Inclusion is the New Fusion Cooking

Simeon, or Community Kitchen Coordinator, shares what he has learned about the benefits of inclusion – Vancouver-based cooking lessons from around the world:

“I don’t remember ever being ‘taught’ to cook. I just followed my mother, and later my grandmother, picking things up as I went along. They were mainly ‘meat/potatoes/veg’ recipes…I wasn’t exposed to other cultures. It’s been refreshing learning about other methods. Some I will adopt at home” – South Granville Volunteers Community Kitchen participant.

I (Simeon) come from a mixed-race, or other “rooted” cultural background (as I’ve come to call it). For me, this meant I grew up experiencing food heritage from areas that literally, seemed worlds apart. As a longtime foodie, I also spent a lot of my childhood in the kitchen helping to prepare the foods I loved to eat.

My early memories, real or picked up from photographs, include walking in pyjamas to get savoury Chinese donuts to eat with a congee breakfast. Visiting grandparents always included a trip to a local pub – the “Bluebells” or “Fox & Hounds”, to eat scampi or fish and chips.

Traditional Sunday roast lunch meant roast potatoes nestled in there with a bed of rice next to beef, lamb, chicken or pheasant. In my uni years, I became known as the “uncle” of the house, who would look after his roommates by cooking pineapple fried rice (in the pineapple) with satay and beefy white rice noodles with broccoli. And I feel truly blessed to have experienced this inclusive culinary dining table throughout my life.

So this is how I facilitate the community kitchens I am involved with – I ask the participants for ideas from their own childhoods, from times when they have cooked for friends or family, or more recently from restaurant menus when they have dined out and want to learn how to cook a specific dish that is “exotic”, to them.

This means that over the past year or so, I have had the pleasure of enjoying meals inspired by cultures from around the world but all present here in Vancouver, courtesy of community kitchen participants. The feasts include an authentic Japanese sushi-making class, a “trip” to the horn of Africa with Ethiopian chicken and egg Doro Wat eaten with injera (sourdough flatbread), experiencing what “marriage” means in El Salvador with mixed beans, rice and sausage “el casamiento”, and mashing the ingredients for a Dutch boerenkool and worst stamppot (kale and wurst, mashed potato).

“It’s nice to have a variety of things to choose from [over the months at the South Granville Volunteers Community Kitchen], which has greatly expanded my knowledge. Allowing members to choose the next meal plan and…introduce new foods has excited me. I think most of us benefit from inclusion in the process.”

For me, inclusion has meant experiencing a rich and diverse tapestry of food heritage and personal experience – coming by many different routes, but rooted locally, in Vancouver’s growing community kitchen movement.

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