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The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #64: Kimchi Diplomacy

The Kitchen Sisters Present Episode #64: Kimchi Diplomacy

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Kimchi in space. The Kimchi Bus. Government-sponsored chefs and restaurants spreading the word of Kimchi around the globe. South Korea is one of the nations most involved in branding itself through its food, using food as a part of it’s “soft power.” It’s called “Gastrodiplomacy” — the use of food as a diplomatic tool to help resolve conflicts and foster connections between nations.

“Kimchi is like air in Korea,” says Hyunjoo Albrecht, a San Francisco-based chef and owner of Sinto Gourmet who grew up near the DMZ border between South and North Korea. 1.5 million tons of kimchi are eaten each year in Korea and there are hundreds of different varieties. “The government gave financial support to some of the Korean restaurants in US,” says Hyunjoo. “They want more people outside Korea to eat more Korean food.”

Si-Hyeon Ryu is a chef and writer from South Korea who, with support from the government, has traveled in The Kimchi Bus to more than 34 countries cooking traditional Korean food and spreading his love of kimchi. “People on the street they know just about North and South Korea,” he says, but not much about Korean cuisine. “If I explain about kimchi they will understand about Korea.”

Astronaut Soyeon Yi, Korea’s first astronaut, describes the Korean government’s efforts to invent kimchi for space travel — not an easy task. Soyeon Yi prepared a special Korean meal for her Russian comrades in space. “Having kimchi in space, you are far from your home planet,” she says. “When you eat your own traditional food it makes you feel emotionally supported. I can feel my home.”

Read more.

The Kitchen Sisters Present #63 – War and Food and Manga

The Kitchen Sisters Present #63 – War and Food and Manga

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Manga, the ubiquitous Japanese comic books written on just about every subject—sports, music, sex, shooting pool—represent about 40% of all books published in Japan. In recent decades ‘food manga’ has exploded. Stories of food and conflict and competition abound in mangas like Soldier of Food, Food Wars, Cooking Papa…The Kitchen Sisters Present—Hidden Kitchens: War and Food and Manga.

“Manga is a cradle to grave phenomenon,” says Deb Aoki, writer for Anime network and Publisher’s Weekly. It’s a visual storytelling medium that people enjoy from the day they first start reading or enjoying pictures to the day they die.

“There’s this Japanese concept, Otaku,” says Sylvan Mishima Brackett, chef and owner of Rintaro Restaurant in San Francisco. “Otaku is a deep, passionate enthusiasm about some obscure part of the universe. Manga tend to cluster around very specific Otaku. It’s a place where people can brush up on the hyper-specifics of their enthusiasms.”

“Food manga, gurume manga, gourmet manga, is one of the major genres within manga that’s just been growing exponentially,” says Nancy Stalker, Professor of Japanese History and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin. She wrote a paper called Gourmet Samurai: Changing Gender Norms in Japanese Food TV.

FOOD WARS, DETECTIVE GLUTTON, SOLDIER OF FOOD

Food manga first appeared in the 1980’s when the Japanese economy was very strong. One of the first, Oishinbo, ran for over 20 years and became the basis for an animated series, as have many manga since.

“There always has to be conflict in manga, especially in food manga,” says Zhong. “There is not any real peace in manga. If there is peace it’s really short, maybe one or two chapters, then back to war right afterwards. War produces content.”

Since Japan opened to the West in the nineteenth century, food has been an element of its international identity. “Traditionally the eating of four-legged creatures was proscribed by Buddhist belief,” says Stalker. “The Emperor first publicly ate meat in 1873. Eating beef was seen as something that would help build the national physique and make the Japanese more like westerners.” In order to compete with western soldiers, the Japanese military began to introduce more beef, more meat and fat, into the diet of the soldier to help build a strong army.

The modern manga industry came into being after World War II. It started with Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy, who was influenced by Walt Disney. “That American content was brought over by the American Occupation,” says Leyla Aker, Senior Vice President of Publishing at Viz Media, a company that specializes in Japanese graphic novels and anime. “During the American occupation of Japan a large portion of the Japanese population was subsisting on hand-outs given by the American forces.”

There were severe shortages of food during the Occupation and all foods were strictly rationed. When the circumstances of the war became dire many people resorted to eating bark from trees and replacing sawdust and wood dust in recipes for flour. Many Japanese died of starvation.
Miles Thomas, Brand Manager at CrunchyRoll, remembers an anime called Grave of the Fireflies. “One of the most evocative films I’ve seen, about two orphans during World War II who are starving, hungry. They steal food, trying their hardest to survive.

