Amanda Levitt Talks Fat Body Politics

Amanda is a writer an activist and the creative mind behind Fat Body Politics. She recently appeared on CNN to speak about her activism and her blog.  Amanda was awesome enough to answer some fat activism questions for Ottawa Squad leader Kelly Bennett. 

The Ottawa Squad recently attended an event and we were told it was awesome to have ‘fatties supporting fatties’. Why do you think that kind of support is important in activism?

Having a good support system in activism is an integral part of building or having community. For me that means creating an environment where I’m not only supporting the work of other people but I am also emotionally supporting others when I am able to. There are a lot of people who come into movement / communities wanting to become famous or be a spokesperson. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing I find it really harmful to position yourself as that person if you are also ignoring the history that came before you and the people who are doing amazing work right alongside you.

So knowing how that continues to happen within fat community has made me support the work of other fat people, but I also try to support the work of other marginalized communities as well. We’re all in this together and leaving people behind isn’t an acceptable way to build a community or to fight inequality.

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Interviewing a Fat Girl Dancing, Whitney Thore

I spend a whole lot of time fighting on Facebook but sometimes I get lucky and come across something that blows my mind in the best possible way. A few weeks ago it was this video of NoBodyShameCampaign’s Whitney Thore, called ‘A Fat Girl Dancing’

I scrambled to email Whitney (after I stopped chair dancing) and she was awesome enough to answer some questions for us.

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(N)oodles: Ottawa’s Sip N’ Slurp Noodlefest

Photo by MC Bennett

Based on the crowds and lineups at Privé Food Thought’s Noodlefest, Ottawa is super into sipping and slurping.

There were two rooms this time; Privé learned quickly from their overpacked first event, the Underground Food Market, that one room for vendors and one room for eating was the best way to go. Even then, seating was scarce and line ups were long.

Photo by MC Bennett

Crowds amass, awaiting their noodles

We took what we learned at the Underground Food Market and started to divide and conquer; MC took on the Phở Me? Phở You! line and I headed to Gongfu Bao. We waited about fifteen minutes in each line, though some booths had less and some had an even longer wait.

I got two dishes from Gongfu Bao, the shiitake mushroom and the maple charsiu pork. They’d actually suffered a severe noodle malfunction, but were serving the dishes up with their amazing ‘killer slaw’. Ok, confession: I hate slaw. But this? This I think I could eat buckets of. The pork was awesome too, but the shiitake mushrooms were beyond belief. I dropped my chopsticks and went for a spoon.

Photo by MC Bennett

Shiitake mushrooms and maple charsiu pork, with some seriously killer slaw.

MC grabbed Phở Me? Phở You!’s Báhn Cuôn with ground pork and mushrooms. The filling was good, the noodle itself left something to be desired. After a brief floor picnic we moved back into the vendor area and ended up next to Jonathan Korecki’s station!

Photo by MC Bennett

Gongfu Bao and Pho Me? Pho You! floor picnic!

The only season of Top Chef we ever watched was the one with Jonathan on it, and we’d finally gotten to go to his restaurant, Sidedoor, recently, and after loving nearly everything on that menu, we were totally psyched to see what he was bringing to Noodlefest.

Hint: It was bandanas!

Well, also duck. A bbq duck ramen, actually. We originally ordered one to share but quickly reconsidered and went back for a second one. And a bandana, because what better souvenir! Jonathan’s dish was the best one we tried; flavourful, perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection.

Photo by MC Bennett

Jonathan Korecki cooking up some duck ramen

We ended our night with elk teriyaki ramen from MSG Catering. The elk was tender and delicious, and we got the freshest batch, since we’d waited for them to boil the water to cook the noodles! We loved the little containers it came in too, it made for a great presentation.

Photo by MC Bennett

Some super signage from MSG Catering

All in all, Sip N’ Slurp was a success for vendors and eaters alike. Next up: Tacofest. Stay tuned.

Squad Leader Kelly sipping and slurping!

Squad Leader Kelly sipping and slurping!

3, 2, 1, DRINK!

