected "normal" gender patterns and hierarchies-those found in many of the restaurants I've worked in.

I found it particularly interesting that for some strange reason the people tasked with orienting us went out of their way to explain to us that the decisions made about the meal would be made by consensus. As people who were mostly experienced at working in kitchens, this advertisement served to illustrate a lack that we might not have noticed.

But these were those who had shown up for the job! Out in East New York, far away from the fun and publicity of Zucchotti park. With open hearts and great intention.

How to make a healthy meal and healthily make a meal awhile using up a donation of 50 cans of Progresso beef soup that I was tasked with opening?

Calculating the vegan options, the chef joked that soon they will want kosher and halal (in one breath).

How then, to look at the consensusmaking we claim with a more honest eye? What would it mean to Occupy the Kitchen in this way? How to Occupy when under the pressure of the rythms of this city, of capital, of profession? How to cultivate conspiracy?

More to come. In the meantime, read this: The Cultivation of Conspiracy by Ivan Illich