Carbon footprint is a hot-button concept in culinary conversation now, as pressure mounts to consider the distance some foods travel to get to our plates - and the ethical consequences of our menu choices.

That makes the lineup of performances at Asian Arts Initiative, a community-based arts center at 12th and Vine Streets, especially timely. "Cooking, Culture, Community and Consumption" relies heavily on humor to show how cooking can be key to social change.

"The idea is this: If you are conscious about where your food comes from and what goes into your body, you're more likely to become conscious about what is going on all around you as well," says Minneapolis-based performance artist/comedian Robert Karimi.

Karimi is first up on the Arts Initiative schedule with

Cooking Con Karimi

, a one-man comedy cooking show in which he takes on the persona of an overly zealous foodie forced to confront contradictions in his beliefs. Imagine Emeril Lagasse on steroids, spouting Michael Pollan's food philosophy. It will be an interactive evening, with attendees playing the studio audience. And yes, there will be tastings.

Next, Karimi sheds his stage persona for Cooking Con Community, an extended storytelling workshop in which participants draw on their favorite home recipes to explore the culture and values inherent in those dishes.

As the series continues, comedian Neal Dandade performs

Mango Chutney on Mesa Street

, a solo show that dissects the dilemma Dandade faces when his Texas-based, Indian-born parents insist he become a physician.

The dessert course of the Arts Initiative discussion comes with


, an evening of pun, pun, pun that explores gender roles and nonconformity through the lens of culture and colonization.


features puppeteer Michelle Posadas, filmmaker L. Capco-Lincoln, and poet Lovella Calica - as the Filipino American trio Tatlo


Cooking Con Karimi:

A comedic cooking show performed by Robert Karimi. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6-7; and Feb. 13, $15 admission.

Cooking Con Community:

Weeklong workshop with Robert Karimi. 1-6 p.m. Feb. 8; 6-9 p.m. Feb. 10 to 12; potluck performance 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14. Registration, $150, scholarships available. Friends and family admission to potluck performance 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14, $10.

Mango Chutney on Mesa Street:

Neal Dandade's solo show about being an Indian American in Texas. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27-28, $15 admission.


Filipino trio explores gender identity and nonconformity through culture and colonization. 7:30 p.m. April 17-18; $10-$15 sliding-scale admission.

For more information contact the Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St., 215-557-0455;