“It really makes you think about the darker side of food when people don’t have enough of it to survive,” adds Tiffany Chen who is also a Brand Manager with Crunchy Roll. “For a long time, World War II was just a history you studied in class. I never really felt connected to it personally. A lot of young people actually don’t even know about the atomic bomb. After watching this film, it was a pretty sobering moment.”

OISHINBO: JAPAN AND CULINARY NATIONALISM

Oishinbo, one of the oldest of the food manga is very popular with adult men, Aoki tells us. “The main character is this scrappy reporter. His father is this snooty gourmet who sets up this ritzy gourmet club for only rich people. They have dueling palette battles.” Oishinbo is written by Tetsu Kariya who is very opinionated about food. The manga creates drama about different food issues – about growing it and cooking it. “It’s kind of controversial,” says Aoki. “He defends eating whale meat, the history of it, how delicious, how dare anyone tell us not to.”

“Tetsu Kariya has a very progressive, political stance,” adds Lorie Brau, Associate Professor of Japanese Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of New Mexico, “He embeds these social messages inside his manga.” One of Oishinbo’s chief concerns is foreign influences. How do you maintain the important aspects of your culture while still engaging with the world at large? The manga uses food as a lens to address Japan’s place in the world.

YAWEH: MANGA FOR YOUNG WOMEN

There is a different subset of manga targeted at young Japanese women called Yaweh about homosexual love affairs. “Boys love” is one of the most popular sub-genres of manga. “Antique Bakery features a cast of tall, thin elegant beautiful young men. They all work in a western style bakery,” Aoki tells us. “Women fall in love with them because they are so handsome. But they’re not available,” says Brau. “But the cakes are available so they make many young women happy.”

What Did You Eat Yesterday? has become a very popular manga for recipes. The manga tells the story of a gay couple, one of whom is a lawyer, the other a hairdresser and the lawyer is very intent on creating economical, delicious meals for the two of them.
THE HERBIVORE MAN: MANGA AND GENDER NORMS

“In the last 10 years Japanese demographics have been shifting,” says Nancy. “Fewer and fewer people are getting married. The rate of unmarried men ages 30 to 34 climbed from 21% to 47%. For women it jumped from 9% to 34% in a decade. The media has come up with this term “herbivore men” Urban men in their 20 and 30’s who are more into fashion and culture than women. Rejecting flesh, therefore they are herbivores. Other conservative pundits say “well, it’s the increase of carnivorous women, women who are too aggressive and focused on their career and refuse to become a full time housewife they create the herbivore man. This is changing men’s relationship with food. They have to increasingly be responsible for their own meals. That is being reflected in these dramas that show a kind of everyman develop a sense of culinary confidence.”

Aoki tells us that Manga like Oishinbo and Food Wars in a way represent a war within people to be their best. “There’s honor in fighting to be the best you can be. That if you’re going to do it you’re going to be the best damn one doing it. The way of the sword, the way of the chef.”

Fugitive Waves Episode #61 – Rattlesden

Fugitive Waves Episode #61 – Rattlesden

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For five years Davia’s father, Lenny Nelson, asked her to go to Rattlesden, England, to visit the Air Force base where he was stationed during WWII and to find an old photograph hanging in the town pub honoring his 8th Air Force squadron. It was still there, over 50 years later, he told her. Finally, one fine Sunday, Davia headed out in search of the pub and a piece of her father’s past—the piece he was proudest of.

Lenny died on Christmas Eve last year. In his honor, we share the journey with you.

Samuel Shelton Robinson helped produce this story with The Kitchen Sisters. He’s from London. It seemed only right.

Fugitive Waves Episode #60 – Milk Cow Blues

Fugitive Waves Episode #60 – Milk Cow Blues

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A journey into the mysterious and controversial world of raw milk.

Tucked away in the vanishing farm land on the outskirts of Indianapolis, the Apple Family and their neighbors created a kind of fellowship of milking. Milk Cow Blues tells the story of the Apples’ effort to bring raw milk to their community.

Jo Apple and her husband owned the Apple Family Farm in McCordsville Indiana for over 50 years. It was originally a dairy farm, but it became too much for the couple. It wasn’t financially feasible so they gave up the cows and planted corn and soy beans. Their son, Mark told to his father about a vision he had — farming naturally, without chemicals, hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. Just before he died, Mark’s dad agreed.

They started with sheep and chickens and cattle then bought a milk cow for themselves. They quickly found that there was a demand for unpasteurized milk. Women started showing up at their farm with glass jars to buy milk. The Apples had no idea it was illegal. But Indiana, like most states has very strict rules about buying and selling raw milk.

