As part of part of Touchstone’s BME Dementia Service’s on-going partnership with Pavilion, poet Ian Duhig hosted two workshops with the Cha Da Cup group who regularly attend Touchstone on Mondays to exercise, share food, meet with friends and get involved in lots of different activities. The workshops have been a fantastic celebration of food, culture and personal stories and have resulted in the group poem ‘The Meaning of Food’. We are pleased to share that this group poem has been selected for publishing in the new Sewerby Hall Cookbook by New Zealand artist Ahilapalapa Rands.
These workshops have been a ‘feast of words’, as Ian encouraged the group to think about their favourite food, and what was special about it. We explored everything from the ingredients, how long it’s cooked for, the smell, the texture, the taste and the experience of eating. The theme stimulated rich discussion about everybody’s favourite meals and what makes them extra special; it was fascinating to hear the stories, memories and experiences of enjoying everyone’s most savoured meal.

“My wife doesn’t eat meat, and I do. She cooks me food with meat in but even though she never tastes it, it’s always perfect.”
“I would eat dal every single day, and I’d always be happy. There are so many different types of dal and each ingredient is good for your body in different ways.”

The group explored their first impressions of British food, which they described as “pheeka”, meaning bland and unseasoned in Punjabi. They did, however, express their love of a nice portion of fish, chips and mushy peas wrapped in newspaper. This happy memory of food brought back treasured times by the beach, in the warm summer sunshine, back in the day when chips were just 6p a portion!
The discussion of food brought back other memories, for some people the discussion reminded them of times before they moved to England.

“I left India when I was very young. We moved to Africa, but I always had this memory of walking through the villages in India and you could smell the cooking coming from each house. For years, I craved that food so much, until I finally went back to India 36 years later.”

Cha da Cup member & co-author reads through the group poem

“It’s all in the preparation for me. If it is made with care, I am happy. My favourite would be boiled rice with vegetables, garlic, ginger and green chilli. I like it spicy.”
“Sometimes I make chapatti. You can have different breads too; roti and bhatura, salty and aloo potatoes are stuffed into the roti. I just can’t pick one, I love every food!”
“I make my own yogurt. I boil milk, and then use my finger as a temperature gauge to see if it’s hot enough. Then I add a little bit of culture and mix it and put it into my flask at 10pm. By the morning it is ready for me to enjoy. I love it and my wife loves when I make it. I was shown how to use my finger to tell the temperature when I was a child. I am known as the yogurt maker in my family!”
“I love corn chapattis. I’d walk to London for a corn chapatti.”

The discussion highlighted how integral food is to our identity and culture. Sharing food is an important aspect of our social lives, and we love to share and enjoy food together. After each session, we get together to share a delicious warm curry.
Throughout the workshops, Ian encouraged the group to think about their foods in terms of poetry and some group members are planning to work on their own piece of poetry to bring to the group and share in our next session. We look forward to hearing these!
The Project
Interwoven Histories aims to engage elders from different BME communities in creative art activities. If you know someone or a group of people who may like to get involved in this project, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. This work is part of the on-going partnership between Touchstone and Pavilion and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
For more information on the Interwoven Histories project please contact:
Georgina Baker (Arts Worker – BME Dementia Service)
Touchstone Support Centre, 53-55 Harehills Avenue, Leeds, LS8 4EX
0113 219 2727