“You Should Learn How to Cook!”

Pastel color aerial view illustration of light colour hands holding a bowl of soup with a spoon it it. On the counter are various ingredients, spices and herbs like garlic, tyme, lemon and lentils.

By Mehak Siddiqui

Illustration by Yaansoon

“You should learn how to cook”. 

I was just around twelve or thirteen when I first began hearing this. 

It started off as a playful suggestion from my mother and grandmother, like it could be an exciting summer vacation project. But when I didn’t really heed it, year after year, the voices began to multiply and grow increasingly incessant, impatient, pleading, and even shameful. 

By the time I was around fifteen or sixteen, I’d learned how to fry an egg, make instant noodles, and brew chai, the spiced milk tea that’s an everyday ritual in my household. And over fifteen years later, those are still the only three things I’m most confident crafting in the kitchen. 

I realize in retrospect that my resistance to cooking has stemmed from a mixture of fear and rebellion. During adolescence, learning to cook was synonymous with the whole ‘becoming a woman’ rite of passage that was already wreaking havoc on my life and body. 

Growing up was confusing and stressful, and — even though I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it at the time — fundamentally unfair in how it translated to more and more gendered notions about propriety. 

I was just a teenager but had already heard one too many a sexist old adage like how ‘men make houses, women make homes’, and how ‘a way to man’s heart is through his stomach’. Or sexist husband-and-wife style jokes shared openly — often repetitively — at family gatherings, even in front of children. 

Right from a young age, I found it hard to miss how the woman is always the butt end of the joke in this style of so-called ‘wisecracks’, whether it was about her looks or lack thereof, her wits or lack thereof, her ambitions or lack thereof, her children or lack thereof, or of course, her cooking skills or lack thereof. 

Go to any house in my family, community, or even country (whether for an everyday meal or festive feast), and it’s guaranteed that you’ll find only female members of the family puttering about in the kitchen, frying samosas or pakoras, making chai, or loading up platters of food and drink. For come joy or grief, women need to ensure everyone is always fed, watered, and caffeinated. 

To date when we have large sit-down dinners in my extended family, the men are served first while the women fuss around, replenishing servings, popping things in the microwave to reheat, asking if anything else is needed. 

 As a child, I never aspired to take on that role. I began associating cooking and homemade meals with domesticity and docility. I guess you can say that in my mind, food became synonymous with the patriarchy long before I ever understood what patriarchy meant.

And so I resisted learning how to cook, instead devoting all of my time to doing well at school and university, and then building a career. I realize that I am incredibly privileged to have had the choice to do this and to be able to question the age-old expectations that I’ve been ensnared with. 

Although things are slowly changing and more people are rejecting sexist ways of being, there is much shame involved. Both men and women who transgress the divide between gender roles are perceived as ‘too much’: too out there, too modern, too disrespectful, too smart for their own good. This inherent culture of judgment is partly the reason why I’ve chosen to steer clear of matrimony too. To this day in my community, there are arranged marriages in which one of the first things a prospective bride is asked about, regardless of how accomplished she may otherwise be, is her skill in the kitchen.

The closest I’ve come to ‘learning how to cook’ was taking a baking class with my best friend back in the summer after we finished our O Levels. This remains one of my favourite memories: how we learned to accurately measure out ingredients, combine them with precise techniques, and then watch as the cake magically rose in the oven into soft aromatic goodness. I remember witnessing how the doughnuts browned beautifully in the right temperature of oil, and how the cookies solidified into just the right blend of crunchy and chewy.

I still have the recipes we learned back then, meticulously recorded on yellowing notebook paper in the roundish print that was my neatest handwriting. That first foray into baking translated into a passion that has led me to slowly discover how food is a love language and that preparing it from scratch — both for myself and others — can be a deeply rewarding and enjoyable experience rather than the monumental and monotonous chore that I’ve long perceived it as. 

I feel a deep sense of awe and admiration for my mother, aunts, and all the other women I know who have devoted their lives to cooking. They have been stepping into the kitchen almost every day since they were children, initiated into the culinary arts by their own mothers and aunts and grandmothers. 

