Shoshana Devra Perrey
Owner & Chef, Liberation Supper Club
I am an artist, chef, gardener and graduate researcher with a focus on food, farming and cuisine. I’m fascinated by peoples’ stories and experiences that connect their daily lives and work to a particular place, especially those who work the land or craft objects from locally-sourced materials.
I’m studying Development Sociology at Cornell University, and my master’s thesis work investigates the transitions of agrobiodiversity, seed conservation and links to traditional culinary knowledge with indigenous farmers and housewives in the Chinantla region of Oaxaca, Mexico.
In Ithaca, NY, I’m the owner and chef of Liberation Supper Club, a farm-to-table and wild foods catering company that cultivates a sense of place by telling the story of where food comes from. In 2013, I helped start an organic blueberry u-pick farm and a friend supported agriculture (FSA) workers group in Van Etten, NY.
Numerous international urban & rural farming experiences have deepened my research interests of food sovereignty, agroecology and cuisine in highly biodiverse conservation areas in California, New York, Southern France, Madagascar, Galápagos Islands and Oaxaca, Mexico. I was trained as a first responder through Community Organized Response to Emergencies (CORE) and collaborated with various grassroots organizations to support residents’ restoration and return efforts in New Orleans, LA following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. New Orleans has been in my heart ever since my first visit in 2000, and I’ve been impassioned to better understand racism and work towards equity in the food system ever since.
In the future, I see myself continuing to grow my catering company as a way to integrate people’s many meanings of the word “liberation” through sharing vitalizing dining experiences, growing healthy food and learning through positive hands-on work.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Recently, an inciteful friend remarked that I’m inspired by “the liminal”, those moments or expressions that are right on the threshhold of a boundary or extreme – like the darkest colors of blue sky before night falls – or, the initial stage of a process – like Spring. Subtle flavor of the sea in dashi (seaweed-based broth) which implies salty and umami, but almost not there. The liminal turns me on because it accentuates our sensory experience, and inspires us to use our senses, interpret and hopefully, express them through words.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?
One that I’d like to do: Meteorological Aircraft Pilot. Having grown up in California and always having had monotonous drought weather year round, I was thrilled by the idea of being a helicopter pilot who flew into the eye of tornadoes and storms for meteorological research. We never had weather like that, so storms have thrilled me my whole life. That profession would allow me to hop around the less-visited, fascinating places I’d like to visit in Alaska, New Zealand, Borneo and Iceland. Another job that I always wanted to do was cartographic and science illustrator. Since I prefer to use good old fashion wax colors though, I was turned off by the requirement to depend on extensive use of computer programs instead of using my hand to illustrate and paint. One that I would not like to do: Art Conservator in a Museum. I did explore this possibility in my early 20s and realized that it was too chemistry-intensive for my tastes, and the pressure to control chemistry while flawlessly recreating another artists work felt like it would be too draining on my artistic motivation. For me, its important that my work allows for creative freedom and liberates my interest in design, aesthetics and color. I’m so happy doing that now with food and flavors on the pallet, and dishes, beverages and menus as the finished art pieces.
If you could go back and tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Seek happiness, positive motivation and practice daily what helps your skills grow (whether they be for work, relationships or personal health) – you’re likely to get really good at what you practice. Oh, and, pick up an instrument and start playing now! Music is one of the best languages you’ll ever learn.
If you had a motto (or a mantra), what would it be?
When I meditate, I often come back to my center by inhaling “loving kindness” and exhaling “release”, a beautiful way to focus on my breath and relax, that I learned from Pema Chodron. Motto? “The best things in life are moist.” – Shoshiety. To me this means that water is life, and so is having a sense of humor about it. Whenever I’m in a new place, I often look for the source of water and gravitate towards it.
If you could cook a meal for any one person, living or dead, who would they be and what would you cook?
That’s a great question: I’d cook a meal for Lucile Spitz, my grandmother who I never had the opportunity to meet. I’d attempt to make Crepes Suzette for her, which my mother told me was her favorite dish. I’d ask her about the women and mothers in my matrilineal heritage and ask her for a list of all the favorite foods, their meanings and their origins in our family. This would bring me a deep sense of roots, knowing where they spring from, so I can continue growing them forward.
Name one thing that you have tried to grow, raise, produce or cook that was a surprising success? A total failure?
Nothing is a total failure, in my book, so I’ll just say, don’t give up on learning through experimentation! A huge success for growing food in Ithaca occurred upon moving to Ithaca from Oaxaca, Mexico in 2011, when I planted native heirloom corn in the Woodsearth Living Classroom Community Garden. We were delightfully surprised that this corn grew to over 10 ft tall, and produced 1-2 ears each! We were surprised because the corn was a landrace variety – meaning one that had been grown and adapted to the local environment by farmers – for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The environment in Mexico was very dry year-round and yet the summer of 2012 when we planted it was extremely humid and rainy. Still the resilience of this corn shined! I harvested very little corn for eating, but definitely a nice amount to reseed the corn for a few years after.
Name 3 things in nature that you find beautiful.
- Pelicans and herons flying across the sunsetting sky over the Pacific Ocean, right above the fog line.
- Furry animals foraging on wild berry plants afruit in high summer.
- The gurgling echo of a creek running underneath a sheath of ice in early spring.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? What time of the day do you feel the most energetic and what do you usually do in those moments?
I’m a night owl, but I feel very energetic about a half-hour after I awake and I like to meditate, make love and do yoga in these moments.
What is something you love to make?
I love to make connections between people, especially through the interpersonal and historical meanings of food and the sensory experience. To that end, I love to nourish people with food that satisfies their souls.
What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word?
- Least favorite words include: hate, fear, member, body, chalkboard and undergird, parking.
- Moist, bubble, boing, harmony, cacaphony, clasps are a few of my favorite words. In Spanish, I must include “estacionamiento” which is a beautiful sounding word which means parking! In French, “silloner” which is to roam, to sail back and forth, to traverse.