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Coke vs. Pepsi

Beatles vs. Stones

Athens vs. Sparta

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning

These are some of the greatest rivalries known to the world. We’d like to add one more:

Beer vs. Wine

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Restaurant International at Algonquin College is offering the opportunity for this rivalry to finally be solved, over a five course dinner specially prepared to match with five beers and five wines. A resident beer expert and sommelier will be on hand to help the diners decide on the ultimate food pairing winner.

The showdown occurs on February 27th, and Fat Girl Food Squad has ringside seats. Get your tickets and join us for the epic battle.

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Clear Eyes, Full Tummies, Can’t Lose: Texas Forever

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Fully loaded Cabo Tacos

Melty messy goodness. That’s pretty much all I need to sum up the dishes we tried at Lone Star Texas Grill this week. They’re premiering a new Tex Mex menu, focusing on freshness (an awesome thing to see in Ottawa in mid-January) and it was avocado and spicy sauces as far as the eye could see.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Southern Fried Avocado

We started with the creamy crunchy Southern Fried Avocado appetizer, which was perfect for two people, though we probably could have each used a trough of the sauce that came with it. Our waiter came back to tell us what was in it with a list: ranch dressing, tomatillo salsa, cilantro, hot sauce, jalapeno relish… It was a great spicy compliment to the crisp fried, rich avocado.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Creamy on the inside, crispy on the outside (Southern Fried Avocado)

We also tried the Mexican Burger and the Cabo Tacos, both of which were the definition of messy and melty. The Cabo tacos were loaded, and the taste was a little overwhelming; too many things on the tacos made it hard to parse individual flavours, and the sauce didn’t really let the ingredients shine through. Where the tacos may have fallen slightly short, the burger took it up a notch. It was topped with the Southern fried avocado (you can also get fresh) and with the mesquite grilled flavour of the beef, the kick of the pepper sauce, and the freshness of the tomatillo salsa, any additional condiments would have been superfluous.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Apple Sizzler (aka butter rum heaven)

Throw in a sampler of the honey chipotle lime salad dressing, two Purple Rain shots, and an Apple Sizzler dessert (bury me in butter rum sauce poured over ice cream in a hot skillet) and I’m more than good with the kind of Southern hospitality you find in Ottawa in January.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Squad Leader Kelly digs in

Sip N’ Slurp ‘N Ottawa

Sip N' Slurp

Sip N’ Slurp!

One thing we here at Fat Girl Food Squad can get behind is messy eating. Be it overflowing burgers, melting ice cream or sticky stringy cheese, we’re always on the look out for something that lets us really get our hands dirty. Or, in this case, our faces.

Sip N’ Slurp is Ottawa’s Noodlefest, brought to the city by Privé Food Thought, the same group who brought us the incredibly successful Underground Food Market.

Get your Noodlefest tickets fast; the Food Market sold out, and there’s no doubt Ottawa’s noodle craving will match it. And if you can’t make it, check back here for our fully, messy coverage.

It Gets Fatter Project is Reorienting Desire Tonight in Ottawa

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Tonight Ottawa is lucky enough to have the It Gets Fatter Project in town, hosting an event on Reorienting Desire. The It Gets Fatter Project is a body positivity project, started by queer fat people of colour FOR queer fat people of colour, and this workshop will serve as a space to examine how fatphobia structures our visions of desirable bodies.

We reached out to It Gets Fatter Project and they were awesome enough to answer some of our questions. We can’t wait to go hang out with them tonight.

Is this your first event in Ottawa? We’re excited to have you!

It’s Asam’s first time, but Sara presented the keynote at last year’s Project Acorn gathering. We are excited to be back!

Obviously being fat is a gendered conversation, but can you give us a quick rundown of why it was important for IGF to be a poc led project, for poc?

I think for fat folks who are racialized the answer to this question is as obvious as fat being a gendered conversation. The ways in which we experience body shame and body policing are so intimately tied to processes of racialization that I actually don’t even know how I could think about fatness without thinking about race, (or really, how I could think about the body without also thinking about the ways in which it is gendered and raced and classed etc).