These women have perfected recipes and techniques passed down through generations and invented some of their own tricks along the way. They’ve adapted and catered to the varied tastes of their husbands, children and in-laws, and learned to give new twists to old staples. They’ve experimented with ingredients, put leftovers to innovative uses, and expressed incredible creativity and fortitude without ever wanting or getting much credit for it. 

They have patiently slow-cooked biryanis and kheer and rolled out hundreds upon hundreds of rotis, those gorgeous flatbreads that are as tedious to make as they are delicious to eat. They have rustled up something even when they’ve been feverish or cramping or pregnant, never once protesting. They’ve bonded over different ways of cooking the same dish and found joy in sharing magic ingredients. 

They are a testament to how cooking and food brings people together and how, for that reason alone, everyone, regardless of gender, should indeed learn how to cook.

Mehak Siddiqui is a writer, blogger, and traveler, currently based in India and working on her first novel. She enjoys long walks in nature and dreams of seeing every country in the world. Connect with her on Instagram @ worldofmehak or read more of her work on www.mehaksiddiqui.com

Family, Food and Future

black and white sketch of white mustard plant

Reclaiming What Was Lost

By Wanda Taylor

I was barely nine years old when my mother handed me that very first chunk of bread dough. I have watched her toss those ingredients into the same wooden bowl for as long as I could remember. I never saw a tattered recipe card or any handwritten instructions; she simply knew. “I just eye it,” she’d say whenever I asked her how she knew.

Then I would watch her hands go to work, twisting and tightening the sticky dough. With force and determination, she would blend the ingredients, both dry and wet. I would lean in close to the bowl to inhale the earthy smell of yeast. I would peek under the dishcloth a hundred times while the dough was left on the counter to rise in the thick brown bowl. Each time I checked it would be higher and wider, like magic. After what felt like forever, my mother would return to the kitchen to slide some butter in and around two deep loaf pans. Then she would rip the dough down the middle and shape them into smooth round mounds. 

I could never contain my excitement knowing that as soon those golden loaves were sliced I would get the first piece, caked in melted butter and homemade strawberry jam. However, that excitement paled in comparison to the joy (of participating in the process? baking with her? learning to bake? finally working the dough myself?). She had allowed me to figure out and measure the ingredients. She would say, “You’ve watched me long enough. It’s time.” She was going to teach me, like her mother taught her, and like she’d taught my sisters.

I glanced up at her each time I added a new ingredient, searching for approval. She would just smile and watch. “You have to learn by doing,” she said. “If you do it right, the bread will taste good. If not, you will have wasted all my ingredients.” In translation: do not waste those hard-earned ingredients.

Once they were mixed, I held both hands out as my mother placed half of the sticky dough into my tiny palms. It spilled over my hands as I guided it to the sprinklings of flour that she’d placed on the table in front of me. I mimicked her hand motions as she kneaded and worked the dough. When she pushed, I pushed. When she pounded, I pounded. When she flipped, I flipped. Once it had risen, she laid her dough in one loaf pan, and I tucked mine into the other. There was a definitive difference in her perfectly rounded hump to my bumpy, lumpy mount (mound?). But when the loaves emerged from the oven, there was no distinction. It was like the lessons she taught me about Black people in Nova Scotia and their unique connections to the land. There was no distinction between the two. 

Being Black from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, our relationship with food and tradition was steeped in our connections to the land; this traces all the way back to our ancestors’ journey from slavery in the south, and then their ancestors’ journeys from Africa through the transatlantic slave trade. Every step of the way, those connections were threatened or severed by injustice and insecurity. Yet somehow, their attachments to land (so vital to their soul and to their survival) continuously transformed and thrived as they adapted to those surroundings both forced and chosen. 

As a sixth-generation Canadian, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I came to fully understand the depth and spirit of the historical journey of my ancestors. Many equate their connections to land only with the cruelty of slavery and plantations. But these connections run much deeper than that. On the rich and fertile soils of West Africa, villagers lived, worked and ate off the land. They had exceptional skills in cultivation, preservation and meal preparation. But during the experience of slavery between the 16th and 19th centuries, our people were forcibly stolen from those lands and the foods they held strong connections to. Although they landed on US soil unclothed and afraid, they carried inside them the power of what they knew, the determination to recoup what they’d lost, and the will to survive and adapt.

