Detail of a landfill where tons of vegetables, not even remotely rotten, have been thrown. The photo has been edited with desaturation and blurring filters.

Food is a big part of the Dalston Solidarity Cafe.

As we call ourselves a cafe, inevitably, food and drinks have to be part of it somehow.

Although, don’t get us wrong, we use that name because you kind  what you’re about to get into the moment you read it. You know that, if it says cafe, there is probably food and drinks involved. The added solidarity word just let you know there might be a bunch of leftists involved.

But we are not fans of cafes and restaurants and anything else in between. Not in the way they currently work in our society. If you want to know more about the subject, we recommend this free zine.

What we are, is closer to a communal kitchen where we try to save, rather than waste and turn the cooking experience into a collective feast.

In fact, we believe that our work with food starts even before we set foot in the Halkevi kitchen.

On waste

It is known that, each month, in the days before the cafe, many people involved with it would be roaming around the streets of London looking for food.

Those people wouldn’t do it during daylight though. And not because they’re vampires (or maybe also because they’re, can’t speak for everyone).

Those night-roamers would be sneaking into the darkness to do outrageous acts such as checking the rubbish for edible, completely fine, probably also in date, food.

Skipping, dumpster diving, call it as you want, it’s a very old practice of course. But it is safe to say it’s never been as nutritious and healthy as it is nowadays.

Businesses of all sorts, from your local corner shop to Tesco, from the hipster organic cafe to Pret, waste food every day. Loads of food.

Your liberal friend would tell you that Pret gives all the “wastage” to charities and that Mc Donalds recycle their oil to fuel their tracks or whatever, the truth is it is bullshit. Just ask to anyone who has been working in any of these big chains and you’ll find out that there is so much food to be thrown away by the end of the day, even after the charities and all the workers sharing something, there will still be wastage. Plus, sometime the charity might not show up or you might not want to eat this bloody hoisin duck wrap for the fifth time in a week just so it doesn’t go to waste.

That’s also the matter of how this food is disposed of. They’re not even recycled and turned into compost, but just let to rot and decompose in landfills where they will emit a lovely amount of greenhouse gases.

What we’re trying to say here is not that, every time we open a Gail’s bin bag, we find perfectly fine breads and pastries. Not every time we open a Planet Organic bin bag, we find delicious tortellini and chocolates. Not every time we check what an organic grocery store is going to throw away, we find those dribbling mushrooms they were going to sell you for £20 per kilo the day before. Not every time we check what a market stall is classifying as too old, we find loyal potatoes and juicy berries!

Sometimes, you might spend hours cycling in the cold rain and find only rotten food in damp rubbish bags. Sometimes shopkeeper might prefer throwing away food rather than donate it and would tell it to your face. Sometimes it might be hard and tiring and stressful and unfruitful, but it is a conscious risk we are willing to take because can be compensated by the joy brought on the good days.

What we’re trying to say is that checking the bins is an act of resistance.

Rescuing food is an act of collective care.

You’re not giving it a second chance, you’re giving it the respect that it deserves.

By doing this, we organise events with virtually no expenses and with surprising variation in flavours and dishes every time.

Next time you see someone skipping in the streets, you might want to join them.You may never know what beautiful surprises you could get.

On Cooking

We had to use so many words to tell you that rescuing wasted food is a necessary and beautiful experience, how many are going to be needed to talk about the power of cooking?

No, please, don’t leave, we promise it will be over before you could even realise it started, in fact, a good starter would be to point out what cooking  is for us.

Cooking isn’t a gendered task to be performed within the nuclear family.

Cooking isn’t the survival skill you use once back home after work to avoid fainting.

Cooking isn’t an exclusive craft producing overpriced experiences of an idea of food.

Cooking isn’t something someone does for you or you do for others.

Cooking is a collective event. Or better, should always be a collective experience.

That’s why we always invite whoever wants to to join us since the morning cooking session of the cafe. There are so many things to do, from sorting out the food to create the “menu of the day” to clean, wash, peel, chop, fry, boil, bake and more!

Anyone can do as much or as little as they feel like and anyone is more than welcome to bring their ideas and/or recipes to the table.

Historically, the people cooking for communities or families where not professional chefs, were not working in professional kitchens or paying loads of money to attend prestigious schools. They were just doing it as we are doing it now! All you need it’s a bunch of tools and love for what you’re doing.

Of course we know those people weren’t always doing it out of love as well as it is hard to find love when it’s cold and dark outside and you just came back from work and need to cook your dinner despite the fact you’re tired and stressed. Wouldn’t be much easier to just buy something ready-to-eat?

Well, beside the “wellness kind of advice” of cooking your meals as a daily practice to take care of your body, soul and mind, we want to invite you also to go beyond the alienating routine.

Invite friends, family (chosen or not) or whoever you want. Cook with them and for them. Share knowledge with who knows less and learn from who knows more. Enjoy together a full meal made from scratch. Bond upon the flavours and the whole experience. And if there is extra, divide it among the others, bring it to your coworkers, donate it to an unhoused person, turn it into another opportunity to care and link.

In the end, that’s what we do every Saturday morning. We are a bunch of besties, siblings and comrades who love to take care of each other and gladly want to spread that solidarity with whoever will join us through the day.

There is no scarcity of food, skills or time. What there is it’s an opportunity to create something new together. Something tasty. Something delicious.And when you do, please, share it.

On Community

Skipping and cooking are just two of the many possible practices we can delve into in order to create, strengthen and support a community. Our community.

And they also explain the Cafe in Dalston Solidarity Cafe in a way.

But, as you probably already know, that’s not all we do, but that’s all we will discuss for today with this post.

We also believe that hope and revolution are fed through stories, we want to leave you with an image.

So, well, imagine.

Imagine to live in a place without Pret or hipster cafe. All you have, instead, is communal kitchens.

And so people gather there every day for meals.

Some bring food, some cook, some clean, some take care of the furniture and electronics, some decorate, some entertain, some look after the children, some feed dogs and other animals some stay forever, some leave in a hurry.

Or, maybe, everyone does everything. A little bit of everything, whenever they can, however they can, before or after their meal, or maybe in between because they want it to last longer and then, well, that flickering light bulb is really bothering them!

Imagine, now,that you live there.

What would you like to do? Who would you like to be?

Are you happy?

Is everyone happy?


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *