Food can be a form of activism—sometimes at the dinner table, as the New York Times reported in February, and sometimes in the streets. In the context of civil disobedience, it's an especially useful tool that can make a powerful statement: It often carries symbolic social resonance, and it’s harmless, for the most part.
Consider the egg: Fragile, lightweight and viscous, eggs make excellent spheres of resistance. Just ask the former Governator of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was pelted with one while campaigning in 2003. (For the record, the Governator barely batted an eye.)
Yogurt has also made recurring appearances in protests, most notably, in Greece. In fact, the Greeks are so partial to rage-hurling yogurt at politicians that they’ve created a word meaning precisely that: yaourtoma. In the 1950s, yaourtoma was so commonplace that a law was created to publicly humiliate its proponents. That law was overturned in 1983, and yogurt resumed its innocuous breakfast status—until 2012, when Greece was hit hard by an economic crisis, bringing with it a resurgence of yogurt bombs. A Greek reporter who angered viewers by allowing a far-right politician on his TV news show was attacked with yogurt and eggs while broadcasting live on the air.
Trump may be getting the brunt of it now, but Barack Obama experienced food fights, too. In 2013, a group of his opponents used social media to organize The Great Marshmallow Protest; bags of marshmallows, sent by mail to Congress, were meant to remind our elected officials that they were being too soft on the president, especially in light of Benghazi and the Affordable Care Act.
In 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to Western sanctions imposed over Ukraine by banning the imports of most fruits and vegetables from Poland. Polish resisters took to Twitter to post selfies of themselves eating apples with the hashtag #jedzjablka, which means "eat apples."
While Poles were eating apples in 2014, a group of Ukrainians, frustrated by propaganda news media coverage of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, threw cooked spaghetti at the Russian consulate in Odessa. Referencing the Ukrainian-Russian idiom "to hang noodles over someone's ears," which is akin to "pulling someone's leg," they were inferring that the Russian media couldn’t be trusted.
In 2015, Parisian tobacco retailers were angered by a proposed bill that would have required all cigarette packets in France to be plain white and devoid of branding. So they dropped almost 4.5 tons of carrots at the gates of the Socialist party's headquarters, a nod to the carrot signs hanging outside French shops that sell cigarettes. The demonstration worked; French lawmakers abandoned the marketing clause and instead ruled to make health warnings on cigarette packages larger.
In 2016, also in France, the rabble-rousing Regional Action Committee of Winemakers flooded a Southern town with thousands of liters of imported wine to express their frustration with the amount of Spanish wine that had infiltrated French wineshops and supermarkets. The disgruntled oenophiles left five giant vats full of red wine to flow freely in the streets. The same group is said to be responsible for hijacking five tankers full of Spanish wine at the border of Spain and France in 2015; they emptied 90,000 bottles on the motorway, turning the roads into a veritable wine river. (Sadly, no one thought to bring cheese.)
Back in the USA, activists in 2016 used solar power to cook pancakes in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission building in Washington, D.C. The Pancakes Not Pipelines protest was in response to a proposed pipeline that would destroy a family maple farm in New Milford, Pennsylvania, should construction begin. The demonstration led to the arrest of seven people, all of whom were handcuffed while wearing chef’s hats and aprons.
Hey: If you’re going to the Big House, you might as well look like a boss.
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