The Indiana State Veterinarian became aware that the Apple family was selling raw milk. He felt there was the possibility of harmful pathogens in these raw milk products and with pressure from other farmers in the area the Apples were served a cease and desist order.

The Apples were ready to give up. But their community encouraged them — they were selling milk, not cocaine or crack. The Apples checked the laws.

They could not trade raw milk, sell it, or deliver it. The only way people could legally obtain fresh milk in Indiana was to own a cow. So they decided, if people want raw milk they will have to buy the cow. The Apples set up the Indiana Cow Share Association and charged people $50. It worked.

A year-and-a-half after the cease and desist order there was a knock on the Apples’ door. A man they had never met before said that he was the one that had turned them in. He talked about how he was furious that they were selling milk for three times more than he was getting for his milk.

He couldn’t make it farming anymore and as a last resort had come to talk to them. His son was bagging groceries — but his heart was to farm. The man wanted to know if they thought he could do the same thing with pasteurized milk — sell directly to the public. He needed to make a change.

It’s a story that is happening all over the country, “All the farmers that are throwing in the towel saying, ‘OK, I can’t afford a $60,000 combine. I have to do something else. Maybe I’ll get some cattle and see if I can just sell them to my neighbors. That’s how it starts.”

Since we produced this Hidden Kitchens story The Apple Family Farm has closed down. In 2014 the Fortville Town Council tried to annex their farmland for development. It was a long, grueling fight. That combined with tax increases and the rising cost of farming became too much for this third generation family farm.

So Many Stories in Store

So Many Stories in Store

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In 2017 we all move into unknown territory. It’s times like these that call for strong stories. Bruce Springsteen said it best, “People need stories in hard times. People go to storytellers when times are like that.” People go to storytellers when it’s hard to decipher the world, when they need to feel hope and possibilities, when they just want a good tale. Here at The Kitchen Sisters we are getting ready to tell some of the deepest stories we’ve done yet. Stories that keep the spirit moving and light the path. Stories that reveal new ideas and new community leaders.

Today we ask for your support, and for your ongoing collaboration. It is our community that makes these stories possible. Our stories, our internship and mentoring program, and our many community visions. To those of you who have supported and collaborated with us over the years, thank you. To those of you who have recently discovered us, welcome to The Kitchen Sisterhood.

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In 2016 your contribution helped spawn so much new work. Our series, Hidden Kitchens: War and Peace and Food aired to much acclaim on NPR’s Morning Edition. Some 14 million people around the world heard these stories of the transformative power of food. There are more in store in 2017.

2017 also has many other projects in store — our new series about archivists as activists — about librarians and historical society curators who are keepers of the history and embroiled in battles and deeply committed to preservation, a free press and the truth. We’re also deep in the weeds on our second book, Show the Girls the Snakes, and working still on our Broadway musical and more. And we are gearing up for a new year of interns, mentoring and workshops.

We have also been asked to create an installation for Prospect.4,the International New Orleans Triennial (sort of the Venice Biennale of New Orleans that was created in the wake of Katrina to help revive the city through culture) where we’ll be collaborating with the Houston-based art collective, Otabenga Jones and Associates. Prospect.4 opens at the end of 2017 and goes for three months. Perhaps we’ll see you there.

Deep thanks for your support, your ideas, your music, your stories, all the things you share with us.

Keep the faith,
Davia & Nikki

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Giving Tuesday / So Many Untold Stories to Tell

Giving Tuesday / So Many Untold Stories to Tell

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Dear Friends,

On #GivingTuesday, we’d like to give you a story.

Some fifty years ago, Guy Tyler, an amateur ethnographer from Los Angeles drove out to the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Parker, Arizona with his portable reel-to-reel tape recorder and began recording Emmett Van Fleet, the last of the Mojave Creation Song Singers. Over the course of several years, Tyler spent his weekends and holidays meticulously recording the 525 song cycle that recounts the legend of the creation and origin of the Mojave people. Lost for decades, these recordings became the key for the Mojave to be able to map the boundaries of their tribal lands and fight the building of a nuclear waste site on their sacred sites.

With Standing Rock in our hearts and the events of 2016 on our minds, we are committed now more than ever to telling stories from the margins, stories from voices that might otherwise not be heard.

Listen to “House of Night: The Lost Creation Songs of the Mojave People”

Your support keeps the stories turning. Thank you so much for giving.