“I learned to cook at nine years old, and I taught my children the traditions that my mother taught me. My hope is they will also teach their children. This is how our African connections with food and earth will continue to survive.”

Food migration was an important aspect of the transatlantic slave trade, but it often goes unnoticed and is rarely mentioned in scholarly conversations about slavery. Crops like rice and okra (previously nonexistent in the US) were brought over on slave ships by the Europeans and cultivated by highly skilled enslaved people, whose hard work helped to grow and shape southern US cuisine. However, like everything else, enslaved people never received the credit. In fact, their contributions have virtually been eliminated from history. 

Through oral history, traditional teaching, and the passing down of these unique skills, descendants have quietly managed to preserve that groundwork that was laid and kept the food connections from Africa alive. Rice, yams and dumplings are often seen as foods that originated in the US, yet they originated in Africa. It was those slaves who cooked for their masters that developed and carried on those recipes that are now considered American staples. 

For example, Gumbo, thought to be a dish native to Louisiana, originated from Africa. Okra (called Ki’ngombo in Angola), along with a tomato base, was used to thicken the sauce of this dish. The current Louisiana staple also contains okra and tomato base, along with seafood, sausage, rice and spices. Dumplings, a staple in Black East Coast households, were perfected by enslaved Africans on plantations in Trinidad and Tobago. While dumplings were also a common European dish, their current uses are adaptations that were created, cooked and perfected by enslaved Africans and then later by Black servants in the US.

Still, many of us remain unaware. Even my mother was unaware of the significance of what her ancestors carried and how they shaped the cuisine of the US south, and the Canadian East Coast.  My mother, a woman whose words often harked back to the old days, couldn’t comprehend the depth of the injustice done to Africans as their legacy of food was erased from history and memory. Their skill in the fields and in the kitchen not only set the groundwork and built an empire of food security for these places, but shaped what became known as staples to its inhabitants. Almost nowhere can you find any credit given to these displaced Africans for their skillfulness and technique. Ironically,  the Black community in these areas and others are more likely to face challenges with food insecurity than many other communities?) . We must look closer at why that is. 

In the case of my ancestors, and countless others who escaped the plantations and headed north to Canada, (those who were part of the two major migrations from the US, and those who arrived on Canadian soil as freed Blacks), their food traditions made those voyages with them. However, food security did not. The injustice of being used for your skill but never benefiting from the fruit of your talents goes unnoticed even as scholars and historians write about and talk about slavery. Even when society demands we forget about the past, even as the world pretends that Africans had nothing to offer to North America. That the foods brought over on European slave ships did not change the landscape of America’s and Canada’s cuisine. That we should leave the pain behind. And that we should ignore the power of what our ancestors carried in their souls and poured into their food. 

For Indigenous Black people in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (many of whom are descendants still residing in the very communities their ancestors cultivated hundreds of years earlier) food continues to be a very important part of the culture. Upon their arrival to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, ancestors were forced to adapt to a new environment including harsh weather and rocky soil, conditions that were not conducive to cultivating suitable crops. Because they were often granted land that was of poor quality, they faced numerous challenges. However, once again, they rose to the occasion using their extraordinary skills in farming and planting. They passed down their knowledge to their children — they taught them to farm, and how to distinguish which herbs to find in the woods for medicine. They educated them on the art of preserving, cooking, and hunting. This was their survival, and it’s what carried them through the next couple hundred years. Yet today, Black folks on the Canadian East Coast disproportionately struggle with food insecurity and, in many cases, lack of access. Food injustice remains commonplace in many minority communities. Our history with food remains obscure.

While many are unaware of their origins, food remains the main guest at traditional weddings, funerals and other Black East Coast gatherings. Certain dishes containing ingredients such as black eyed peas, rice, okra and yams are adaptations from African cuisine and form the basis for some of the most popular dishes enjoyed by Black folks on the East Coast. Favourites like rice pudding (called sombi in Senegal) have been adapted over centuries and  invoke the same fondness as they did for the villagers who prepared them centuries ago. Our food has adapted over time, according to climate, availability, and lifestyle. It continues to be the heartbeat that unites our community.

