This Cooperative Life Blog Series
Interview #5: Saqib’s Audio
Saqib’s Cooperative Life Story
Saqib oozes style, grace, goodness, fierceness, and deliciousness. He’s a community heartthrob.
Saqib Keval has been creating accessible, healthy, and loving food spaces since 2007. As a collective, The People’s Kitchen goal is to not only fill our stomachs, but also nourish our souls, feed our minds, and fuel a movement. It’s a soulful filled endeavor embodied in Saqib, who is a dashing dresser. He came to the CoFED office for the interview, and I was overwhelming excited to hear his story (and also looking forward to seeing what he’d be wearing!). Saqib did not disappoint in either fronts.
Interview Caveat. I have a harbored a friend crush on Saqib for a while. People would often say, “Saqib, you don’t know Saqib, you should!” We had seen each other around at events, but it was not until this interview that we really go to know each other. Then, during the interview there was muslim magic as Faiza, Saqib and I put together that we were all muslims of color or as we called ourselves that day #badmuslimgoodmuslimworstmuslim, ahem I mean #bestmuslims. We had to be friends, all of us, and thanks to that we had dinner together where I got to see Saqib’s spices...a true treat, who else, but Saqib would cook with Black Power Cardamom and Bae Leaf?
Interview “Aha’s.” Saqib’s commitment to community and culinary genius is a gift to us all. I learned so much about food, history, movement-building from Saqib during our interview that I knew I was in the room with a loving intellectual and food genius. It was the most wonderful feeling.
Here are some gems from our interview that demonstrate Saqib’s cooperative life:
The People’s Kitchen Collective is moving the experience of dining from colonial constructs to how our communities eat and share food. It exists outside of the space of capitalism and is community-centered. “We can have good food and nurturing places together,” is Saqib’s passion- he infusion love into his meal. As a collective, they are working to institutionalize the genius of home cooking and movement building.
Diaspora Dinner at the MOAD. Bryant Terry invited The People’s Kitchen to do a dinner. “Our dinners usually collaborate with a movement building organization to tell the story of a community and piece together a narrative while artists create art to complement food. We want you to engage with all of your senses and as a tool of political education.” For example, Bunny Chow comes from apartheid era africa as a piece of resistance, the official dish of Durban to understand the dish is to understand the story of apartheid, and the role of South Asians. Hear all about it at (34:13)
Decolonizing Fine Dining. Saqib shared how fine dining is rooted in the French military. "Positions in the western kitchen are modeled after positions in the French military. It’s top down, power moves down, and that model has been replicated over and over again. I learned that good food and technique, art of food always comes back to Europe, we are trying to decolonize that notion at The people's kitchen--we have a non-hierarchical kitchen and have an open kitchen, we invite people to cook with us."
An overview of Saqib’s answers to our two signature questions:
1)What was Saqib’s first experience or hear about cooperatives?
SAQIB: It’s how our communities function, I knew about it before I had the word for it. It’s a very common experience for immigrant communities, hopefully, at least it was for me. I didn’t hear the word cooperative or that it was a legit thing that was recognized by institutions, not until college, and there weren’t many people doing cooperatives and the only cooperative food was in the family space or activist space, kinda like potlucks like more organized. Now there is more light being shed on cooperative food business and we have some ones like People’s Kitchen Collective.
2) Which co-op principle was Saqib most feeling on the day we interviewed him?
SAQIB: I can’t believe you’re making me pick. You can’t have one without the other, I bet you this is what all of your guests do, but it’s got to be all seven together. You can’t have any one of these without the other!
Full interview can be listened to on this link:
THIS COOPERATIVE LIFE story series is a project of The Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED), which provides tools and training for campus communities to develop strong cooperatively-run food businesses. We engage with a dynamic network to increase access to healthy food while promoting thriving, equitable, and resilient local economies. Special thanks to Smoking Ghosts for providing music, Kai Nagai-Rothe for production support, and our producer Faiza Farah.