This queer cooking collective hosts psychosexual dinner parties
Serving up everything from shaved pig heart to a witchy scotch bonnet buttercream layer cake, New York's Spiral Theory Test Kitchen wants you to play with your food.
Courtesy of Spiral Theory Test Kitchen
Spiral Theory started as a zine that Bobbi Salvör Menuez and Precious Okoyomon never ended up making. Then it was an experimental band that played just three shows (Elsewhere, Bridget Donahue and a gallery on Avenue D) and was once described as the best puppet show of the year. Now, with the addition of Quori Theodor, it's a queer cooking collective -- Spiral Theory Test Kitchen -- that's best described as a group of fun friends with a background in food as art.
“Spiral Theory is an opportunity for all of us to deepen our devotion to our inner lives through food,” they explain. “To access our limitless imagination, rethinking the possible. To fully inhabit joy and the desire of endless pleasure. To confront fear, eat it and destroy it. To clear room for a sense of humour. To rub up on the perverse. To face the overwhelming suffering in our world with an oscillating sense of time and place. To recognise home as a feeling that can pass and return. To build intimacy and create spaces for fragilization. STTK is an opportunity to share all of this with others.” I mean… sounds pretty great, right?
Put simply, this isn’t the type of dining experience where you can check out the menu beforehand to alleviate food anxieties. Given it’s all pretty conceptual -- sometimes even springing forth from poetry -- there’s no typical cuisine either, but they promise that they’ll always have something “Nigerian-level spicy” on offer. While two out of the three chefs are vegetarian, this doesn’t deter them from getting experimental with high-impact meats, having previously served up shaved sourdough-cured pig heart, and songbirds tied up with bondage rope, heads still attached. But then there are the desserts -- the sweet, sweet jelly cakes, and the positively possessed five-layer cake with a thousand and one flavours topped with a scotch bonnet and cantaloupe buttercream and edible flowers. Like a Marie Antoinette feast on acid. Expect bugs, edible dirt and antique gynaecological tools as cutlery.
"This is the most queer, trans, GNC food I've ever had in my whole life,” says Pose star Indya Moore as they eat heaped spoonfuls of dragon fruit in footage from a recent STTK dinner party. “This is legit… it's so gay." Somehow not yet convinced that an invitation to one of their soirées is exactly what’s missing from your social calendar? Let the team behind Spiral Theory whet your appetite as we quiz them on everything from their dream dinner party guests to the fictional food they crave; from their fridge staples to what they’ve hidden inside their edible ball gags. For real.
Hello culinary geniuses. First up, what did you mean when you said that "STTK engages food as a psychosexual object”?
Well, we make food that enters you and changes your gut forever... we enter you and then we never leave.
Why do you think people are so into what you’re doing?
Maybe because people are spiritually hungry and that manifests as physical hunger?
So, how do we bag an invite to one of your dinner parties?
We do projects right now about one per month. They’re a ton of work so we try to keep the guest lists small-ish but we’ve also had events that are ticketed to raise money for things we care about and we try to push the numbers on those. In the future we want to do more rogue projects that are just open to the public and free. Like, just meet us somewhere. That would be like a blast. We’re also looking to do more food installations that people can visit and snack on over a longer stretch of time.
What should food fans expect from a night chez vous?
The whole project is pretty performative. Sometimes that comes in the form of the guests having rules like feeding each other, or they might have to serve themselves off an antique gurney with gynaecological tools. Sometimes we read the menu out loud like a reading, or sometimes a dish requires us to go around and unveil something. We have also worked with performers, like our friend who plays string instruments from the 1700s!
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
Well we recently had Frank Oz as a special guest at a dinner (who, if you don’t know, does the voice of so many special characters like Kermit, Cookie Monster, Yoda, the list is very long). Having the food expertise of Cookie Monster at a meal was a real honour. Blessed! We want to cook for everyone though, so anyone who can dream with us has a seat at our table.
If you guys could eat any fictional food, what would you eat?
Well, we tend to make a lot of those fictional foods a reality, that’s definitely part of the project. The food fight scene from the movie Hook is a huge influence.
Hit us with your fridge staples.
Bobbi: Yuzukosho or coriander chutney -- we like to put on eggs in the morning. Our fridge always has a lot of fermenting things that we make. We have these tiny Kewpie mayo packets from Japan which is cool, because mayo goes bad. We have a lot of traditional Japanese pickles and things like natto, ume, and brined sancho peppers too. Shoutout to Kate’s Butter. The fridge is cool.
Precious: There’s a lot of meat slow-brined in koji -- right now it’s pig hearts in orchid flowers with ghost pepper and beeswax. I’ve had a persimmon kick, so there’s a lot of different types of persimmons fermented in jams with garum and fish heads. It gets really crazy in my fridge. You can for sure always find snake blood in my fridge too... you know, for that morning grapefruit ;)
We want a STTK x Bon Appetit show, or at least a recipe book. Will you deliver?
A show would be so unhinged! All these shows make food so clean and glamorous and that is definitely not our approach. It would be cool to see something that’s explicitly anti-colonial and trans on a cooking channel. In terms of a book, we’re thinking of publishing a series of our menus and recipes, because those are basically writing projects already. It would be a really different way to write theory, to bring praxis directly into what is a super abstract tradition.
How many courses is too many courses?
It’s never enough. I want it to literally rain down edible mist from a tiny cloud that follows you around, so like, we don’t really have a limit and why should anyone?!
How're those edible ball gags coming along?
They’re becoming a sort of signature palate cleanser for us. We have been juicing our own juice for them and they always have something inside as a reward for those who get to the centre, last time it was pickled sakura blossom!
Has anybody been put off by the bugs/edible dirt/gynaecological tools?
Consent is really important to us -- we push a lot of buttons but hopefully it comes across that the container in which it happens is always in the best interest of all those present. We never get insulted if someone can’t eat something. Those kinds of dishes are supposed to be an experiment with your own discomfort, and maybe finding joy in something you were scared of before. That process is ultimately all guided by you.
What culinary creation are you most proud of?
Honestly, we trust ourselves a ton and it magically works out most of the time. That’s a culinary creation I’m proud of, trust. It can take the form of giant multi-tiered cakes in flavours that don’t exist. We’ve been making edible balloons too, which are hilarious and challenging, and our jello sculptures are always wild looking. Many dishes completely reimagine Nigerian classics. Personally, I like dishes best when I don’t think they will work out first.