Feeding and Nurturing our Political Palate

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Feeding and Nurturing our Political Palate
Written by: Laura Holland, Collective Member of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter

The Table Setting:

Women from many nations and walks of life gather at the kitchen table for conversations and consciousness-raising in different languages and quite often at the same time with translators who volunteer their time.

All women are encouraged to take charge of the kitchen and the food that is acquired and prepared. On any day women and their children from anywhere in the world may be gathered around one of our sturdy, large, previously-owned and loved tables that were gifted to us. Accepting a generous gift as a donation is part of our: reduce, re-use and recycle approach in the house.

The Recipe:

The ingredients in our cupboards are as local and as international as the women who seek shelter in our house. All women who live here and work here share the foods we have available and will find all the basic ingredients to make her traditional or cultural food dishes. The ingredients acquired, by purchase or donation, are from the local butcher shop, the halaal meat shop, a community involved grocery store, the fair trade coffee company and neighbourhood food co-ops who also provide us with seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farmers.

Fair trade and sustainability are of great concern to local and international farmers and their families, as well as to the women who live and work in our house. In fair trade, women’s work, here in B.C. and in developing countries, are rightfully valued in their societies and by the companies who pay fair prices for their labour. In developing countries, women and their families involved in fair trade practices are recognized as stewards of their indigenous lands.

Some ingredients, such as the grains and spices from all around the world, for meals are found in fully stocked cupboards and are labeled in at least five or six different languages: Spanish, French, Hindi, Chinese, Tagalog and English.

The Menu:

We promote the use of all the healthy ingredients we have on hand, and we resist the push by large corporations to buy pre-made, packaged foods that are often less expensive and easier to prepare, yet no woman or child is denied the conventional foods they may be used to having in their day to day lives. Homemade foods are encouraged and often preferred because they have fewer preservatives; the foods are fresher and more nutritious. It also gives us the opportunity to learn each other’s recipes for all types of meals, including vegetarian or vegan meals. It is common to have roti, bannock, naan, tortillas, corn bread, johnny cakes, pitas, dumplings or biscuits for all to enjoy along with everyday meals or special occasions or holidays that women observe or celebrate.

Our Just Dessert:

Personal and political decisions are made at kitchen tables everyday as we share our foods and lived experiences; we teach and learn from all women. The work in our kitchen is much more than preparing meals. We are feeding our political palate and striving to uphold our food politics by replacing inexpensive foods produced by large corporations that ignore the health of women and their children and the environment. We are nurturing and building on our food politics with fair trade and sustainable foods that take into account the health of women and children, our environment and social concerns which are closely related to food security. We believe all women should be able to access sufficient, safe, healthy foods that are suitable to their dietary needs and their cultural food preferences as well. Acting out our philosophy means all women are deserving of sitting at a kitchen table that is rich with cultural dishes and food politics.