So Fereshteh Toosi and I have been dating for almost two years, she's an amazing person and artist who often seems to have limitless energy, and is never satisfied with the work she's putting out. Above is a picture of her from a performance she created for Defibrillator about a year ago. She's currently working on a years-long project, Garlic and Greens, which is a multifaceted mixed-media art piece that grew out of her tenure at ArcheWorks. Garlic and Greens investigates food traditions, specifically focusing on African American soul food -and its travel North to Chicago during the Great Migrations- as a means to open up a larger discussion of food traditions.
As an extension of Garlic and Greens, Fereshteh was asked to contribute to the ongoing Regional Relationships art series, curated by Ryan Griffis & Sarah Ross. Fereshteh and I have wanted to collaborate for a while, and thought this might be a great opportunity, so we rolled up our sleeves, and came up with Yock Yok, an investigation to a regional dish from Fereshteh's home town of Virginia Beach/Newport News/Portsmouth/etc. (a soupier version is commonly found in New Orleans).
Like soul food from most cultures, an exact definition, recipe, history or even spelling is impossible to pin down, and Yock's origins seem to come from circumstance and region instead of having been handed down from infallible ancestors. We decided to embrace the intangible qualities and history of this dish, which seems to be some sort of mash up of vaguely East Asian and vaguely African American cooking traditions, noodles, ketchup, soy sauce, onion, egg, vinegar and magic!
Yock Yok comes with a CD, minicomic and screen printed tea towel. The CD features an interview with Joy Mariama Smith, who grew up eating Yock on visits to family in Portsmouth. The minicomic focuses on the dishe's lore, taking rumor and accepting it as fact, taking hearsay and embellishing it, and taking facts and falsifying them. The tea towel opens the idea of mythology even more, and offers a map of the region in which you can find Yock, the Coastal U.S. South. Also shown on the map are cryptozoological densizens of the area, the great Skunk Ape, the Whirling Whimpus, and visitors like the Amihan and Kappa. Together the pieces cover the entire spectrum from truth to fiction that family food histories also inhabit.
For a far better description of the project, check out this link.
I think there's still time to join Regional Relationship's subscription program to receive a copy, as well as other awesome projects focused on regionalism.
Big thanks to Fereshteh, Sarah & Ryan for including me on this project. Look for future collaborations between me & Fereshteh.