I learned to cook at nine years old, and I taught my children the traditions that my mother taught me. My hope is they will also teach their children. This is how our African connections with food and earth will continue to survive. I don’t think my mother understood the depth of what she was imparting upon us, her children. I don’t think we understood the magnitude of what she was feeding our souls. Our African ancestors carried the secrets of traditional African cuisine deep in their spirits. They journeyed that passion all the way to the US, even during forced assimilation and struggle. Their legacy did not end there, as many would believe. Those who journeyed to the North, and those who left its shores in the 1792 exodus to journey to Sierra Leone, West Africa, are the beneficiaries of the passion and soul that travelled across countries and continents and survived. That same unshakable passion and soul is our link to the Motherland, and that lies in the heart of every soul food dish we share and prepare. 

headshot of Wanda Taylor, a black women, with curly-coily hair smiling.

Wanda Taylor is an author and Acquisitions Editor currently serving as Mentor in
Kings College’s MFA Creative Non- Fiction Program. Wanda is a former television producer and has written for various publications, including Understory Magazine and Atlantic Books Today. With backgrounds in journalism and social work, her writing reflects her passion for justice.

Spreading Food Knowledge

illustrations of various food. Sweet potato, eggs, lettuce, coconut oil, mushrooms, berries

By Ciana Hamilton

Eating well doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money. It’s a common misconception that healthy food is costly food and this false narrative can be a contributing factor to household food insecurity. One step to liberating yourself from oppressive food systems is learning about how food nourishes your body, how to shop for fresh foods, and how to prepare simple healthy meals. For me, years of surviving on little money forced me to learn how to shop and cook for myself. I was tired of spending money (that I didn’t have) on take-out or eating heavily processed ‘easy’ meals. I wanted to share what I’ve learned with folks who may find themselves wandering aimlessly in the produce section at the grocery store, or the person who avoids cooking because they were never taught how to cook.

Kitchen Essentials

First things first, you have to have the right set up and tools. Buying kitchen supplies doesn’t have to be expensive. Gather a few at a time and check out places like thrift stores, dollar stores or clearance sections at department stores. Here are some bare-bones basics to get you started: 

  • Set of knives
  • Cutting board
  • Can opener
  • Spatula, cooking spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Vegetable peeler
  • A medium-sized saucepan, frying pan and baking sheet
  • Tin foil (parchment paper or beeswax wraps work well too)

Cooking oil 

You will almost always need some sort of oil in order to make a decent meal. Trust me, you don’t want to make scrambled eggs with a dry pan. Your best option is going to be Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). Olive oil is high in healthy fats like omega 3 and 6 as well as monounsaturated fats. A bottle of EVOO can last a long time, so if you can, spend the extra money. Another great cooking oil is coconut oil. If your diet allows, butter or ghee are also great alternatives to oils and add extra flavour to most dishes. Avoid cooking oils such as vegetable oil and canola oil. These cooking oils are usually much cheaper but they are heavily processed and unhealthy.

Onions and Garlic 

There are very few recipes that don’t call for either onion or garlic. Having these two ingredients on deck at all times is crucial to making food that is full of flavour. 

How to shop: Buy a head of garlic every time you do groceries, you won’t regret it! You can also buy pre minced garlic that you keep in the fridge. Big time saver. Yellow and white onions offer the most flexibility; you can use them in just about any recipe due to the mild flavor. Red onion is cool too but tends to be sharper in taste and can be really noticeable in meals. 

How to store: I always keep my onions and garlic in a cool dark place. If you only use half of an onion, wrap the remaining onion in either tin foil, wax paper or plastic wrap. Put it in the crisper of your fridge and it will last an extra week. 

Canned and Dry Goods 

Buying canned or dried pantry items is a great idea if you’re on a budget and need groceries with a long shelf life. 

How to shop: For dry foods, it’s best to shop at a bulk store. Buying dried bulk goods is perfect if you live alone or only need a small quantity of something. Things like rice, pasta, beans, coffee, spices, flour, sugar and more can be found at most bulk stores. You can buy as much or as little as you want!  Be mindful when shopping in bulk — it can add up quickly. Remember to weigh your items to get a better idea of how much it will cost before going to the register. You can also bring containers from home to reduce your use of single-use plastic bags.

For canned food items, always check the ingredient lists for any weird or sketchy-sounding preservatives. Most canned items will have preservatives but there should not be a ton listed on the ingredient list. Always a good idea to check the sodium content as well as the expiry date. Canned items such as diced tomatoes, beans, tuna, and soups are great pantry items.