Just to start off with, fatness & race are rarely discussed together within white fat activism. And yet, discourses around obesity often visibilize and centre on fat poc – even as these campaigns have little to no input from the people who are being used as props to signify the dangers of obesity. The idea that Black people have “bad” eating habits and only have themselves to blame for being fat is so pervasive in US pop culture it goes almost unquestioned or even unnoticed. And how fat racialized bodies are policed and shamed is intimately tied to histories of colonialism and imperialist and orientalist stereotypes of “the Other.” (For instance, it might be “liberating” for a white woman to walk around without shaving her armpits, but the same choice from a dark-skinned woc will mean she will often get read as a “savage” who doesn’t know how to conform to Western standards of hygiene and needs rescuing.)

When we started IGF it was because we didn’t feel there was any space in fat activism to talk about these things. There is a long history of fat activism being centred and being dominated by the voices and narratives of white fat people. Unfortunately, for a lot of poc these voices just don’t resonate because we don’t see ourselves in these narratives. It is impossible for poc to divorce their race from any aspect of their lives, and any discourse or activism that doesn’t even notice or mention race is obviously not gonna be very useful for most poc.

Finally, 500 years of colonialism has meant that so many Black, Indigenous and poc communities have internalized white, European standards of beauty and aesthetic norms. One of the most painful experiences I have had as a fat brown guy has been the constant fat shaming in my own community. But this is painful especially because I know skinny white bodies were not always idealized in my culture. There is so much anecdotal evidence (art, poetry, music, etc.) that shows us that all kinds of bodies were revered in South Asian culture. And yet because of colonialism that history is often lost or remains unspoken. These are conversations white fat activists wouldn’t even begin to know how to have. So I think all of these things illustrate the importance of poc only spaces for fat poc’s.

Are conversations about fatness, and specifically about fatness and race easier to have in queer spaces? How much does intersectionality play into the IGF project?

I think it really depends on what kind of queers are present in the room. Sometimes folks will internalize dominant ideas about race & fatness, and so obviously those conversations are even harder to have than with say, straight white folks who just don’t like fat or queer people. But IGF is born through the intersections we carry as queer, racialized, fat folks and so we try our best to make sure the spaces we create and facilitate are always keenly attuned to the ways in which intersectionality impacts our experiences of marginalization.

What’s the best response you’ve witnessed to fatshaming?

“Fuck you, no one cares about your diet!”

What do you think of the recent articles about how fat positivity isn’t just for bigger women? I noticed you used ‘self identify as fat’ on your tumblr. At what point does thin privilege take over self identifying as fat? Does it?

There’s definitely this hierarchy of who gets to be celebrated for speaking out on fat issues and who gets completely ignored. Even within fat activism supersize folks have often felt excluded (even at NOLOSE!). There’s also the danger of who becomes the “face” of “fat positivity”. The idea that Lena Dunham’s body is radical or revolutionary in any way to be so nude all the time on Girls just shows how much work there still needs to be done when it comes to body positivity. These are things we are still thinking about, but so far we haven’t had any issues with workshops or video submissions. At the end of the day, as long as folks are aware of the privileges they carry and how much space they take up, we’re not interested in policing definitions of fatness. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

Reserve tickets for tonight’s 6:30pm event at venusenvy.ca, by phone 613-789-4646, or in person at the Bank St. Ottawa location. 

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Ottawa Goes Underground (with Hot Cream Holes)

photo by M.C. Bennett

Kelly enjoys some Hot Cream Holes

We spent the three weeks leading up to Privé’s Underground Chef’s Market trying to explain to people what it was, without truly having any idea.

‘I think chefs can come try their new recipes?’

‘Yeah, I think it’ll be booths with different local food!’

‘You buy a ticket, and then you can buy food from restaurants and chefs. I think.’

All of these are correct. And all of them are understatements.

The first (of hopefully many) Underground Chef’s Market was a success, both for the vendors and the consumers. At its core, it was a large hall with tables lining the edges and each vendor had a selection of tasting plates priced at under ten bucks apiece. You lined up, paid for the dish, and enjoyed your food standing at bar tables, sharing with equally food-enthusiastic strangers.

photo by M.C. Bennett

Rosie’s shows off paella; their signature dish.

Beyond that, it was a perfect example of Ottawa’s meteoric food scene. There is a call for this; people want new food, they wantgood food and they want Ottawa food. The market sold out of tickets, and the volume of people buying food probably could have supported many more vendors.

