In case you haven’t noticed, Christmas is coming. How could we miss it? Parades. Lights. Winter activities. Music. Food.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from newcomers to Canada, it’s the desire to connect in a kitchen, with many people, to learn how to cook ‘Canadian’ food. Reflecting on this, I loved the idea of it. It is brilliant. Food is the centre of all of life’s activities. Sharing food with others connects us and keeps us connected. It is they way we communicate, express creativity and create memories. All occasions, events and activities have food at their centre.
What I was delighted to find out is that there IS a way for us to collectively get together to enjoy food and learn culture. Community Kitchens by Family Services of Greater Vancouver has kitchens in New Westminster and Richmond! Community Kitchens serves new immigrants, seniors, youth and single mothers. They provide food and resources. They meet regularly in local churches and community centres. In the kitchen, members find out so much more than ingredients and recipes; they learn traditions, and culture, differences and similarities, and stories that give a glimpse into others lives.
The act of sitting down together, to enjoy food, creates conversation, dialogue and debate. We learn each other’s customs, manners, and expressions. We learn to appreciate differences and we learn how similar we all are.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a Christmas party. There were 7 of us: some from Canada, some from other countries. We went around the table to share what food was quintessential to us. It was a hard question to answer until we asked ‘what our favourite comfort food was – the one thing we would turn to when we were ill.’ It became easier to define. The funny thing is, not one of us turned to a ‘Canadian’ dish. Each food choice stemmed from our family genealogy, our history, our story.
If you’re wishing to cook a traditional Christmas dinner in Canada, I would harbour a bet that many people will be cooking turkey with a variety of side dishes. If you don’t know where to start (the Community Kitchen will likely be something to look into in the New Year), the Fraser Valley Regional Library has recipe books you can borrow.