A poet’s perspective of a revolutionary food affair

A poet’s perspective of a revolutionary food affair
Photo by Marius Ciocirlan on Unsplash

This is a poem by Toni Giselle Stuart that uses words, phrases and ideas shared by all the chefs, sommeliers, farmers, writers, environmentalists, bush doctors, entrepreneurs, and allies at the first South African People of Colour at the Table Conference, in February 2019. It was the first-ever gathering of people of colour who work in South Africa’s food and related industries.

revolutionaries at the table

come in, sit here, feel free

smell. taste. touch

you cannot refuse what is offered

here, a spoonful of ice-cream invites you

to listen, to understand who we are

we come from a long line of revolutionaries

here, meet the Mothers of Sauces, Mam’Dora and Aunty Cass

we are grown from the heat in their kitchens

and moulded from the steam sweating their brows

from our ash heaps, pumpkins grow

and we make the most beautiful stews

with no pretension to be anything else

but who we are


meet a chef slow-cooked over 85 years in a DRC family kitchen

meet a chef slow-roasted through apartheid’s fire

taking her township cuisine to the world

meet a bush doctor, whose herbal tea will heal you before you grow ill

and a sommelier who cultivated a crate of wine from his backpack of certificates

meet the Lazy Makoti, whose books fill the kitchens of wives who are proud of who they are

come in, sit here, feel free.

smell. taste. touch. listen…

we are listening to the land,

asking: what would you like us to do?

did you get a fair deal before we plucked and picked you?

now, we’re learning to plant as we pluck

and sow as we ferment

we clothe our children spiritually

and feed them more than just food

here, mint is medicine for a tummy ache

and diamonds and pearls grow generations

come in, sit here, feel free

smell. taste. touch

you cannot refused what’s offered to you

there is hurt here too

because they ate our foods

and with the same tongue taught us to shun

and shame our roots and pulses

they closed their kitchen doors to us

and refused to tell our stories

but every pot of samp and beans

is a salute to our grandmothers’ strengths

and those ash heaps still sprout pumpkins

and the soil in our backyards still remember our grandfathers’ seeds


we can feed ourselves

we always absolutely have

when we hide what we eat, we hide who we are

and we refuse to hide


we cook what we love

and we cook with conviction

we plant new seeds as we stand our ground

we reclaim our histories as we speak our truth

we claim our space for the generations of growers, chefs, stylists, herbalists, photographers, sommeliers, and writers to come

we do not whisper. we lift as we rise

we do not whisper. we lift as we rise

come in, sit here, feel free

smell. taste. touch

the revolution is here: we welcome you in. DM


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