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Kim Upstill Kim Upstill

Unearthing Roots


Exploring Californian immigrant histories, labor, and agriculture through food, stories, and community

Unearthing Roots: Real Californian Cuisine was a four course culinary and oral storytelling experience for thirty attendees where food and work were celebrated and investigated through a critical historical lense, challenging diners to engage with their food’s literal and conceptual past. 

The desire to build the event stemmed from a conversation with Janaki Jagannath about the limited room for interpersonal cross-pollination and celebration in the world of NGO work. and even less opportunity for such discussion and interactions in a public forum. We were, and are, concerned with the close relationship between fine dining and fine forgetting - the erasure of agricultural history and immigrant labor as an easy and popular move of the hungry.

Hosted in soft lighting, on white table clothes, Unearthing Roots exsisted in a celebratory, opulent setting while focusing the conversation, stories and food on California’s immigrant and agricultural history. Four women from Janaki’s NGO and academic networks, whose professional work engaged with California’s history were invited to share stories from their research and personal experiences through food and oral storytelling. The courses served at the dinner were designed and cooked by each presenter, the ingredients and recipes consumed related physically and sometimes lyrically to the historic and geographic content or each woman's presentation. Storytellers and organizers invited their friends, family, and community to the table to share information, celebrate their work, and think more deeply about their food. 

Additional to curating, organizing and promoting the event, Janaki and I created an illustrated menu-zine that toyed with the space between historical information, ingredients and personal narrative.