Q&A with The People's Cook, Robert Farid Karimi

It’s already day 13 of Robert Farid Karimi’s latest project, 28 Days of Good Energía. Over the past two weeks, Karimi, artistic director of The People’s Cook and artist-in-residence at Intermedia Arts (and playwright, poet, and interdisciplinary artist who moonlights as “Mero Cocinero”), has hosted Feed & Be Fed, an interactive art exhibit featuring the work of local and national artists centered around Día de los Muertos; “Recipes from our Great Grandparents,” a community potluck; and other public events centered around food and the arts.

Jeff Machtig, courtesy of the
John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Tomorrow kicks off the grand finale of sorts, ¡Viva la Soul Power!, an event Karimi describes as “a live performance and culinary experience.” So why all the emphasis on food and art? And what do these seemingly unrelated topics have to do with one another? We talked with Karimi to find out.

Where did the idea for 28 Days come from?

RK: My desire has always been to use food as a way to get people to talk about their world and society. This particular idea came after my father got diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the early 2000s. I wanted to find a way to bring cultural ritual and food together, because if you reconnect people to their cultural food and traditional preparations, you can get them to think more about what they’re eating and how it affects them.

How did the event come to fruition?

RK: I received funding for 28 Days through Creative Capital and the MAP Fund in 2009 and 2010, and have spent the last two years interviewing people all over the country: dietitians, nutritionists, etc. Last year, we started putting together rough drafts of the show, performing bits and pieces here and there. This is the first time we’ve put all the elements together.

How has it been received?

RK: It’s been pretty freaking amazing. Last year we sold out every show here when we did our preview of the pop-up cooking, and we are expecting just as good of a turnout for ¡Viva la Soul Power! this year.

What exactly is ¡Viva la Soul Power!?

RK: It’s an interactive journey led by Mero Cocinero (Karimi’s character) that involves storytelling, eating, laughing, and learning about why we eat and how it affects us, both personally and as a group. It’s both a show and a meal; a chance to be entertained and a chance to engage.

What do you hope people take away from their experience?

RK: This is about creating a consciousness about food—about the energy that can be created when you reconnect to your culture. It takes 28 days to form a habit. We want everyone in the Twin Cities and beyond to make good energy a habit. This is the beginning of good health for everyone.

¡Viva la Soul Power! runs November 1-4 and 7-10 at Intermedia Arts. Shows start at 7 p.m. and cost $25. Dinner is included with your ticket.

28 Days of Good Energia runs through November 15 at Intermedia Arts. See website for more details: intermediaarts.org

Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-871-4444, intermediaarts.org