Feed ‘em with Freedom: Maria Zazzi Minestrone

This is the first in our new regular(ish) Feed ‘em with Freedom cookery slot. Each recipe includes ingredients which are affordable and easy to obtain, many of which you can grow yourself or, better still, which you can grow for others. Each recipe can also be easily scaled up to cater for community events, protests, barricades, etc., and to create Food Not Bombs/Veggies Catering type stalls for social centres, festivals and uprisings. Visit the websites of both organisations for more recipes and guidance on setting up food stalls.

We live in a rentier economy, buying or hiring almost every aspect of our lives from somebody else; very often from large, highly exploitative corporations. We have become so accustomed to this that one of our greatest fears is running out of the tokens (money) which allow us to rent our lives. This creates a desperate lack of confidence in our own abilities and is one of the main reasons why uprisings rarely evolve to the next phase. We are, quite understandably, worried that we might not be able to provide for ourselves and those we love. The irony being that we are the very people who do the work which provides for everyone in the first place… your average oligarch does not personally produce anything of value themselves, they simply exercise control over the systems which we are forced to work within.

But when you look at what is actually needed to provide the essentials for a healthy, fulfilling and creative human life, the processes are really quite simple. They are made more complicated, more elitist and more centralised by a small minority who seek to use our basic needs as a source for their power and wealth. Food is amongst our most fundamental needs and we have been taught that we need industrialisation and high-tech to feed the world. But as ecofeminist and seed freedom advocate Vandana Shiva has shown, most industrial farming creates commodities, not food. It is, and always has been, the world’s numerous small/peasant farms which provide an overwhelming percentage of the world’s nutritional needs.

In terms of anarchist history, the Spanish Revolution of 1936 would not have been possible without a strong peasant base. 50 years of anarchist education (and even longer traditions of autonomy) created the confidence needed for the farmers and factory workers to take things into their own hands. As Buenaventura Durruti famously said:

“We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie may blast and burn its own world before it finally leaves the stage of history. We are not afraid of ruins. We who ploughed the prairies and built the cities can build again, only better next time. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.”

Now that’s confidence. But he ain’t wrong. The world we now inhabit was created by the multitude and stolen by a minority mob who have covered their crimes with a veneer of tradition, law and authority. The truth, which is becoming ever more evident in neoliberal countries such as the UK, US and Brazil, is that all rule is mob rule. One of my favourite descriptions of anarchy is given by the comic book writer Alan Moore in a beautiful interview with Margaret Killjoy, in which he says:

“[A]narchy is in fact the only political position that is actually possible. I believe that all other political states are in fact variations or outgrowths of a basic state of anarchy; after all, when you mention the idea of anarchy to most people they will tell you what a bad idea it is because the biggest gang would just take over. Which is pretty much how I see contemporary society. We live in a badly developed anarchist situation in which the biggest gang has taken over and have declared that it is not an anarchist situation—that it is a capitalist or a communist situation. But I tend to think that anarchy is the most natural form of politics for a human being to actually practice. All it means, the word, is no leaders. An-archon. No leaders.”

The idea that we need to be led by static leaders is a little bit ridiculous when you think about it (and utterly ridiculous when those so-called leaders are the likes of Boris Johnson or Donald Trump). There are, of course, times when we should defer decision making to experts, people who have familiarity with the problem in hand and who have spent time training how to handle it. But you would not then follow that expert’s advice on problems they know nothing about. Why then defer to a ‘leader’ on problems they know nothing about? Worse still, why let a leader overrule expertise in favour of ideology? There are hundreds of thousands of needless Covid-19 related deaths precisely because the UK, US and Brazil chose to do exactly this.

As Alan Moore states in the aforementioned interview, education is the only guaranteed route to non-dysfunctional anarchy. On a personal and community level, this education should focus on providing that which is essential to a healthy, happy, fulfilling life. As anarchists we should equip ourselves with the means to provide for ourselves and our communities. So let’s kick things off with a quick cooking lesson…

Maria Zazzi Minestrone

As a vegan I am always experimenting with recipes which are tasty enough to get as much healthy plant-based nutrition into people’s bodies as possible, while being familiar enough that absolutely anybody will try it. The humble minestrone soup is a winner every time. I know kids who eat this even though they ‘don’t do vegetables’. It is also a dish which you can add absolutely anything to as long as you have the basic flavour of tomatoes, onion and celery. The celery is the important bit here. I use a red celery which I grew from seeds bought from the Real Seed Company (I always save my own seed for future plantings). Red celery has a deeper, more peppery flavour, so is brilliant for cooking. Celery was cultivated from marshland plants and loves to have wet feet, so if there’s a problematic waterlogged patch in your garden try growing it there. Its pungent odour will ward off cabbage butterflies if you plant cabbages nearby and it loves to live with other smelly plants such as thyme, sage, basil and dill.

I’m using passata for this recipe, but a tin of tomatoes works just as well. I am also using soy sauce, but for my truly authentic South Yorkshire recipe you should try to get yourself some Henderson’s Relish instead. Minestrone is, of course, from much further south than South Yorkshire. In honour of its Italian heritage I’m naming this recipe after the Italian-born anarchist and propagandist Maria Zazzi (1904-1993).

Ingredients (scale up to feed the masses):
3 x tbl spoons olive oil
1 x large onion
1 x leek
2 x cloves garlic
2 x medium potatoes
2 x carrots
1 x courgette
2 x sticks celery
500ml passata (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)
1ltr vegetable stock
2 x tbl spoons soy sauce or Henderson’s Relish
200g pasta of your choice (I prefer to break up spaghetti into 3cm lengths)
Handful of sliced cabbage
Handful of spinach
Basil leaves (optional)
Salt & pepper

Method:
The secret is to chop everything up into bite-sized pieces which fit easily in a soup spoon. Start by heating your oil in a large pan or wok. Add the onions first and cook until translucent. Then add the garlic, leeks, potatoes and carrots and cook until softened (approx 10 minutes). Add the celery and courgette, stir for a couple of minutes before adding the passata (or tin of toms). Mix in the soy sauce (or Henderson’s) and then add the vegetable stock and pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil and then simmer for fifteen minutes before adding the cabbage. Simmer for a further ten minutes. Add the spinach and simmer until wilted. Serve in a bowl accompanied with crusty bread. Add basil leaves to the middle of each serving for a bit of posh (and tasty) garnish. If you’re vegan you might want to sprinkle some B12 fortified nutritional yeast over the top as well.

This is an easy one-bowl recipe which you can really play around with. My daughter likes me to add mushrooms. If you’re a grower add whatever’s in season… great for getting rid of a glut. Tastes even better the next day.

Warren Draper


Image: Katrin Morenz, published under CC BY-SA 2.0