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Cooking with Pride: Food as a symbol of LGBTQ+ identity

Discover the evolution of food as a symbol of LGBTQ+ identity, exploring its history, significance, and impact on the community.



Food has played an integral role in the LGBTQ+ community's history, offering comfort, belonging, and unity during discrimination and oppression.


Here in Malta, we have a rich culinary history. Malta is also known as one of the most gay-friendly countries in Europe. EuroPride 2023, held in Malta, is testimony to it.


The history of LGBTQ+ identity intertwined with food begins with clandestine gatherings at hidden bars, cafes, and restaurants during the early 20th century.

These covert spaces provided a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ individuals to socialise, connect, and be themselves when societal norms demanded secrecy.


Gay pride march

A Culinary History of LGBTQ+ Identity

During the infamous Stonewall Inn riots of 1969, a turning point in LGBTQ+ history, the LGBTQ+ community mobilised against police harassment. The Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York City, was a key meeting place. Its symbolic importance extended to the food served there, which was simple but comforting, reflecting the resilience of a marginalised community.


In the following decades, LGBTQ+ communities worldwide continued to gather in restaurants and cafes that welcomed them with open arms, often providing a sense of belonging that was hard to find elsewhere.


These spaces became more than just eateries; they became safe havens where LGBTQ+ individuals could express their identity openly.


Rainbow Food: A Symbol of Inclusivity

One of the most visible and delightful ways we see food as a symbol of LGBTQ+ identity is through rainbow-coloured creations. Rainbow cakes, cookies, cocktails, and more have become iconic at LGBTQ+ pride events. The rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, with its vibrant colours, has been incorporated into food presentations.


These colourful dishes represent the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community, embracing people of all genders, sexual orientations, and backgrounds.

Whether it's a rainbow layer cake symbolising the many facets of LGBTQ+ identity or a rainbow-themed cocktail celebrating unity, these creations send a powerful message of inclusivity and acceptance.


Rainbow food isn't just about aesthetics; it's a way to communicate that the LGBTQ+ community is proud of its diversity and unapologetically celebrates it.


Beyond pride parades and celebrations, rainbow-themed food has become everyday dining, reminding everyone that acceptance and inclusivity should be embraced year-round.


Rainbow cake

Culinary Icons


LGBTQ+ representation in the culinary world has grown significantly in recent years. Chefs, food writers, and restaurateurs who identify as LGBTQ+ have made remarkable contributions to the industry. Their stories are as diverse as the cuisines they create, reflecting the unique journeys of LGBTQ+ individuals.

One notable figure is James Beard Award-winning chef and author, Julia Turshen, who openly identifies as gay and has written extensively about the intersection of food and identity. Turshen's cookbook, "Feed the Resistance," is a testament to the role of food in activism.


David Burtka, known for his culinary skills and partnership with actor Neil Patrick Harris, has embraced his identity as a gay chef and entrepreneur. His restaurant ventures and cookbook, "Life Is a Party," celebrate the joy of cooking and entertaining.


In addition to individual LGBTQ+ culinary icons, LGBTQ+ organisations and initiatives support LGBTQ+ representation in the food industry. These pioneers challenge stereotypes and foster acceptance through their culinary creations and advocacy.


Gay pride biscuits

The Power of LGBTQ+ Food Activism

Food has always been a means of bringing people together and advocating for social change, and the LGBTQ+ community is no exception. Food-based activism has become a potent tool for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies to raise awareness, fundraise, and promote inclusivity.


One example of this activism is the "Dine Out for Life" initiative, where participating restaurants donate some proceeds to HIV/AIDS service organisations. This event raises funds and creates spaces where people can openly discuss LGBTQ+ health issues.


Food festivals and events celebrating LGBTQ+ pride often have a philanthropic component, channelling their proceeds towards LGBTQ+ causes, from supporting LGBTQ+ youth to fighting discrimination and providing resources for those in need.


Furthermore, LGBTQ+ chefs and food entrepreneurs use their platforms to advocate for inclusivity and equality in the food industry. They are breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes, reminding the world that diversity is a source of strength in the culinary world.


Rainbow in heart shape

Beyond the Plate: LGBTQ+ Food Communities

The LGBTQ+ community's connection to food extends beyond what's on the plate. LGBTQ+ food communities have flourished, providing spaces where individuals can share their love for food, exchange recipes, and connect with like-minded people.

Supper clubs and pop-up dinners hosted by LGBTQ+ individuals offer unique dining experiences, combining delicious food with a sense of community and acceptance. These gatherings often celebrate LGBTQ+ culture and history through the dishes served.


LGBTQ+ food festivals have gained popularity in many cities, featuring many LGBTQ+-owned food businesses and LGBTQ+ culinary talent. These events are platforms for seasoned and emerging LGBTQ+ chefs to showcase their skills and contribute to the community.


In the digital age, social media platforms have played a significant role in connecting LGBTQ+ individuals with a passion for food. LGBTQ+ food bloggers, Instagram accounts, and YouTube channels have created virtual spaces for people to explore and celebrate LGBTQ+ culinary culture.



A journey of identity and pride

In the journey of LGBTQ+ identity and pride, food has transcended its role as mere sustenance; it has become a symbol of unity, resilience, and acceptance.


From the hidden bars of the past to the rainbow-coloured creations of today, LGBTQ+ individuals have found solace and celebration in the culinary world.


Food has been a source of comfort, advocacy, and a platform for LGBTQ+ individuals to share their stories and creativity. Through the work of LGBTQ+ culinary icons, the power of rainbow-themed dishes, and the growing LGBTQ+ food communities, cooking with pride has become a profound expression of identity and unity within the LGBTQ+ community.


In each dish prepared with love, in every gathering, and in the culinary endeavours undertaken, we find the rich tapestry of LGBTQ+ identity woven together, cooked with love, and served with pride.

Food's delicious diversity continues to be a powerful symbol of LGBTQ+ identity, reminding us that acceptance, diversity, and celebration should always be on the menu.

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