In a special edition of Peace Is Sexy, Stephanie Knox Cubon and Hannah Renglich jointly tell us about how they make peace through food.
Tell me how you got started.
When we met at the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica three years ago, we already knew we had much in common – a desire to promote peace in the world, for one thing; an interest in singing, which manifested as the UPeace choir; and a passion for food.
Our year studying at UPeace was peppered with many food-related events, often hosted in a beautiful wooden house tucked into the rainforest next to the university. From communal potlucks to blind food tastings, foraged fruit breakfasts, and even a celebratory wedding dinner, we shared many meals, pondering problems that the world was facing, singing songs, and dreaming of ways we could make change.
As we explored our fusion of interests, our friendship deepened, and we began to think and talk about what would happen if we could align the way we produce and consume food with peaceful principles. Just imagine the impact it could have!
The PeaceMeal Project was born.
What interests you most about what you’re doing now?
Stephanie: For me, I suppose the educational impact is very exciting. My master’s degree was in Peace Education, and I firmly believe in the power of education – actually, the need for education – to change the world. I’ve also always been interested in food. I became a vegetarian when I was 15, and have always been passionate about how the way we eat can impact the world around us. I love being able to connect my personal passion for food and my passion to promote peace! My goal is to promote peace in all aspects of my life, in everything I do, and food is a big part of that.
Hannah: My interests have always been pretty focused on people and community-building, and some time ago, I discovered that food was a wonderful medium for these interests. Quickly, I realized that food was an amazing medium for almost everything, because it is something that is intensely personal, political, and universal. It wasn’t until the University for Peace that I began building the connections between food and peace, and once I started, I couldn’t stop seeing the relationships and possibilities! Now, I’m most interested in broadening the conversation to understand new perspectives on these topics, and to continue learning from others as we launch our online course.
What’s been your biggest accomplishment? Biggest challenge?
Our biggest accomplishment is going on right now – our online course with the National Peace Academy. We’ve been working hard to get all of the content ready for the course, and even though it has just launched as we write this, I think we can say it’s our biggest accomplishment so far. Also we facilitated a PeaceMeal workshop at the NPA conference in February, which was the real birth of the project. Finishing that workshop was a big step for us, a big accomplishment. The lead-up to the workshop forced us to put up a website and start generating content for it, which has been a fun way to get our message out into the world.
In terms of challenges, it would be great if we could both be doing this full-time, but we both have other jobs that we are working on so have limited time to devote to PeaceMeal. We are also separated by many miles and an international border, but luckily technology allows us to stay in close contact. It’s often difficult to feel a sense of community in an online platform, and so part of our work has involved creating PeaceMeal projects that resonate in our own communities, for example through local workshops or meetings.
Who or what inspires you?
Stephanie: Wow, big question. I’m always inspired by my friends and family and the strength of the people around me. I get a lot of inspiration from the Zen Buddhist master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh – his teachings have been hugely influential in my life, and particularly around the connections between peace and food. I find a lot of inspiration through my yoga practice and through yogic teachings. It helps me to slow down, be thankful, and understand the deep interconnection of life. Finally, nature itself inspires me – food is amazing, what grows is amazing, and if we pay attention to it, it can be a great source of inspiration!
Hannah: I’m inspired by Steph and her mindful, intentional dedication to her practices, her work, and to the many causes with which she is involved. I’m inspired greatly by traditions, cultures, and people that have different ways of knowing, doing, and being than my own. I’m inspired by many writers, thinkers, and activists, including Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, Vandana Shiva, Mary Oliver, bell hooks, Judy Rebick, Naomi Klein, Olivier de Schutter, as well as by all of the incredible organizations and people working toward increased sustainability in food production, better access to healthy, affordable food for everyone, and greater peace within their communities. Edible ‘weeds’ and ‘volunteers’ inspire me, as do old trees, homemade preserves, and farmers.
Why is peace sexy to you? What does “Peace is Sexy” evoke for you?
Stephanie: I loved that you talked about it being “the spicy side of peace.” I love spicy food 🙂 I have never really thought of this question before, but I like it. I think standing up for what you believe in is sexy, and I think trying to make the world a better place can be sexy. I would also like to see more people attracted to peace, and if sexy can do that, I’m all for it!
Hannah: I’ve also never really equated peace with being sexy, but I’d take it to mean that peace is attractive and desirable, and that’s something I definitely agree with. It’s also a pretty subjective measure – something that’s sexy to one person may not be sexy for another, and I think that’s also true of peace to a certain extent. Often the word peace can evoke a fair amount of derision or scorn from people, as if it’s a hippie ideal, and not something truly attainable. So to us, yes, peace is definitely sexy, and we’re working hard to help others come to this conclusion through a delicious and perhaps less loaded word…
What is a simple thing you do to create peace? What is something you do everyday?
Stephanie: I try to meditate everyday. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes, it helps to ground me and keeps me centered, and allows me to make more peaceful choices throughout my day. I also just try to be really conscious in my daily interactions with people – with my bus driver, with the cashier at the store, with the people I meet in my neighborhood. I try to smile and be friendly and kind, and hope that every interaction I have can be a source of peace for both of us.
Hannah: I eat every day. Well, we all do, hopefully. But it is my practice of peace, in that my decisions around what, when, where, why, how, and with whom I eat are conscious ones to foster a bit more peace in this world.
How would you like Peace is Sexy to make a difference in what you are up to?
Peace is Sexy can help take PeaceMeal to a new audience – and we invite Peace Is Sexy readers to sign up for our online course! We also are always looking for contributions for our blog, so if your readers would like to write about any peace and food-related themes, please have them contact us.
Where would you like to see your passion go in the next 10 years? 20 years? 100 years?
We’d like to create a PeaceMeal book. We’d love to see a PeaceMeal network started—something like chapters or local clubs. We would also love to see the educational side of PeaceMeal grow; there is a lot of potential there. Eventually we hope to be able to offer courses through other platforms, such as at other conferences, or perhaps at the university level. In 100 years, we won’t be around to know, but we hope that the food system will be a more peaceful one. With all of the wonderful work happening now around the world for food sovereignty and security, for sustainable food production and distribution, and for food justice and the end to hunger, it’s hard to imagine it not changing for the better!
Is there anything else you want to tell us?
Thanks for interviewing us! We are thinking of putting together a book or e-book and we’ll be putting more information out about that soon. Please visit our website http://www.peacemealproject.com to stay tuned!