How to store and prepare:

You can store dry food in glass jars, plastic containers or keep them in the bag you purchased it in. You can start to get into the habit of using containers from other items like glass pasta sauce jars or large yogurt containers to store your dry goods. For canned items such as beans, it’s always best practice to rinse them well before cooking or consuming (mention why — sodium content?). Canned soups are easy to make since it’s typically just heat and serve. 

Spices and Seasonings

One of the hardest things for me in the kitchen was building up my spice rack. It’s something we often forget about but spices are absolutely paramount to cooking.

How to shop: Basic spices can be found at major grocery stores and are usually reasonably priced. Some staples you want to have are: salt, black pepper, cumin, ginger, curry powder, Italian seasoning, chili powder, paprika and turmeric. For recipes that call for more specific seasonings, hit up that bulk store and buy what you need for the meal you’re making.


Rice! Once you get this basic meal down, you can only go up from there. Your first pot of rice might be a bust but don’t fret, it will get easier and soon it’ll become easy! 

How to shop:

Buying rice seems like it would be straightforward but there are many different varieties of rice. It can be intimidating if you don’t know some basics. Rice can be divided into three main categories: long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain. Long grain rice types are light and fluffy while short-grain rice tends to be thick and sticky. Different types of rice have different flavour profiles as well; basmati rice tends to be slightly nutty in flavour while jasmine rice is subtle and sweet. The type of rice you choose should be determined by what meal you’re making. If you’re going for a curry or a dal, basmati is best. If you’re looking to do a simple rice and beans or fried rice, you want a white or brown long-grain variety.

How to prepare:

This is a basic guide and different kinds of rice will have different directions, but as a general rule, remember these tips:

  • Rinse your rice under cold water for about 30 seconds; it makes a difference.
  • Your base cooking ratio is always one cup of rice to two cups of water.
  • Using a medium sized saucepan, you always want to bring your water to a boil first before adding the rice. 
  • Once your rice is in the pot with the water you want to get it to a steady simmer before reducing the heat to low. 
  • Always cover the pot with a lid and don’t take it off. 
  • Set a timer, depending on the cooking instructions. You always want to set a timer.
  • A little water in the pot after the rice is cooking is ok. Let it stand for at least five minutes before serving.


You can make a bomb salad in no time. I love making a big salad because I can get really creative. Salads don’t have to be boring; add ingredients like nuts, cheese, dried fruits, croutons and protein to take your salad to the next level.

How to shop:

General rule, buy greens that are dark coloured or have purple/red leaves. These kinds of greens include: mixed green varieties, spinach, arugula, radicchio, chard and kale. Lighter varieties of lettuce are nice and crispy, but far less nutritious. It’s always best to buy greens that look fresh. Avoid prepackaged salads that have yellow, brown or wilted leaves. 

Storage and Preparation:

Spend the time to wash your greens before using them. Your salad dressing is what will make or break your salad, so spend time finding a good dressing recipe and invest in the ingredients. If you’re buying ready-made dressing, check the sugar content. You can make a basic dressing with simple ingredients like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Cook in batches

Forget everything you remember about leftovers. I promise they aren’t horrible. Cooking big meals that will give you leftovers is the most efficient way to prepare food. It’s unrealistic to try and cook a brand new meal every day. Plus, a lot of food tastes better the next day once the flavours have had a chance to settle. Big batch meals can be made on a day you have extra time or you can invite friends over to help you cook and everyone can take some home. 

How to shop:

For a big batch recipe, make sure you are getting enough ingredients. Buy extra if you are unsure. Make a list or have a copy of the recipe handy. You will most likely need a big pot or a slow cooker.

How to prepare 

Set the time aside to cook. Have the recipe visible. Make sure your kitchen is tidy and start with the most tedious of tasks which is usually washing, peeling and chopping vegetables or making any sort of sauces. Put on some music and put love into your food! 

Some ideas for big batch meals: 

  • Rice and beans 
  • Curries 
  • Soups and Stews 
  • Chili 

Build a Bowl

We’ve all heard the hype around “Buddha Bowls” and although some restaurants and stores sell pre-packaged bowls, making a bowl is super simple, cheap and allows you to experiment in the kitchen.

