Shut Up and Eat It was born at the Ocala gathering right before the West Virginia national in 2005. It began when a group of kids got together to provide support for a brother with spina bifida, but eventually turned into a full scale kitchen because “everyone here who’s doing anything awesome has a kitchen.”
We have a strong “love you/fuck you” balance. When people ask what’s in our food, we say, “It’s equal parts ‘shut up’ and equal parts ‘eat it.’ It’s a very special ratio.
Their first meal came from a bunch of dented, number 10 cans with the labels torn off. They had no idea of what they were going to make, or even what was in the cans. It was just stuff that had been kicked down and nobody knew what it was. So the rule became, if you opened one, you had to eat it—or it was going in the pot. That meant that everything from cocktail fruit, chicken and Chinese vegetables, baked beans—anything that could come in tin cans found its way into that pot.
Everyone who was in line to eat began noticing the reactions of the folks tasting the food and began asking, “What’s in it??” Of course, nobody really knew everything that was in the huge 55-gallon pot, so the crew would respond, “Well it’s food—it’s got stuff in it.” And of course, everyone kept asking, “What’s in it? What’s in it?” The answer soon became, “Shut up and eat it.”
We’re a great place for all sorts of gruff people. We don’t let their attitudes bother us a lick. Eventually they figure their stuff out and “own their own self.” Not because we tell them what to do, but because they’re given unconditional love. Once they “own” it they then want to be part of it.
Shut Up and Eat It was one of the first “dirty kid” kitchens. Before that, there weren’t many train-hopper, gutter-punky vibe kids at the national gatherings, and the ones that did come had more of a Front Gate vibe. But Shut Up and Eat It, unlike many of the Front Gate scenes, refused to allow alcohol in their kitchen. Many of their crew come from a history of alcohol or drug abuse, and while Shut Up and Eat It is willing to deal with these folks through their struggles with it, they strongly encourage their friends to “fuck off” when they are drinking.
The vibe at Shut Up and Eat is often raucous, aggressive and loud, but they find that that’s how some people feel more comfortable. They also differ from many other kitchens in that they never have a council where they just share heart song and om. In Zac’s words, “We suck it up and show our best. When people see that, they are empowered to figure their shit out.”
According to One-Legged Matt, every Rainbow kitchen has a huge impact on not just Rainbow, but the world. Not only has a lot of healing taken place at Shut Up and Eat It, but a number of other dirty kid kitchens have been birthed by them, including Fat Kids, Spiral Up and Unify, and Sloppy Seconds. And, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Shut Up and Eat It decided that they wanted to go towards disaster, not away from it. As a result they joined the Waveland, Mississippi Rainbow Relief kitchen and have since have made disaster relief and guerrilla feedings for the homeless a large part of their focus.
All of us, coming from wherever we came from—all different spiritual backgrounds—we all are dedicated to service. It’s not like a “shanti yoga” person who wants the “high vibe” road. We’re willing to go to the darkest place, to go to the gross spots so we can help those people. There’s a lot of our family that’s gross, on the inside as well on the outside. And we love them for that.
While Shut Up and Eat is well aware that they aren’t fully accepted by the “Shanti” part of the family, they don’t see themselves as separate from it. In fact, according to Zac Monster, they wanted to be Lovin’ Ovens when they grew up. They aspired to have the cohesion and unity they believed a real rainbow kitchen has.
Yet through the years Shut Up and Eat It has remained pretty similar to how it was at its inception. Sure, they’ve learned how to serve clean and healthy food, clean up their site, and they probably know exactly what’s in the food, but little else has changed. When I asked why, Zac Monster responded, “People come, and they love really hard, and they give the most of themselves, but they’re broken people. All of us have serious issues here, all of us have something serious physically going on with us.”
Their message to the “Shanti” Rainbows: “We love our family just as much as you do. We try to feed the family the best food we can. That’s our goal: to make good food for the family. We’re all doing the same thing. We all want the same outcome. Don’t hate on us. We love you.”
Watch the Universe love us really hard.
Obviously there’s a lot more that can be said, but it’ll have to wait until another week. Until then, feel free to share your stories and experiences of Shut Up and Eat It in the comments!