People have asked me how the book came to be…
The idea was to bring out the multicultural fabric of this city. We wanted to make it more visible with stories about people’s food experiences from back home and have them sharing their favourite recipes from home with all of us. We found out through this process how food is a great unifier that transcends language barriers. For newcomers who are struggling it is probably the best way they know to connect back to their roots so they can bring comfort to their mind, body and soul. Through their stories they enchant with the exoticism of their experiences, while also ringing within us a familiar chord.
The book is also meant as a fundraiser to revive a Community Kitchen program for ex/residents from the Sandgate Women’s Shelter, which provides refuge to women fleeing abuse. Food heals and communal cooking revives the convivial experiences that women had in kitchens back home, with their mothers, aunts and grandmothers. Communal kitchens help people share, network and offer an excuse for people to congregate. They also help save $$ in food and cooking costs for those whose lives are financially precarious when they are on social assistance or at risk of homelessness.
Interestingly, the idea was conceived at MCIS but the stories were recorded by journalists from Brazil, newcomers volunteering with us, whose English is somewhat limited. They captured the narratives interviewing the storytellers – interpreters from MCIS, and staff from both MCIS and the shelters. They took pictures, sometimes even made the recipes on behalf of the contributors. A number of our staff volunteered their time or freelanced for a nominal fee during their off time. We had one staff devote some of her working hours to coordinating this effort. It was done on a shoestring and so we are quite proud of it in its present form and also the potential it offers for future initiatives. An idea I have germinating is to partner with agencies working with people who have mental health issues and having them do something similar with us. It will bring humanity to the experiences of people who suffer from stigma or ostracism because of their illness. This may be conceived as a documentary.