How to shop

Think about ingredients you like and how to combine them. Rice, quinoa, shredded kale or lettuce make a great base for any style of bowl. Then start to think about layers. It’s best to choose ingredients that can cook all at the same time; this way you are not preparing a bunch of different things. My bowl go-to’s are usually sweet potatoes, beets, squash and brussel sprouts. Next, choose a protein. Tofu, chicken strips, beef, eggs, you get the idea. Now the most important part, sauce! Any bowl will need some kind of sauce or dressing to go with it.You can make a basic spicy mayo with just mayo, sriracha and a little lime juice!

Meat and Protein Sources

Your body absolutely needs protein, it’s no secret.  Whether you eat meat or not, it’s important to include a protein source to your meals in order to truly satisfy hunger and give your body what it needs. 

How to shop: If you’re an omnivore, choose a simple meat to start. Lean ground beef or ground poultry is a great starting point. Beans and tofu are great alternatives. Extra firm tofu is the way to go and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Eggs are another excellent protein option and very accessible.

How to prepare: For ground beef/poultry, you can find a recipe to follow or just wing it with some chopped garlic, onion, seasonings and vegetables. To put it simply, you want to heat a pan, put your meat in and break it up with a cooking spoon.You’ll know it’s done once it’s all browned and no pink remains. Drain any extra oil from the pan and season as desired. For tofu, I often find it easiest to bake, but you can fry tofu in some oil with some seasonings. Often underrated, eggs are super healthy and provide tons of protein. You can prepare eggs in a variety of ways: fried, omelettes, quiches, frittatas, hard/soft boiled and of course, scrambled.  


It’s important to understand how your body processes food and what kinds of nutrients your body needs from food. As a starting point, you want to remember a few things. Your body speaks to you in many ways. If you ate breakfast in the morning but are hungry again shortly after, your body is trying to tell you something. Ensure that each of your meals contains a balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Your carbs will give you energy throughout the day, but if you load up on heavily processed carbohydrates like bread and pasta you will feel a midday crash. Your energy sources should come from rice, oats, or vegetables like sweet potatoes. Your body uses protein in many ways. Protein is important for your bones and muscles as well as for repairing your body when it needs to. Finally, you want to incorporate healthy fats whenever possible. Healthy fats are amazing for your brain and were traditionally eaten to keep the body warm and full. Nuts, avocados, olive oil, peanut butter, full fat yogurt or milk are great examples. 

Cooking can be a very spiritual thing— it’s meant to be. You are preparing something your body needs with your hands and your heart. There is no shame in preparing basic meals that aren’t fancy or Instagram worthy. Put love and intention into every meal you make, even if it’s just scrambled eggs and toast. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.

A black and white portrait of Ciana smiling with her mouth closed. She is a 20 something black woman with dreads. She is wearing a winter coat, scarf and has a sunglasses ontop of her head.

Ciana Hamilton is a happy nappy freelance creative writer & journalist. When she’s not writing she can be found doing fun shit with her kids.


Illustration of various breakfast ingredients to make a "deluxe breakfast sandwich" Text reads "Avocado & Egg Toast"

A Small Collection of The Peak Collective’s Favourite Meals.

By: The Peak Collective

“Deluxe Breakfast sandwich” Illustration by SoySuki

Ciana’s Spanish Style Rice and Beans 

Easy. Vegetarian. Budget-Friendly.

What you need:
-  1 ½ cups of rice (long grain works best)
- 2 cups of water
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced 
- Half an onion, chopped
- Half a jar of salsa, about 1 cups (mild, medium or spicy whatever you like!)
- 1 can of black beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 Tbsp Oil (olive oil is best, but use whatever you have)
- 1 tsp of salt, pepper and cumin* (optional)
- Add oil to saucepan over medium heat.  Add your chopped onion and saute for 5 mins until translucent.
- Add rice. Stir. You want your rice to be nice and covered with the oil and onion. 
- Add garlic.
- Add water, beans, salsa and spices. Bring to a boil then simmer for 25 minutes covered.
- Serve! Eat plain or with toppings like cheese, avocado or protein of your choice. You can also add to a tortilla and make it burrito style.

