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Enemy Kitchen food truck

From the editor

The food of the enemy

Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93

Last winter, outside the Smart Museum, I ate free Iraqi food from Michael Rakowitz’s Enemy Kitchen food truck. The dishes—a stuffed grape leaf, kubba mosul (mincemeat pie), and, for dessert, tahini mixed with date syrup—had been cooked by Iraqi refugees and served by Iraq War veterans; the paper plate was a replica of Saddam Hussein’s china.

The Enemy Kitchen truck, operated in partnership with the owners of an Iraqi restaurant, is an ongoing project in Chicago, says Rakowitz, a conceptual artist who teaches at Northwestern. For a while it was “wildly popular at lunchtime, particularly outside the Aon Center.” But the truck, painted with Enemy Kitchen in English and Arabic, has been vandalized, and the restaurant’s former landlord requested its removal, says Rakowitz: “‘Get this fucking terrorist truck out of my alley.’”

Rakowitz’s grandfather, an Iraqi Jew, fled Baghdad with his family in 1946. “He was heartbroken when he had to leave,” says Rakowitz, who has never been to Iraq. His mother, a baby when her family fled, has also never returned. But she learned the recipes from her mother and taught them to her son. “Food is so important as a diasporic experience,” Rakowitz says. “It’s not nostalgic, like a photograph. It’s one of the only ways you can create something that isn’t just a dead souvenir.”

Food truck as conceptual art: Michael Rakowitz serves Iraqi food from his Enemy Kitchen. (Photo by Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93)