Written by Rebecca Suen
On the afternoon of October 19th, I attended the event “Sharing Food, Sharing Culture” as a part of Sustenance Festival. Held in the Canucks Family Education Centre, this event was organized by Grandview Woodland Food Connection and Flavours of Hope, a non-profit organization that aims to empower and socially/culturally integrate immigrant women through cooking and sharing food.
The aim of the event was to promote intersectionality with food, namely between social justice, gender, race, and identity. By looking at food with a decolonization approach, participants would slowly be able to take back the food system by growing and cooking food together. Community food events like this acknowledge and value multiple interpretations of food from a diverse range of cultures.
Three women were invited to cook food at the event. The first guest was Joraciel from the Philippines. Food is important to her because she has gained many friends through food and is currently participating in Vancouver Community College’s cooking program.
The second guest was Maria from Venezuela. Food has always been a path of healing for her. She came to Canada with low spirits due to issues in her country, but talking about food from her country and sharing her passion for cooking has helped her reconnect to love for her birth country again.
Finally, the third guest speaker was Samara from Saudi Arabia. Samara absolutely loved seeing people’s smiles as she cooked and found their smiles encouraged her to continue cooking!
At the beginning of the event, one of the speakers identified two important themes that will be present throughout the event: identity and belonging. Keeping this in mind throughout the event I tried to observe examples of these themes. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a group of strangers, who came from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences would learn and bond over their love for food!
Photo by Rebecca Suen
At first. people awkwardly shuffled into their assigned cooking areas. However, after the guests began to cook, people started asking questions and sharing their own knowledge about the dish. People would build upon each other’s knowledge and comment on how their cultures also had similar dishes and share how things may be done differently.
In particular, I remember when Maria asked where we thought green plantain would be eaten. Her answer was the beach! The group was surprised and people started discussing other foods their cultures would bring to the beach and compare the similarities and differences. For example, one lady shared that she would bring baked potatoes, while another would bring potato chips.
Photo by Rebecca Suen
It was amazing to see through sharing cultures and ideas over food how much people learned about food. The event atmosphere was very light, friendly and open. I observed a lot of smiles! In this sense, people identified themselves from a particular culture, but rather than saying one culture’s way of doing things was the right way, people could understand different approaches to the same recipe through sharing stories!
This relates to epistemic knowledge, a branch of food justice that relates to whose knowledge counts when it comes to food knowledge. Through the event, I could see how everyone’s knowledge was welcome and counted, regardless of which culture they came from.
One thing I personally took away from the event was reconnecting with an old friend that I had not seen in about a year. I did not know that she would be attending the event, so it was a wonderful surprise to see her again! We caught up over our love for food and she told me about the food program she was a part of. We were both surprised to be reunited at this
This reconnection made me realize that food truly is a wonderful thing, as it is not only able to bring strangers of different ethnic backgrounds together, but can also reunite old friends as well. I realized that this might have been a similar feeling the immigrant women chefs must have felt, coming to a new country and having to adapt to different living conditions, without having a lot of friends/family around them. Being able to attend these dinners to see familiar faces and meet new people is a treasure that comes with sharing food and sharing culture.