Storied Cuisine

By Gisele Uhomoza

Angeles: “Sorrow with bread is less

On the night of the 27th, Oct 2018, I attended the storied cuisine event held at the massy books in China town that is dedicated to selling indigenous and immigrant books. The event was organized by the Flavors of hope which is a non-profit that seeks to raise the economic standards of immigrant women in Vancouver using the knowledge of their traditional foods/cuisines and provide them with a living wage. I was a nice time to get to hear people’s stories of immigration to Canada which can be sad but seeing how food was one particular aspect that they could draw their hope for the future was eye opening to the bigger issues of injustice in our society and helped me develop a deeper appreciation for food. We had 3 story tellers Maria from Venezuela, Angeles from Mexico, and Samara from Saudi Arabia.

Samara had a degree in IT from Saudi Arabia, but she could not put it to use when she came as an immigrant to Canada, but her cooking which she used to do as leisure and feeding her family became an asset to rely on in this situation. We have been talking about different forms of food justice in LFS 350 including Distributive, epistemic and procedural. Samara’s experience really helped me view how epistemic injustice could be played out in real life. Realizing that not every one’s knowledge and way of learning is not credited in the same way in our institutions (ex: education) was a saddening, but also a good insight into how food and culinary knowledge which we might take for granted become our helping hand in accessing social capital learn a language and earn a living.

All the three women enjoyed cooking, but Maria said she did not get to realize the beauty that was in her country until she came here and had people ask her what they ate in her home country and she had to keep thinking more about that and ended up realizing what a treasure there was in her traditional cooking. Therefore, she became more recognizant of what good things she used to take for granted and joining flavors of hope was a way for her to put to use this precious knowledge of her culture. Through flavors of hope, these women among others are able to easily build a community, make some money and learn English quicker in a kitchen setting which is less intimidating, less exclusive, and more enjoyable. Moreover, as learners they are not just consuming the knowledge, but they are reciprocating through sharing their culinary knowledge.

All in all, storied cuisine was an opportunity for me to love and admire what role food can play in our lives. I realized that food and traditional culinary practices are some of the things we tend to ignore and take for granted, yet in some situations like these immigrant ladies is what is left for you to regain hope for the future. Now, after this experience I have been wondering what my traditional cuisine is. How can I define a Rwandan cuisine to someone? And I have been making conscious effort in the thought process of understanding whether food is in anywhere an identity marker for me, and whether it is something that could be put to use or not.