There were about thirty vendors present, with selections ranging from donuts and baked goods to chocolate sushi to paella and pupusas. The two most popular (based purely on length of lines) were Gongfu Bao’s dumpling food cart and 327 Wine Bar’s duck confit sliders. Line-ups were long enough that we didn’t actually get to try them.

That would actually have been our only complaint; long and confusing lines made waiting for some of the dishes frustrating, and hopefully the organizers can address this for future events.

The dishes we did try were amazing, though. Mitch’s Pork Station was serving up confit pork belly with smoked bacon perogies and a sassafras sauce, all of which just melted in your mouth. A lobster and mushroom risotto with a parmesan crisp was flavourful and delicious. We tried mustard and sausages, a honey sauced peach cobbler, and some waffles topped with jalapeno whipped cream. We also tried paella from Rosie’s Southern Kitchen and Raw Bar, something which is going to be a signature dish when they open in the Glebe later this winter. It was delicious, not too spicy and packed with seafood. And of course, Hot Cream Holes; small donuts sliced in half and lightly fried, with ice cream in the middle. Add on a variety of toppings (salted caramel, chocolate sauce, a cherry) and you’ve got yourself one of the messiest most delicious desserts we’ve ever eaten.

photo by M.C. Bennett

Pork belly confit and perogies from Mitch’s Pork

The Market was a kickass food experience that we can’t wait to see grow and improve as the food scene in Ottawa grows too. Up next from Privé? Sip and Slurp Noodlefest, a Taco Festival and a Slider Festival. Hell yes, we’re hooked.

Go Local, Go Home: Ottawa and Kichesippi Beer Company

Photo by Luap Redni

Kelly and Stephanie learning about how and when hops are added.

A long long time ago (not really), the Ottawa crew attended their first event as Fat Girl Food Squad. It was a grand opening for a knife store, and along with music and knives and coffee, we were introduced to the Kichesippi Beer Company.

They were slinging their newest product, a soda line called Harvey and Vern’s, and making dark and stormy’s (a new obsession for us). We met with Sheena and Grayson, and chatted soda and beer and had a great time.

Then, suddenly, it was like we couldn’t stop noticing Kichesippi beer. It was everywhere! It was in our favourite restaurants! It was at festivals we attended! It was sold at the LCBO! What was this company?

Photo by Luap Redni

M.C., Stephanie and Kelly getting a Kichesippi Beer education.

A little more research led us to find out a whole lot more, and one more kickass thing Ottawa can call its own; Kichesippi Beer Company.

Started about three years ago, Kichesippi is a mom-and-pop organization that now employs about fifteen staff. They started in Ottawa, and have been brewing here ever since; the product is available only in Ottawa and the surrounding area making it a truly local beer. Year round they serve up a natural blonde, and 1855 (the year Bytowne became Ottawa). They also serve up seasonal beers, and do one-offs throughout the year for special occasions and vendors.

Photo by Luap Redni

Roasted malts. They were a tasty snack, actually.

Awesomely enough, the brewery does tours on Saturday, so we took a drive just outside of downtown to go try some beer and learn something new. We were greeted by two enthusiastic, plaid wearing, grinning dudes who immediately offered us beer (and soda for our designated driver). Can all tours start like that?

Our tour was in-depth and amazing. We talked a lot about the science of brewing, went through the entire brew process from malt to bottling, and really enjoyed hashing out the minute details of the process. Our guide Chris was clearly enthusiastic not only about the product, but about the people and company. He’s their sustainability guy, too; so we got to hear about initiatives the company is working on to greenify themselves and keep their waste lower. Between looking into vats and fermentation tanks, we talked malt, hops, IBU, water waste, filtration, and liquor laws.

Photo by Luap Redni

This is where the malts are soaked.

And we drank a good amount of beer. Confession: I’m not a huge beer drinker, but I’m a big fan of both of Kichesippi’s year-round brews. Both of them are easy to drink, refreshing and appeal to even non-beer drinkers, I think. I’ve also really enjoyed the beers I’ve had seasonally and at festivals or for vendors. The Manx Pub serves a stock ale made by Kichesippi. I’ve tried Kichesippi’s porter at Atomic Rooster and they made a one-off beer for Arboretum Festival this summer that was easily one of the smoothest beers I’ve had.

