I attended the Women’s March in Washington DC on January 21, and it was an exhilarating experience. There was an atmosphere of love, support, tolerance and a much justified dose of outrage. My two friends and I drove down from the Philadelphia area. We waved to others on the road showing their signs from their cars and wearing their pink hats. The mood was uplifting; from the train ride in, though the march to the train ride back out. I was so glad to be a part of this historic march.
This march has kickstarted many other marches on various days worldwide. With so much to protest about, I thought I would look into how food has played a part in the history of protests, and also touch on what to eat and drink when you are protesting.
The History of Protest and Food
Food and protests have gone hand in hand throughout history. But why food? Well, first of all, it was accessible.Tomatoes, eggs, easy to get and they make a great splat. NOTE: I don’t condone throwing ANYTHING. No one should get injured in a protest. While throwing food may be considered non-violent, I wouldn’t risk getting arrested for throwing an egg.
The first recorded protest with food was in 63 AD in present day Tunisia. Roman Emperor Vespasian was pelted with turnips by people who were angered by food shortages under his reign. That had to hurt…
Eggs historically were very popular at protests. In the Middle Ages people were put in stocks and pelted with eggs. Abolitionist George Whittier was hit with eggs at an anti-slavery talk in 1834. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger was hit with an egg in 2003 on a campaign trip for governor of California. In 2011 Afghan protesters threw eggs at the Iranian consulate to protest a fuel blockade that caused fuel prices to soar. But the biggest egg protest took place in 2013, when French farmers broke 100,000 eggs a day to protest the low price of eggs set by the European Union.
On to tomatoes. While typically seen as a response to a poor theatrical performance, tomatoes have been used in protests. In fact, one tomato protest has turned into an annual festival. La Tomatina occurs in Bunol, in the Valencia region of Spain on a Wednesday every August. The legend is that the townspeople were upset with their town council and threw tomatoes at them. That one event became the present day festival. The festival begins with a ham being placed on a greased pole, and participants climb the pole to retrieve the ham. Once the ham has been obtained, the tomato throwing begins. A cannon sounds, and the tons of tomatoes are thrown. Its chaotic, and messy. The throwing continues for two hours, then the cannon fires and the throwing stops.
Not sure what happens after that. Many, many showers, I guess..
The cream pie in the face has had its place in protest history. Ok, most of the time, you see this in the Three Stooges or I Love Lucy… but both Ralph Nader and Rupert Murdoch have been “pied”. Anita Bryant got a pie in the face in 1977 during a press conference when she was trying to justify the fact that she hated gay people. Again, I don’t condone this, as it could cause injury, and you may get arrested for assault (but Anita had that one coming..)
Lack of food has had a significant place in protest history. The hunger strike has been used in many circumstances as a form of protest. The first hunger strike is purported to have happened in ancient India. Indian scriptures tell the tale of when King Rama’s brother fasted to urge the King to return from exile. Gandhi was on a hunger strike for six days to protest the British government’s decision to place a strict separation between India’s lowest and highest social castes. Gandhi’s actions caused this decision to be reversed.
In the United States, suffragettes went on hunger strikes in jail. This method usually got them released prior to completion of their sentence. But Alice Paul, famous woman activist and organizer of the Woman Suffrage Procession (and a Jersey girl from Mount Laurel!), was force-fed in a London prison. This damaged her gastrointestinal system permanently. Alice Paul returned to the USA, attended the University of Pennsylvania and continued her work in the Suffrage movement. Read more about Alice Paul here: http://nationalwomansparty.org/learn/who-is-alice-paul/
I found this really terrific blog called “Food and Resistance“. It is a collection of food related protest signs from various protests. Go check out the images. They are powerful and also humorous.
My favorite? “Muslims Invented Coffee”.
Staying Fueled While Protesting
So you are getting out and standing up for what you believe in. Good for you! Here are a few tips for staying fueled during your protest experience.
- Cut back on the coffee. I know, this is a tough one. But comfort stations can be few and far between, and lines can be long. And peeing on the White House lawn is illegal…also a good idea to BYOTP. (Toilet Paper)
- Fuel up in the morning. I recommend more protein than carbs. Eggs will keep you fuller longer than a bowl of cereal. Perhaps a little fruit as well, to get some sugars for energy.
- Bring snacks. Granola bars, more fruit. You can also bring a wrap. Refried beans and rice with cheese in a tortilla are easy to carry, and have a great mix of carbs and protein. Make a few, and wrap them in plastic. Yes, you will have to eat them cold, but you can deal this one time.
- Bring water, but watch your intake. You will need to stay hydrated, but drink just what you need. Again, the peeing issue. Warmer weather will cause you to need more liquids. Look at bringing some green tea with honey. This provides good energy and will soothe your throat from all of your yelling and cheering. Throat lozenges are also a good idea.
- Bring some chewing gum. This helps keep you from getting dry mouth, and you won’t drink as much water.
If you are one of the organizers of a march, try to engage restaurants and food stores who may be sympathetic to your cause to provide some eats and drinks along the march route. They may choose to donate or sell. If they donate, make sure you provide a money jar for donations to cover their costs.
When you are done with your march, patronize the local restaurants. You are supporting the local economy, and you will assuredly meet others who were in the march as well. Share a table with some strangers.
These are challenging times. But I am so optimistic. People are becoming engaged, getting involved and running for office.
So get up, get out, make some noise. Fuel your cause.