Kitchen as Community

Macrobiotic Zen is a restaurant in Barcelona that is locally sourced, organic, vegan. On a typical day you go in through the plant filled entrance, grab a tray along your way and head to the kitchen in the back. The space is set up cafeteria style so there are no servers and the meal choices change depending on the day. Rare in Barcelona, water is free and limitless (this was the only place I went in the city where that was the case).
I include this restaurant because it hosts events where they not only teach people how to cook but also about nutrition, ethical consumption and farming and connect people in the community to nearby farms. They also have a library with a wide range of books, mostly community written and published, about the ethics of consumption.

I was introduced to the restaurant through the Barcelona burning man community (Burners are a whole other topic and space that I will discuss in a later post). When we walked in, my friends knew nearly everyone in the restaurant and admitted that they came here almost daily to eat. I find out later when we go to pay that the restaurant encourages people to come frequently by offering discounts for multiple meals. Each meal is a set price – 11.50 € but if you buy a meal card for 11 meals, each meal comes out to about 9 €. The portions are ample. I eat a LOT and could not finish my meal which consisted of a first course, I chose the vegetable thick soup, a main with 3 sides, desert and tea. All made in the kitchen in large quantities.

In college we had a perversion of this called an Eating Club, where members would come together to have their meals. Eating together truly creates community however on Princeton’s campus these spaces were used more to party, drink and socially stratify the campus than to eat, learn and grow together inclusively.

Like many spaces, you can experience Macrobiotic Zen on different levels. You can be a regular, you can attend workshops and seminars, you can volunteer in the kitchen in exchange for meals and cooking lessons, you can go out and meet with the farmers, you can work in the farms, you can join the conversation by publishing with them, or you can strictly drop in one day to eat. On its face, Macrobiotic Zen is simply a restaurant, but beneath the surface lies a community that is shifting consciousness on consumption and empowering local farmers. This level of community organizing and empowerment is a beautiful example of how already existing concepts of space, such as a restaurant, can be transformed into an empowering community space.