A Potluck and Conversation over the Conflict Kitchen

Maya Lapp

The Conflict Kitchen has been subject to angry dissent over their newest choice of food to serve- Palestinian. By way of criticism and death threats, the Conflict Kitchen has been through a lot this November, but there has also been a huge show of support for their cause. Every so often the restaurant has events and discussions to supplement the issues in the selected region, and after a hectic few weeks they decided some sort of gathering was necessary. Tuesday night I had the opportunity to go with Lucy Newman, another Obama student, to a potluck hosted by the Conflict Kitchen at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church on Highland Ave. Over two-hundred people showed up to this event in support of the Conflict Kitchen’s ideals, ages ranging from those on social security to college students to children in grade school. During the potluck a number of people circulated to instigate conversations. Some of these people were college students, others were Palestinians who had lived in refugee camps in the Middle East. One man was awarded a round of applause when he said, “I am not Palestinian, but once we’ve seen what is happening we are all Palestinian.”

However, the crowd was not just made up of Palestinian supporters. Many of the people who showed up at the potluck simply agreed with the Kitchen’s right to bring such discussions to the table, and did not think that the Jewish population had the right to try and stifle the message they were trying to send. Another speaker of the night said that he was awed by the numbers that showed up that night and took it as a “healthy sign of democratic dialogue.” And it was impressive. The amount of support the Conflict Kitchen has in Pittsburgh is incredible. It wasn’t just a show of support for the Palestinian’s plight, it was a show of support for open-mindedness and free speech. In fact, there was discussion about both sides of the dispute, and that is what’s great about the Conflict Kitchen. It isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about getting ideas out in society to circulate, it’s about being able to have a discussion without ending up with fists raised… or death threats.

At the table where we sat was a young couple, one was a flautist from the Mid-West and the other from Colombia. The man was studying for a graduate degree in statistics at CMU and they often went to the Conflict Kitchen during lunch breaks because they liked both the food and the idea the restaurant promoted. We had a pleasant and intelligent discussion, not only about the Conflict Kitchen but also just about life in general, exchanging phone numbers as we left.

This is the type of thing I believe we should have more of. It is a chance to discuss worldly events as well as domestic ones. You sit down with some people you never met before and have a conversation about… well, anything you want. Our school is called “Obama Academy”, but how much do most of the students know about Obama’s policies, politics in general and most of all events around the world? Civics class wasn’t up there on my top ten list of classes, but it certainly allowed me to have a better understanding of what was happening in the world. In two years I am expected to be responsible and knowledgeable enough to help to influence who gets the highest position in our government, and I say right now there is no way I’m prepared.

The Conflict Kitchen isn’t about the Palestinians or the Jews, it isn’t even about how the U.S. government is acting, it is about knowing what is happening in the world from more perspectives than one. As an I.B. school we are supposed to have a grasp of worldly concepts, and that is exactly what the Conflict Kitchen promotes. It’s not trying to tell you how to think, it’s just giving suggestions of things you might not have known or thought of before. And this is what they’re getting death threats about? Where is democracy? Where is free speech? As a student from Pitt said while standing outside the Conflict Kitchen to show his support said, “Death threats are not the way to address controversy or political issues.”  It doesn’tPotluck matter if you agree with what they say, they still have the right to voice their opinions like anyone else.