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Ten questions with Dorothy Awards Honoree Selma Miriam

The vegetarian restaurant Bloodroot, a Bridgeport stable for decades, will reach its 40th anniversary next year. Selma Miriam and her Bloodroot partner Noel Furie have woven feminist values into their business, and as Miriam shared with former Center co-president Tom Donato, while feminism has come and gone in waves, progress continues to be made while more is still needed.

  1. Bloodroot, the feminist vegetarian restaurant you founded in 1977, will celebrate 40 years in operation next year. Tell us what that means to you. We (still) often agonize about our tight money situation. But year after year Noel (my Bloodroot partner) and I feel grateful and even lucky to work in a place (by the water) that is beautiful, to still enjoy cooking, and most of all, to like our community of customers as much as we do. These are the perks in our way of life!
  2. Which of many of Bloodroot’s accomplishments are you most proud of? We are most proud that we have tried, and often succeeded, in making our work and our lives congruent with our feminist values.
  3. Who or what inspires you? Our cooking/food inspiration has always come from other people’s traditional recipes. Gloria Steinem often speaks of the intelligence and wisdom of women of the first peoples, and this idea has always resonated with me. Usually very little or no meat is typical in their menus. The ways to make food sustainable are to be found among many peoples of this earth. This search is of constant interest to me.
  4. What is your favorite recipe or dish ever served at Bloodroot? My favorite recipe is one I “discovered” in 1984 when trying to make a substitute for butter, to put on our homemade bread. It is for Mushroom Walnut pate, and these days, because Noel insists, and makes it, it is always on the menu. Since that time I have tried to find vegan techniques and recipes that are exceptionable. It is a fun puzzle that I enjoy!
  5. What is the state of feminism today and how has feminism changed since you opened Bloodroot? Feminism seems to come in waves. There is much backlash against our 70’s understanding of feminism, which celebrated the possibility of expanding roles and capabilities of men and women beyond male and female stereotypes. The stereotypes seem very entrenched right now: for example, ankle breaking high heel shoes. Having escaped being called Miss or Mrs, we are now supposed to be flattered to be called “guys.” The hyper-sexualization of little girls is epidemic. On the other hand, there is finally a recognition of the prevalence of rape in colleges and in the military. Now we have legal and social actions to fight back. And, at last, gay men and lesbian women can marry the partner they choose, if they choose. It is also a pleasure to see men able to enjoy caring for children, and that they do not feel emasculated because they do!
  6. Tell us the best piece of advice you have ever received. Believe it or not, the best advice I got was from my feminist, humanist parents. Atheist, but proud to be Jews, they often told me that other people may believe thus and so, but we don’t. It meant that I could make my own moral judgments and choices, since there was no format for what I, as a woman, was supposed to be.
  7. Tell us something about yourself that would probably surprise us! It will likely surprise you that I have never seen The Wizard of Oz. I am not sure just what my mother did not like about the movie, but she didn’t, and it was not part of my growing up. However, I read all the Oz books. As you likely know, Frank Baum’s mother in law was Matilda Joslyn Gage, one of the fiercest feminists of the 19th century, and he was apparently inspired by her, and so Dorothy, Ozma, Betsy Bobbin, etc., were all intelligent and competent young women.
  8. Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years I will be 86 years old. If I am still ambulatory, I hope I will still be cooking at Bloodroot. If not? Who knows? As long as I can, I want to work. Retirement is not an option.
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Deirdre

March 15, 2017 11:39 am Reply

Mazel tov, Selma and Noel! What a beautiful accomplishment. I am so proud of you for weaving together your beliefs and passions to make a successful and ground breaking restaurant /bookstore which feeds peoples bodies and minds.
Forty years! I’m sure you survived many lean years getting here, and I deeply admire your perseverance! And your willingness to work things through is inspiring!
I wish I were closer to be one of your most loyal patrons! (I live as far away as one can in the US, in the Bay Area of California) If I were closer, I’d be there every day!
Deirdre