Photo by Luap Redni

Ottawa Squad members Stephanie, Kelly and M.C. show some Ottawa pride with a photo under the Kichesippi logo

No beer is actually being brewed on Saturdays (other than some full fermentation tanks) but the retail store out front was hosting a good amount of traffic (along with merch, you can buy the Harvey and Vern’s soda and the Kichesippi beers in bottles, growlers and kegs). After a growler (who knew that was a thing!) of 1855 and a weekend spent curled up in my Kichesippi hoodie? I’m a convert, for sure. Bring on the beer.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

M.C. rocking her Kichesippi hoodie.

Ottawa’s Auntie Loo’s Vegan Treats Celebrates 4 Years & 2nd Location

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Words & Photos by Traci Ward

Mandi Loo and the Auntie Loo’s crew finally found their dream space! Enough room for more baking and space for customers to walk in and pick up treats. Now Auntie Loo’s Treats is open and ready for business at 112 Nelson St, Unit 101C! They celebrated their new space — and 4th birthday — with a grand opening party on November 9th. Auntie Loo’s Treats provides Ottawa with 100% vegan goodies. Cupcakes, wedding cakes, and cookies are all made fresh with local and organic ingredients, and exclude eggs, dairy and any animal based products.

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Auntie Loo’s Treats was packed from 11-4pm with friends, family and customers excited to check out the new shop and purchase the treats on hand. Birthday Cake and Maple “Bacon” Cupcakes were some of the new flavours that were being enjoyed by many. They had delicious vegan date squares, peppermint crunch nanaimo bars and regular ones too! Date squares and nanaimo bars have always been my favorite and these vegan versions are better than the traditional ones. While I’m a fan of Auntie Loo’s squares, I asked Mandi what her favorite was, “Our German chocolate cake. It’s a coffee infused chocolate cake topped with a salty vanilla topping that contains coconut and pecans. Yum yum! Also, I love our chocolate chip cookies.” Sounds delicious!

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Tons of free samples were handed out on Saturday by Rideau Valley Roller Girls, and The Champagnes. LUSH Byward Market had a sweet smelling table set up with their cruelty free soaps. Cute cupcake tattoos were provided by MOD Tattoo’s Crystal Balser, a vegan tattoo artist. Some of our FGFS Ottawa ladies are now rocking some cupcakes on their skin permanently.

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If you had your fill of sweet treats, and needed something to warm yourself up, a vegan BBQ with vegan chili provided everyone with a tasty lunch, and donations were made to the Westminster Pet Sanctuary.

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Working out of a small shop on Bronson Ave. since 2009, head lady Mandi Loo knew it was time for a bigger space. Not only have their vegan wedding cakes become more popular, they are now supplying several Farm Boy locations across the city with their special treats.

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“We realized around Christmas last year that we had just seriously outgrown the Bronson Location.” Mandi says, “Our wedding cake department was getting bigger and bigger… then we got picked up by Farm Boy in the spring.  Eight employees, one oven, 600 square feet, 5 Farm Boys twice a week, plus our other wholesale accounts, walk in’s and birthday cakes and special orders… it was just nuts!”

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“We’ll have more room to grow as a business at our new location.” Mandi said.

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The move from Bronson was bittersweet, Mandi says “We loved the neighbourhood, the people (who were SO protective of the shop), and it was kinda cute being located in a heritage home. We won’t miss freight trucks getting stuck, folks having to back out on to Bronson in rush hour traffic, and no proper parking. As well as that we had to store our dry goods in the basement and sometimes bringing stuff upstairs could pose a challenge.”

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Having a 100% vegan bakery is something Mandi is very passionate about, and being vegan is a way of life. “I’m vegan because I love animals.  Love love love. I love being vegan because I know I am not contributing to the suffering of our furry friends!” Mandi says. “ Also I feel that you get a chance to be more creative and adventurous with your cooking- it’s awesome.”

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Editors note: Ottawa Squad Co-leaders Kelly and MC got vegan tattoos to mark the occasion! Talk about die-hard fans!