Our best,

Davia & Nikki
The Kitchen Sisters

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Episode 59: Weenie Royale: The Impact of the Internment on Japanese American Cooking

Episode 59: Weenie Royale: The Impact of the Internment on Japanese American Cooking

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During World War II, In desolate inland internment camps in the US, like Manzanar, Topaz, and Tule Lake, some 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were incarcerated for the duration of the war— their traditional food replaced by US government commodities and war surplus — hotdogs, ketchup, spam, potatoes — erasing the traditional Japanese diet and family table.

Akemi Tamaribuchi, a third generation Japanese American, artist Howard Ikemoto, Berkeley graduate Tami Takahashi, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of “Farewell to Manzanar,” Jimi Yamaichi of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, and George “Sulu” Takei of Star Trek, talk about how the internment forever impacted their lives, their food and their family table.

Fugitive Waves Episode #58 – The Kiosk Strategy

Fugitive Waves Episode #58 – The Kiosk Strategy

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A story from the plazas of Portugal, where small ornate kiosks that served traditional snacks and drinks once graced the city and brought people together. Neglected by time and pushed into abandonment by a dictator’s regime that suppressed public conversation and gathering, this tradition is now being revived, drawing people back to public space.

For more than a century, Lisbon’s public spaces were graced by beautiful Art Nouveau and Moorish-style kiosks — small, ornate structures that provided chairs and shade and served traditional Portuguese snacks and drinks.

These quiosques de refrescos (refreshment kiosks) were the heart of public life in the city. But, under the long dictatorship of Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, which started in the 1930s, laws actually discouraged public gathering and conversation. Many restaurants closed down and the kiosks ­­fell into disrepair and all but disappeared.

That was, until Catarina Portas, a native of Lisbon, former journalist and entrepreneur stepped in.

“From the 19th to the 20th century, there were some hundred different kiosks in Lisbon. The city was full of them in different colors, different designs,” says Portas. She used to take walks around the city and see these sad, abandoned structures. She said, “I started to think, how could we bring this to our times?”

Portas began hunting down these kiosks — some still in place but boarded up, others in storage. She teamed up with architect João Regal to restore the buildings – not just to their former glory, but to their former place of prominence in Lisbon’s public spaces.

“We went to the city council with amazing photographs of the old kiosks, and we prepared all the old drinks and made them taste the drinks,” Portas says. The pitch worked —­­ Portas is fairly sure it was the drinks that convinced the council members. Their first three kiosks opened in 2009.

The kiosks offer affordable and traditional drinks and snacks, conversation and community – and also employment in a country struggling with the staggering levels of unemployment and a recession gripping much of western Europe.

Read more.

Fugitive Waves Episode #57: War and Peace and Coffee

Fugitive Waves Episode #57: War and Peace and Coffee

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  • Harrison Suarez and Michael Haft of Compass Coffee

“Nobody can soldier without coffee,” a Union calvary man wrote in 1865. Hidden Kitchens looks at three American wars through the lens of coffee: the Civil War, Vietnam and Afghanistan. And an interview with Anastacia Marx de Salcedo author of “Combat Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat.”

The Civil War: War, freedom, slavery, secession, union – these are some of the big themes you might expect to find in the diaries of Civil War soldiers. At least, that’s what Jon Grinspan, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, assumed when he began digging through war journals in the nation’s Civil War archives. “I went looking for the big stories,” Grinspan says. “And all they kept talking about was the coffee they had for breakfast, or the coffee they wanted to have for breakfast.”

The Vietnam War: Coffee may have powered the Union army during the Civil War, but during the Vietnam War, it fueled the GI anti-war movement. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, as soldiers returning from Vietnam began to question the U.S. role in the war, GI coffeehouses sprung up in military towns outside bases across the country. They became a vital gathering place. Oleo Strut, Fort Hood, TX, Shelter Half, Tacoma, Washington, the Green Machine outside Camp Pendleton, San Diego; Mad Anthony Wayne’s, Waynesville, Mo., outside Fort Leonard, to name a few. As the anti-war movement heated up, these coffeehouses became places where GIs could get legal counseling on issues like going AWOL and obtaining conscientious objector status, and learn about ways to protest the war.

Afghanistan: “The military runs on coffee,” says Harrison Suarez, co-founder of Compass Coffee in Washington DC. “The Marines especially. It’s this ritual.” Suarez and Michael Haft, who started Compass together, first became friends in the Marines over coffee learning how to navigate with a map and compass.

As the war in Afghanistan intensified, both Suarez and Haft deployed there with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. One of their missions was to help develop the local police force and army. The two men tried to bond with their new Afghan partners over coffee, but the Afghans weren’t having it. The Afghan culture is much more about tea. Regardless of what was in the cups, the experience of gathering together over a hot drink and “taking time to develop a rapport with your partners that you are fighting alongside holds the same.”

