Monday 18 January 2010
19 February 2010, was Damascus Bite, now Leon, Spitalfields
Leon, Spitalfields Market
3 Crispin Place
Was Damascus Bite, but the meal has too many people for a take away, so we moved to Leon to try sweet potato falafel.
The meal of the two Lois-ess (Lois Keidan and Lois Weaver)
Leon, like the rest of regenerated Spitalfields market, has a feel of an emptied-out post-capitalist bad dream about it. Not bad, just depressing. Like McDonalds, the food is cheap, so one must ask who is paying the price for that?
So far we had the pleasure of visiting predominantly small, family owned businesses, (Not ‘family owned’ in the Richard Bronson’s Virgin sense) but genuinely family owned small businesses. Many of the falafel places we went to had family members and relatives working there, and they were not chains.
We decided to tell Lois K and Lois W the issues that came up for us in the residency, also as a preparation for the Serpentine event on the 23rd.
To our many voiced concerns, the general response from the Loisess, was that we are doing a good job, since we came across real barriers and obstacles during the residency that we did not foresee, and had to overcome them by reassessing our methodologies.
When we mentioned the lack of knowledge of Palestinian culture by Israelis, Lois W talked beautifully about the fact that oppressed groups always need to know everything about the dominant culture, whilst the dominant culture never needs to bother to know anything about the oppressed one. This was very helpful. The problem in the specific case we are dealing with, is that if Oreet for example, as an Israeli, will start to learn a lot about Palestinian food, lets say, and cook it, it can cross to the other side - that of ‘objectification’, which is another form of cultural colonialism.
To the issue of our ability to ‘convert’ very few people through the meals, Lois K responded that if we had it as a story line in Coronation St, we would have probably reached, or even ‘converted' more people, but it would still be a compromised content. Whilst our low key meals are not compromised by any media, or mainstream restrains, and have an effect that we can not necessarily envisage at the moment. That was encouraging to hear. The conversation lasted 48 minutes and ended with a question of what needs to be put on the ‘sticker’? 'Don’t eat falafel here, it is made from Palestinian blood', for a place that uses Israeli produces. Or, 'buy falafel here, made by the culture that created mathematics'… for a Palestinian place. Lois Weaver said that she learnt a lot from this and that she will never look at falafel again in the same way and will consider where she buys it from.
Other sentences that could fit stickers, which were invented by Palestinian artists, are:
Don’t say Pal, without saying Palestinian
And for Palestinian beer:
From those who like their drink… (In the west, many people think that Palestinians don’t drink alcohol)
Unlike the stodgy (To quote Edd) sweet potato falafel at Leon, talking to two such experts in the area of art, activism, politics, performance, human rights public engagement and public conversations, was a complete and utter treat, we are grateful.