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June 17, 2021

What is queer food? Justin tries to explain

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I’m often asked how the LGBTQ+ community fits into the food world. Recently, the terms ‘queer food’ and ‘queer hospitality’ have been tossed around to explain and/or give queer food professionals an identity. Unfortunately, when these terms are used, they are rarely given an explanation or definition, and are left for readers’ interpretation. We, as the queer community, are still trying to define it and give it meaning.

My explanation of queer food and queer hospitality is not something tangible. Our approach to food is not centered around the things served and offered, but more on why we’re cooking or pouring you drinks and inviting you into our spaces. Our food and our hospitality are rooted in being outcast by our blood families or closest friends when coming out.

We move away from our hometowns, alone and stranded. If we’re fortunate enough, we find jobs and build a new life in a new town or city, while others struggle, jobless and homeless. Whichever path we’re handed, no matter the circumstances, queer people are looking for belonging and community. Once we find one, we attach to it unconditionally. We create a space that is accepting and supportive to anyone and everyone. The queer community intersects with a myriad of cultures, races, religions, and genders — and with that comes a wide spectrum of queer representation.

We establish a community centered around acceptance, hungry for validation that we are worthy and loved. Our food represents that. We cook from the recipes that our blood families taught us even when abandoned by them, because the food we grew up eating is an extension of who we are as a whole. We cook with intention, knowing that when someone is down, abandoned, and shamed for who they are that a warm meal with a supportive family can be the one thing that saves them.

Queer food is a story, our journey to finding acceptance. Before there were enough safe spaces for the queer community to gather, there were secret queer potlucks. These potlucks brought people and food from a variety of places together around one table. That is what queer hospitality is: a safe space for everyone and anyone to gather and commune.

This Pride, when dining out at queer-owned restaurants and bars or businesses that openly staff queer employees, know that the
food and hospitality that you are receiving is provided to you with unconditional love and acceptance. We’re welcoming you into our family, even for the briefest moment. You are loved, you are not alone, you are supported.

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