“Shoebox Lunch” is a time capsule of memories that
celebrates family food heritage and migration history. By engaging the
senses of touch, taste, and smell, this interactive audio documentary
highlights soul food traditions, their southern roots, and connections
to Black history.
What is the significance of the title, “Shoebox Lunch”?
During the Jim Crow era, trains were segregated and Black people were
not allowed to visit the dining cars. Many passengers would pack a meal
in shoeboxes when traveling to southern cities. Road trips by
automobile also presented challenges to a family looking for places to
eat. Planning ahead with boxed lunches became a tradition.
What will I hear on the sound track?
The project features ambient train sounds and music to accompany each
speaker, whose names are listed below. Except for the prelude, all the
music tracks feature blues musicians who are blind.
Because this piece is interactive, you must have the boxed set in
order to experience the project. People who have a copy of “Shoebox
Lunch” will receive a private link to download the audio; please contact
us at soulfoodstories-at-gmail if you need access.
How is the project accessible to people with low or no vision?
Visual acuities vary from complete to partial loss of sight. The
brochure inside the box set is printed in large-print superimposed on
Braille, which is the print standard to reach multiple audiences.
Increasingly, many people do not know Braille. Therefore audio allows
the most flexibility and accessibility for sharing textual information. A
written transcript is also available for people with other
disabilities. For a transcript, please contact email
All the objects in the box were designed to have hinged lids and
other considerations to make the piece more accessible. Though universal
accessibility is not possible, the project does attempt to maximize
experiential engagement for people with different abilities.
How can I share my story?
To share your food and family stories on this website, call the GARLIC & GREENS free telephone hotline at 312-8700-GNG (312-870-0464).
Modern food culture has appropriated ingredients and tastes from all over
the world, distributed through books, TV shows and recipe sharing blogs.
How one comes to know a recipe is often more complicated than edited television
shows and cookbooks can reveal, however. Recipes are stories that shift
and change depending on culture, class and place. One such storied recipe
is "Yock," (or "Ya Ka Mein") a noodle dish found in
New Orleans and along the eastern coast of the US. Toosi's work, a collaboration
with comics artist Neil Brideau, traces Yock’s regional mythology,
dashing any simplistic notion of an original, authentic recipe.
Contents of mailing:
RR03 consists of an audio interview (on CD), a comic book and a screen
printed dishtowel for you to use in your own cooking adventures, perhaps
making your own variation of Yock.
GARLIC & GREENS: accessible soul food stories
GARLIC & GREENS: accessible soul food stories
offers programs showcasing the intersections between food heritage,
migration history, social justice, the arts, and disability studies. The
current focus is an oral history archive about food heritage.
GARLIC & GREENS was first established as the
educational component for edible gardens designed for people with
disabilities at the north end of Chicago’s Washington Park. While
working at this site, it became clear that adjusting a garden’s physical
infrastructure is just the first step to becoming accessible. GARLIC
& GREENS responded by making a multisensory audio book to connect
vegetable gardening to cooking traditions.
First launched in an historically Black neighborhood, GARLIC & GREENS
welcomes participation from everyone while focusing on stories about
soul food traditions from those of African ancestry. During the Great
Migrations, people searched for a respite from racism and more job
opportunities in northern cities. This human movement was accompanied by
the journey of southern American food traditions including soul food
ingredients like okra, beans, yams, and various dark leafy greens among
GARLIC & GREENS is making a special effort to
reach audiences with low or no vision because Black Americans are at a
higher risk for sight loss from glaucoma, diabetes and hypertensive
retinopathy. The good news is that these diseases can be prevented with a
healthy diet and regular access to health care. GARLIC & GREENS
will help participants make stronger connections between cultural
heritage, culinary traditions, food access, and health and wellness
The Only Reason
The Only Reason offset lithograph business cards 2006
This edition of 1000 business cards was created to address the parallel between recent mobilizations by immigrant workers and the civil rights movement. The card is a direct re-versioning of a calling card created in the 1970s by the KKK that read: "The only reason you are WHITE Today Is Because Your Ancestors Believed & Practiced SEGREGATION." The card is available in issue 5 of artist journal LTTR, or you may print your own by downloading the PDF. This project has been featured in the following exhibits: The 2009 Bucharest Biennale in Romania, In a strange land at Calles y Sueños in Chicago and Where Do We Migrate To? a group show curated by Niels van Tomme for the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in Baltimore and touring to various locations in 2012.
