Six storytellers from the community will share stories around the theme of “Food and Family” on Arizona Storytellers on Wednesday, October 12.
Among them: John Avila, whose food stall Prison Pies offers dishes made in desperation during a time behind bars. Her story has garnered attention on social media and even in a short film, “Tamalero,” shown at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
“When you watch prison TV shows, it’s all about the fighting,” Avila told Arizona Republic food writer Bahar Anooshahr. “They never talk about our food.”
Just like outdoors, food connects people to each other and to memories, he said. When he was jailed at age 21 for a DUI, Avila found himself missing a taste of home. When someone made him jailhouse tamales using ingredients bought from the stewardship (think mashed Doritos instead of masa), he was shocked at how much comfort it gave him.
His food stall now regularly appears at farmers’ markets in the valley.
“I want to kind of humanize prison life, show people everyday things [food] we did will help,” Avila said.
Other tellers on the October show include:
- Willa Eigo, a marketer, who will share how becoming a mother-in-law helped her change her ideas about marriage and family.
- Rebecca Love, a storytelling student, who will share how gender roles hilariously came into play on her first Thanksgiving with her hubby.
- Republic columnist Greg Moore, who will be the first man in his family to bake his grandmother’s pecan pie on his own during the upcoming vacation.
- Bilal Munir Rahim, co-founder of a non-profit organization, who learned difficult lessons throughout his life that helped shape and make him the person he is today.
- Navajo chef Mario Renetto, whose grandmother taught him about her culture through food. Along the way, food helped him heal as a young boy.
In keeping with the show’s “Food and Family” theme, Felicia Campbell, Republic’s Food and Dining Editor, will co-host with Arizona Storytellers founder Megan Finnerty.
This is the fifth in-person Arizona Storytellers event following the COVID-19 closures. More than 420 people attended the theme show “Holidays & Adventures” in August.
All stories are true, first-person accounts. Storytellers are mentored by Republic reporters and instructors and students from the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College.
The next Storytellers Project show will be “Holidays” on December 14.
The Tempe Center for the Arts’ COVID-19 policy makes face masks optional. No proof of vaccination is required. Also note that as Storytellers evenings are usually sold out, tickets may be purchased only online and will not be sold on site.
Arizona Storytellers: Kitchen and Family
Where: Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 12 Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $12 and can be purchased online only at storytellersproject.com. No tickets will be sold at the door.
To note: Captioning services for the deaf and hard of hearing are provided by the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.