In the weeks after the 2017 presidential inauguration, veteran cookbook author Julia Turshen began channeling her energies into ensuring there was tasty, home-cooked food at all of her local civic action meetings. Predicting that fellow progressives would too busy fighting the onslaught of Trump-era injustices to think about cooking, she decided to write a book to address their plight. She collected some of her own recipes, solicited others from activists across the country, and commissioned essays about political change and cuisine; proceeds from the book go to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Alas, although I am also an ardent Trump resister and find Turshen's goal admirable, "Feed the Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting Involved" left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Indeed, if Columbia University historian Mark Lilla needed an object lesson to support the arguments in "The Once and Future Liberal" — his controversial 2017 tract about the divisiveness of identity politics and the dangers it presents for the left — this cookbook would work all too well.
But first, the good news: The recipes are diverse and strong. Turshen divides them into three categories:
●Dinners you can make quickly while, say, "organizing a box of books by undervalued authors of color to donate to your local library."
●Dishes that serve a crowd.
●Baked goods and portable snacks.
The range of dishes is a reminder of America's rich and varied culinary traditions. No well-done steak with ketchup here. There's a peppery Filipino pork adobo, spicy Somali pasta sauce and Brazilian fish potpie.
The left loves its whole grains, and Turshen has included plenty of recipes in the hallowed hippie tradition, such as an addictively salty granola that I finally had to ask my husband to hide from me and some barely sweetened apple-oat bars that I did not.
"It's important to take care of yourself so you can better take care of the world," Turshen writes in the headnote to a recipe for a roasted broccoli and quinoa pilaf that made a fantastic, nutritious weeknight dinner, even if no one in my household did much to take care of the world the next day.
But sandwiched between these recipes are essays that would delight Stephen K. Bannon with their divisive finger-wagging. Chef Tunde Wey seems to think that the biggest issue progressives face is not the man in the White House, but their own internalized racism. He doesn't urge liberals to look outward and act, but to look inward and atone. Wey writes, "That moment when we perceive ourselves as oppressor and victimizer is the instance of true vulnerability, honest empathy, and deep discomfort, because we have ceased to externalize the problem."
Actually, a lot of people would argue that the problem for progressives really is external. In fact, it is why this cookbook exists. But you would never know it from an essay by Shakirah Simley, co-founder of Nourish/Resist, an organization that uses food as a platform for social transformation. Rather than calling all hands on deck to join the resistance, she takes several pages to lay down rules for white progressives who want to fight alongside people of color. These include submitting to a "painful" education in racial justice, "taking up less space" and acknowledging that such things as the land they occupy and the food culture they have "co-opted for cool points" come from exploiting "black and brown bodies." Simley writes that "unexamined privilege is a conditional dinner invite."
Sadly, a conditional invite will ensure a smaller crowd at both your next party and your next protest march. Unexamined privilege is irritating indeed, but so are ad hominem lectures. It's a sad irony that "Feed the Resistance," which aims to build and nourish a political movement, often makes even sympathizers feel unwelcome.
Jennifer Reese, the author of "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter," writes the food blog the Tipsy Baker.
Chronicle. 143 pp. $14.95