A program by South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services is breaking bread and borders over the international language of food.
OneWorld Kitchen is a series of cooking sessions for seniors of all different cultural backgrounds.
“There is a lot of seniors in the immigrant community who often will be isolated at home. This is a way to break down barriers sharing knowledge, skills and experience to others on how to prepare and present food from their country to others in the community,” said Carole Fitsell, Life Skills Development with SOICS.
Participants take home a recipe and an apron at no cost, except spending time with others to appreciate different cultural backgrounds and the possibility of forging new friendships.
The sign outside the Iyara Thai Restaurant Saturday morning said closed, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t busy inside. Chattering back and forth, a crowd of about 20 participants eagerly waited for Dao Amorntiyakiat to begin showing them how to make spring rolls.
Proving that food has no borders or language barriers, the students listened attentively as Amorntiyakiat searched for the right words to describe the process as she grated vegetables, and explained where to buy the ingredients and answered questions about preparing the popular fried snack.
Once the veggies were ready, students got a chance to participate and stuff them into rolls, with an attentive Amorntiyakiat coaching and encouraging them to make the rolls as tight as possible.
“If they are too soft, they get oily when they are fried,” she cautioned. Rolling and folding the rolls tight enough to please the chef proved to be a challenge for many.
“It is harder than it looks,” said Cindy Grewal, who still planned to give the recipe a try, as did Marge Skead, who was surprised at the simplicity of the recipe.
“I figured it would be harder than it is,” she said.
“Food has a tie to every person so it is easy for people to connect over and talk about, which is exactly what we want. Last time we held a session there was a lady who had lost a lot of people in the last year. She was so grateful that we encouraged her to come and she left with this big smile on her face,” said Fitsell.
Funding for the program, which is offered at no charge to the seniors, was provided by the federal government New Horizons for Seniors Program. OneWorld Kitchen is open to all seniors, 55 and older and take place in partnership with various community kitchens, churches and ethnic restaurants. Since November, SOICS has held cooking nights in Osoyoos out of their Oliver office and three in Penticton, some have been interactive cooking sessions and others are demonstrations while participants asked questions. The next round of OneWorld Kitchen will be in January and Fitsell said they have become so popular they now have to ask people to call ahead and reserve a spot.
“We had someone from Denmark come who we hadn’t had a contact with in our society and they are learning about our services at the same time. We have had people from Germany and Italy and people who are born Canadians that start talking about their heritage. Everyone at some point was an immigrant and they start sharing their traditions which is really cool,” said Fitsell.
For more information on OneWorld Kitchen, contact SOICS at 250-492-6299.
— With files from Steve Kidd/Western News