This story is part of the Hidden Kitchens series “Kimchi Diplomacy: War and Peace and Food.”

Read more about War and Peace and Coffee and get a recipe for “Yankee ‘Instant’ Coffee Syrup” here.

Notes from The Kitchen Sisterhood / Fall 2016

Notes from The Kitchen Sisterhood / Fall 2016

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Dear Friends,

There is so much going on. But really only one thing going on. Vote. Everything else is noise.

Except it’s not. Not at all, but you know what we mean.

Here is some of what else matters to us in the coming months, in our world and your’s.

The Kitchen Sisters
Davia & Nikki

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Books we’re reading:

We’re working on a new book calledShow the Girls the Snakes, a mix of stories, how to tell stories and memoir, so we’re reading every memoir we can get our hands on. Any suggestions? Here’s what we’re reading now:

Speak, Memory – Vladimir Nabokov

My Life on the Road – Gloria Steinem

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

And on other fronts:

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds – Lyndall Gordon

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America – Gilbert King

Dated Emcees – Chinaka Hodge

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Events we are going to / hosting / wish we were going to:

Notes From the Field – Master storyteller, Anna Deavere Smith with musician Marcus Shelby. Her new play looks at education, crime, and the Baltimore she left behind. 2econdStageTheatre, New York. (Now playing)

An Evening with Terry Tempest Williams – A Benefit for Point Reyes National Seashore Association, Pt. Reyes, CA. (Oct 22)

Smithsonian Food History Weekend – The Kitchen Sisters talking Hidden Political Kitchens, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. (Oct 27-29)

Letter to a Man – Mikhail Baryshnikov in a staging of Vaslav Nijinsky’s diaries, BAM, New York. (Oct 15-30)

City Arts and Lectures – Joel Coen in conversation with Davia Nelson. One Coen Brother, one Kitchen Sister, San Francisco, CA. (Nov 29)

Kitchen Sisters Interviewing, Recording & Podcasting Workshop, San Francisco (Dec 8) – sign up here.

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Films we’re watching:

Moonlight – Saw this remarkable, hypnotic film at the Telluride Film Festival. Barry Jenkins’ haunting story of a boy coming of age in South Florida. The cast includes Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes and Janelle Monáe.

Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) – Situated off Italy’s southern coast, Lampedusa has been the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to make a new life in Europe. Director Gianfranco Rosi spent months living on the Mediterranean island, capturing its history, culture and the current, desperate everyday reality. His film is gut-wrenching and stunning.

Command and Control – A collaboration between Robert Kenner (Food, Inc) & Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation). How do you manage weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them?

Cameraperson – Over the past 25 years, Kirsten Johnson has worked as a camera operator or cinematographer on more than 50 documentary films, including Citizenfour, The Invisible War, and Fahrenheit 9/11. Now she’s directed Cameraperson, which she calls a visual “memoir.” It incorporates footage she shot for various documentaries over that quarter century. –Boston Globe

Threads we’re pulling:

Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse – Dosa at Cooper Hewitt in NYC

Works on Paper from Permanent Collection – a new collaboration between Fanny Singer and Mariah Nielson.

Lenny – Feminism, style, health, politics, friendship and everything else from Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner.

 

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Podcasts we’re pumping:

Radiotopia Fall Fundraiser – Our mighty podcast collective is having it’s annual Fundraiser. If you love podcasts, and we know you do, Radiotopia is the network to support. 15 podcasts and growing — 99% Invisible, Criminal, Radio Diaries, Love + Radio, Millennial, Mortified, Song Exploder, The Allusionist, The Heart, West Wing Weekly, Theory of Everything, the Memory Palace, Strangers, The Truth and ours, Fugitive Waves.

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Music we’re spinning:

Anything/everything by Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan

Ibrahim Maalouf, Lebanese born trumpeter

Hip-hop of old from Jonathan Lethem’s list.

Nintendo themes of old from Michael Chabon’s list.

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Compared to What – Les McCann & Eddie Harris (listen here)

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Projects we’re supporting:

The American Project – Vote
Tuesday, November 8

Can’t Talk, Gotta Run: 10 Women Who Could Flip the Senate
(in case you missed it)

The Edible Schoolyard programs in Berkeley, New York, New Orleans and the Charlottesville Food Justice Network

Rock the Vote

Main graphic: “My Eyes In The Time Of Apparition” by August Natterer, 1913
Photo of Dylan: AP Photo/Pierre Godot