It’s been around 6-9 months since I first decided to run this event at this moment of Harvest time. 6-9 months of holding in my being, the possibility of working with S and R, my desire for connection around the cultures of South Asia, my desire for rooting this within the wild plants of South London. And I spent the 2 weeks prior to the event intensively planning and checking in with Ramya, our playworker, about how we would hold the space for children. I met N and her family at the Lambeth Country Show at the Incredible Edible stall and we discovered a shared interest and excitement around the Bangladeshi street food dish, Fuska. N knew how to do it. She was up for coming to the Street Food event and cooking it for us. We connected a couple of times during the week to check what she would need and to check the recipe that I would share with participants in the spirit of learning and dissemination, of making a dish ‘visible’, in the spirit of “Eat it and try to cook it at home. Feel inspired to do something different. Feel a shift in your habits. Eat something you don’t normally eat. Nourish your body in a different way. See how it makes you feel. Identify where the nourishing happens, is it the combination of flavours? Is it the smell? Is it the newness? Is it the surprise?”
Similarly, S and I connected in a slightly different way. We had a couple of talks on skype to check in, about our lives in general and specifically, around food. We set ourselves each 5 minutes to talk about South Asian food. I shared first my intention behind doing this workshop, which was to create an enjoyable space for connection across cultural barriers that sometimes we get stuck behind. My intention was for connection, for community, for inclusion where there is a history of exclusion, my intention was for contribution, for allowing a space for contribution. My intention was for fun.
We were inspired to cook biryani, with S leading on this. She’d never cooked it before. She’d seen her mother cook it as a child and shared with me how biryani is a dish fit for the queens and kings, it’s an honour to prepare and eat. It takes hours to prepare. We would do a one pot version, camping style, outdoors, in the park.
I felt inspired by the connection with S and N, the flow, the ease with which we were connecting and agreeing to create something together. With R, who’d agreed to come and cook pakora, it had been a similar experience. I felt very connected and humbled by the flow of these women agreeing to come along.
I spoke to S on Friday. We had an amazing connection. She wasn’t feeling very well and we spoke about not overriding the body’s needs. She was silent for a long while as she connected to her deepest needs. I witnessed her self-connection in silence. She said she really needed rest. She said she was worried about letting me down. She asked how this was for me. I said I was really happy that she was connected to her needs for rest. I said I was really inspired by the transparency of our conversation. I said I was sad we wouldn’t connect and do this project together. But most of all, I felt nourished by the strength of our connection, that we were processing this together. I felt included in her decision. I felt I was supporting her to connect to her needs. I felt supported in dealing with my sadness that she wouldn’t be participating in the event. I’m connecting to the power of this connection as I write and can feel it inside my body.
Then later on Friday, N got in touch. Her daughter was ill, she wouldn’t be able to come on Saturday. I felt a numbness of disappointment that I recognise as a recurring emotion in my life. I took a while to connect with myself around this feeling. It was only the following day, before I set about packing my things for the event, that I spoke to someone in my support network and I realised some things about this work and what I’m trying to do in Invisible Food. Somehow this shed light on the Street Food project and it may be that this is the missing ingredient as I go about structuring the book of monthly recipes.
This is what it is. I connected to a need for safety in this work connecting to people across cultures. I feel anxious about the precariousness of the connections I have with people from different cultures. I want to feel a greater sense of security and trust in my relationships with people with different cultural backgrounds. Community is so fragmented in London, people tend to connect and deeply connect with people from the same cultural and class background. Everytime I struggle to reach out to someone, to make a connection with a family at my son’s school who we want to play with for example, or on an Invisible Food activity, everytime I feel a fear, a pain that there are so many barriers between us, so much history of being separate, I have so much fear that we won’t connect, I’m afraid of hearing a no, it’s scary stepping out and saying I want to connect with you.
I’m connecting to a need to make this process more visible. To write about the struggle to create more community across cultural and class boundaries in London. I’m wondering how it will be to make visible all the work of connecting that I do, that is always invisible and there is sometimes nothing to show for it, as in the case of S and N not being able to come, there wasn’t the outcome of having their presence at the event.
On Saturday, at the event, as we began I talked about how S and N couldn’t be there as they were listening to their needs for rest and for the well being of family and I celebrated this self-connection, while also being sad that we couldn’t enjoy their presence. I guess this was one way of making visible this energy of reaching out and connecting that had been taking place over the previous two weeks and I guess that writing this now is another way. It’s a way of honouring in me, this desire for community, for inclusion, for connection, and to acknowledge that this work isn’t always visible and isn’t very often valued or celebrated.
I’m wondering where this lands in you, reading this now.