Read more about the concept in AREA magazine's im/migrations issue: http://www.areachicago.org/p/issues/immigrations/only-reason/
Red Crystal Palace
Red Crystal Palace was a mobile tent with a crystal
ball inside, operated by a nurse seeking predictions about the future from people on the street. In exchange, the nurse shared free tea and red crystals with participants.
INTERVIEWS RECORDED IN 2007: 26 March and 21 July in Chicago,
7 April in Los Angeles, 6 May in Washington DC. First edit was broadcast
in Washington DC on a short-range AM transmission in late April as part
of the Multimediale Festival and throughout the summer.
AUDIO ENGINEERING: Shelly Steffens at Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago
MUSIC: Paul Bonneau - Preambule No. 37, Fleetwood Mac - Crystal,
Terry Riley - A Rainbow in Curved Air, Farsheed Toosi - Glasscutter,
Shelly Steffens and Fereshteh Toosi on waterphone and synthesizer,
remixes and original songs by Charlie Gokey
This project was made possible by the Artists Residency Program at Experimental Sound Studio, a program funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
THANK YOU: Robin Amer, John Biewen, Donald Braman,
Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, Vince Gallegos, Charlie Gokey,
Robin Hewlett, Allan Hovland, Lou Mallozzi, Griselda Mendoza,
Multimediale artists and organizers, Mahyar Nili, Prelinger Archive,
Provisions Library and staff, Siobhan Rigg, Jacob Ross, Don Russell,
Jesse Seay, Farsheed Toosi, Niels Van Tomme, Jeff Young, Vocalo.org.
Lincoln Park, Chicago
The nurse asked people 3 questions:
1- Who will be the next president? 2- When will the war in Iraq be over? 3- What will you be doing five years from now?
The nurse visited Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Chicago with her tent on wheels.
In exchange for their time, project participants were given potassium ferricyanide crystals.
Visitors could consult the crystal ball inside the tent for hints to answer the nurse's questions.
Interview tapes were broadcast via short-range AM station during the Multimediale DC festival in April 2007.
Provisions Library Gallery in Dupont Circle, Washington DC.
The Tea Party
The Tea Party performance-intervention collaboration with Carolyn Lambert 2004
As the city of Boston braced for the 2004 Democratic National Convention, my collaborator and I founded a fictitious political party, The Tea Party, inspired by New England's most famous patriots and protestors. This on-going performance occurred on the streets and public spaces of Boston for 6 weeks. The happenings took many forms, including street interviews, political rallies, and chance encounters with strangers on busses and at tourist attractions. Please see the project website archive for more information
I set up a fictional accounting firm called H&R CABBAGE in a Washington DC gallery. There I calculated visitors' personal carbon emissions with a free report to take home. In exchange for their time, visitors could bring in a reusable water bottle or coffee mug to enjoy a freshly carbonated Italian soda.
The exhibit also included a curated screening of slide lectures about
sustainable living created by various artists and activists. The slide
show format was inspired by Al Gore's now famous performance in "An
NB: "You're not as green as you are cabbage-looking" is an old British saying that can be interpreted in different ways but it basically means "you're not as naive as you look".
Inspired by genie bottles, nomadic tents, and the dwellings created by
birds, this was an immersive video installation made from cast-off textiles
that I altered by attaching other materials such as rubber bands, cable
ties, and fishing lures. The form served simultaneously as a genie's cocoon
and a spaceship of confused materials.
Operation Pickle took place in 2007 at the agriCULTUREshow at Lipe Art Park in Syracuse, New York. While outdoors in the park, I conducted demonstrations to show people how easy it is to pickle using only two ingredients: salt and cabbage. I also talked to visitors about the benefits of live fermentation. During this event, I recruited volunteers to make sauerkraut for several weeks in their home, providing the supplies (cabbage, salt, pickling spices, a weight, and a glass jar with a tea towel) for free, in exchange for the opportunity to record their stories about Syracuse. The nickname for Syracuse is "Salt City" because of its historical connection to the salt industry.
performance and installation 2005
During her incarceration, American lifestyle mogul Martha Stewart began craving an iPod loaded with Bob Dylan songs. To mark Stewart's transfer to house-arrest and to raise funds for the Alderson Federal Prison facility (aka Camp Cupcake), a troop of Martha clones worked in a sweatshop-cum-craft lounge to create iPod cozies available for sale in the gallery giftshop.