london aspect statement
Moveable Feast is a community cookbook made by and for East and Southeast Asian diasporic people in London. At the heart of this project are its contributors, whose wellbeing and resilience are brought to the fore- conceptually and tangibly speaking. In terms of the concept, Moveable Feast emerged from my own lived experiences in London, at the crossroads of various social identities that is at once deemed ‘indigestible’ and ‘easy prey’- an oscillation that precedes the Coronavirus pandemic. As Yellow Peril-level virulence re-enters the Anglo-white vernacular, we find ourselves on an ever more unforgiving terrain- yet it is also on this terrain that we sow our seeds of hope, adaptation and resilience. Moveable Feast is but one of these seeds, an attempt to harness the poetics of food in a collective stride toward self-preservation. When physical proximity fails us, those daily utterances of “have you eaten yet?” accrue into a repository of care that we can always fall back on.
Bearing a primal resonance, food has humbly become the site through which many of us unpack challenging notions of belonging and alienation. Indeed, food itself presents its own contentious questions of origin and history, with claims to gastro-essentialism becoming ever more vexed in the advent of globalisation. There is perhaps no city better to attest to this phenomenon than London; taking into account its status as a ‘global city’ as well as the continuing consequences of British imperialism, the hand that feeds its some nine million residents is unfixed. Yet, even with its wealth of cuisines, London’s archive of East & SE Asian diasporic narratives and representation runs shallow. Whether this be in its institutions, popular culture, or healthcare, it is not a paucity so much as a tokenization of our subjecthoods that renders this cityscape a hazardous one for us. At once invisible and hypervisible, we boast the exalted stature of ‘honorary whites’ while also being cast as perpetual foreigners travailing on the margins of British society. Through the interstice between these competing poles, Moveable Feast aims to bring East and SE Asians together in an interdependent, ongoing process of reclamation- for our own sake. It is a call to forge communities instead of taxonomies, by way of reimagining intimacy across familial generations and intra-Asian cultures. The helping hand reaches beyond the hard copy, forging mutually-beneficial relationships with collectives and charities to ensure self-sustaining circularity in its production.
For London as whole, the cookbook offers a moment of respite in the city’s oscillation between purely expedient eating and pathological eating, excessive or constrained. The former denotes the instrumentalised modes of eating- meal deals, fast food and convenience cooking- that is at best an inconvenience, and at worst the only means of nourishment. The latter exists in a corresponding discourse- neoliberal rhetorics of self-care that co-opt the affirmations of hunger (that would compel an impoverished person to seek sustenance, of which they are routinely denied), to justify often wasteful excesses of indulgence. By no means does Moveable Feast offer a solution to these deeply ingrained problems, but rather affirms the sensorium as an abundant field of contemplation and study. Feeding back into the community, Moveable Feast is above all an act of culinary resistance and self-preservation, which, for many of us, is one and the same.
Love us like you love our food!