Building Community With Food

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Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo’s (MCA) cookery program is building community with food – just ask Trudie Tulk. A regular attendee, Tulk has been to several of the events, and is planning to teach Newfoundland’s cuisine this fall.

“The Multicultural Cookery is one of MCA’s unique programs that serves all three of our pillars: Celebrate, Educate, Integrate. Each month we have the opportunity to celebrate a new culture and their respective cuisine, in doing so we are educating participants about the diversity of our community and supporting integration through cross cultural interaction,” explains Jamie Desautels, program manager at MCA, who has been with the group since January 2016.

“The program’s goal is to increase awareness of different cultures in our community, to show the volunteer cooks that their culture is valued and appreciated, and to bring together participants from different cultural backgrounds over a common interest and encourage intercultural understanding,” she adds.

Tulk emphatically agrees. In the 10 years she’s been in Fort McMurray, the region’s diversity is what continues to impress her.

“I have met many people from different countries and backgrounds. We learned together, cooked together, and ate together. Not only did we learn about our differences, but more importantly, we learned what we had in common! We also got to take home samples of our ‘new food’ to share with our families.”

In its sixth year now and dozens of nations covered, the Cookery program runs from September to June with one class a month – every Saturday. Events are held in different school kitchens around town pending availability. MCA pays for the supplies for volunteers to cook. Depending on the month and the type of cuisine, the events garner between 20 to 30 participants. Some cuisines sell out every year like the Italian class hosted in January.

“From a financial perspective, the price you pay is phenomenally low for what you get for your buck. Thanks to the Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo and to the kindness of volunteers, you get three hours of hands-on cooking lessons, a meal, and take-out samples for your family for only $25! Are you kidding me?” Tulk continues.

Non-members pay $30.

So which one of the classes been her favourite so far?

“There were all great. But, the most interesting connection I made was one where I had a lady on my team that was from China. New to Fort McMurray, she couldn’t speak one word of English. We used Google Translator to “speak” to each other!  How cool is that?”

Super cool.

Desautels notes the program’s popularity is now attracting families to cook together.

“Often I hear people say, ‘I didn’t know we could attend the class if we were born here.’ The program is for anyone and everyone. We are always looking for volunteers to teach new types of cuisine. Currently we are looking into doing a Jigs Dinner cuisine and an Indigenous cuisine to highlight some of our local cultural delicacies.”

Tulk can’t wait for future classes.

“Usually we travel or eat out at a different restaurant to experience a different cultures.  Multicultural Association’s Cookery classes are so different from this. It’s an immersive experience where we learn about our differences and discover our commonalities. We share knowledge and accept unique characteristics of other cultures. Here, in Fort McMurray, we have the opportunity to have our world just keep getting better and better because we can all integrate without sacrificing our individuality – yay!” Tulk enthuses.

If you are interested in teaching your nation’s cuisine, please email: programs@multiculturefm.org.