The Thunderdome, Occupy Denver's onetime kitchen and an erstwhile mobile vegan experience, is known for a lot of things -- dick jokes and anarchist sentiments included -- but gentility is not one of them. This explains why, in the group's new series of cooking videos, the time lapse between pressing "play" and hearing an F-bomb is exactly twelve seconds.
Fronted by loud and sarcastic Thunderdome cooks Justin "Crunchy" Gwin and Pat Marsden, the two videos produced so far teach viewers the ins and outs of creating handmade pasta and aloo gobi while navigating through cracks about JFK and Outback Steakhouse. Inexpertly edited and occasionally long-winded, the videos find the two chefs and a handful of friends laying out the steps to their dishes in traditional Thunderdome fashion: through one-liners and lengthy anecdotes.
The goal, which sometimes can be hard to track, is to teach Denverites how to cook healthy food on their own rather than shopping corporate stores or giving in to fast food. "Anyone can go to the corner store and grab a fucking thing of flour and a pound of eggs and make their own pasta," Crunchy says, "so it doesn't matter where you live. If you're in the middle of Globeville or in the middle of a fucking farm, you can make this."
Notably absent from the videos are the group's political views, though the Thunderdome crew endorses the Denver Anarchist Black Cross early on in the series. This is not "cooking for anarchists" -- nor is it "cooking for people who want to go to cooking school," Gwin notes in the pasta video. But the lessons are very easy to follow, even as the cooks occasionally break from the video to talk on the phone in the background.
The how-to series is the latest step in the Thunderdome's plan to become more sustainable and public after distancing itself from Occupy Denver in November, when enforcement of the city's anti-encumbrance ordinance and frequent altercations with the police made it difficult for the group to maintain the supplies necessary to create consistent meals. After November 13, when three protesters (including Thunderdome cook Corey Donahue) were arrested at Civic Center Park, the kitchen moved its operations off-site and invested in three wagons to makes its food operation mobile and thus avoid being labeled an encumbrance.
"Every time we set up a table, they came in and knocked it down and arrested people and ruined the entire experiment," Gwin said at the time. "It was a pretty hard decision to make, but since we're all facing charges from the occupation, we really couldn't all afford to continue to buck the system at the time."
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These days, Gwin says, the Thunderdome is working to establish itself as an entity similar to Food Not Bombs, with which it has collaborated in the past. The kitchen maintains a mostly vegan menu, with ingredients largely donated by local farms and businesses. In recent weeks, the Thunderdome prepared food for events staged by the Denver Anarchist Black Cross, the Colorado Street Medics, RedLine art gallery and an anarchist group in Boulder; later this month, the crew plans to return to Civic Center Park to feed the protesters there, he notes.
In its second home on the web, the Thunderdome recently launched a weekly podcast, available online every Wednesday at 7 p.m. on UStream under "ThunderdomeRadio." The podcast, still in its infancy and prone to the occasional technical difficulty, blends politics, food activism and guerrilla gardening with what Gwin jokes really sets the group apart from its peers: "Dick jokes."