Mina’s Pico de Gallo aka homemade salsa 

Easy, Vegan, Budget Friendly

What you need: 
- Two large tomatoes
- One white onion
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- One jalapeno 
- 1 teaspoon salt 
- One lemon

- Dice the tomatoes
- Mince the onion - if it is a small onion use whole, if it is a big onion use half 
- Add the salt and juice from the lemon and crush up the mixture with your hands until the juice is released from the tomatoes 
- Mince the jalapeno and add it to the mixture 
- Mince the cilantro and at it 
- Stir together and eat with nacho chips or on top of rice!

Hauwa’s Deluxe Breakfast Sandwich 

Easy, interchangeable ingredients, budget-friendly!

What you need:
Herb & garlic cream cheese 
Hot Sauce
Salt & Pepper

Toast bagel
Slice tomato into 2 thin slices 
Cut avocado and scoop out half 
Slice onion thinly and saute 
Fry 2 eggs in the same pan as onion for taste!
Cook bacon (or meat alternative)
Spread cream cheese on bagel, add avocado, tomato and onion slices
Add eggs and bacon on top 
Add hot sauce and salt & pepper to taste


Add or remove ingredients to your preference or dietary restrictions.
Some alternatives I enjoy are: smoked salmon, melted cheese,
spinach, hot peppers etc.
And you can make it vegetarian, vegan or gluten free! Yum!

Temi’s Amazing Spaghetti

Easy. Interchangeable Ingredients. Budget-Friendly

What you need:
Spaghetti as much as you need 
1 of each: red, yellow, green and orange bell peppers.
Add other veggies you like, I love the flavour of celery in this!
Half an onion
1 scotch bonnet, 2 if you tryna feel the heat
1 large clove of garlic
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
Seasoning and herbs: salt, cayenne pepper, thyme, basil,
curry powder and 1 knorr (bouillon) cube. 
Protein of your choice or none. I usually use shrimp or stewing beef.
For this recipe we’re using stewing beef. 
Cooking oil

Chop onions, garlic and bell peppers and beef into your preferred size.
Throw that spaghetti in some boiling water
You can use a different pan for this step but if you’re too lazy to do dishes
like me then just wait till your spaghetti is ready. Drain your spaghetti and
keep it aside. Then put some oil in the pot and wait till it’s hot. 
Put the beef in and when it’s sizzling throw in the garlic,
onions and scotch bonnets. Stir for about 2 minutes, add bell peppers and
let simmer with the lid for 5 minutes.
Add the pasta sauce and seasoning to your liking.
Make sure you taste it so it’s not bland when you’re done.
When it tastes right add in the spaghetti and a lil bit off water
so it doesn’t dry out and turn the heat just below medium.
Mix it all together and let it be till the water dries out and
the spaghetti is the level of softness you like. If it is not then add some more water bro. 
That is all, enjoy your meal!

Bonus! Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Easy. Vegan. Budget-Friendly 

What you need:
1 large cauliflower 
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of curry powder 
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of salt and black pepper 
Optional:1 tsp chili flakes or cayenne pepper 

Set oven to bake at 350
Cut the cauliflower into small or medium size florets 
Add to florets to large mixing bowl
Add oil, curry powder, salt, pepper, cumin and chili flakes (if using) to the bowl.
Mix the cauliflower well so all pieces are covered with spices and oil
Spread cauliflower evenly onto a baking sheet 
Put in oven and roast for 25 minutes or until cauliflower has crispy brown edges 
If you like spicy, drizzle some sriracha on top once it’s cooled down!

Lost Seeds

black and white illustration of maple pods

By Vanessa Ong

Illustration by Thaila

ma ja.
(good morning Grandma.)

peeping through the blinds,
I see the hazy morning skies,
a bowl of sweet black sesame oatmeal,
little sips of delight.

ma wuo keu takjeu
(Grandma, I’m going to school.)

unwrap the sticky plastic,
chả on white bread, no crusts,
“what -is- that?”
hold back the tears,
wrap, wrap, wrap.

jo ni leu bho jiat?
(why didn’t you eat?)

carry two extra chairs to the dinner table,
arrange six pairs of chopsticks,
delicately engraved red and green characters all lined up,
call everyone to jiat beung,
grandma’s pride written on her face.

ha kiang.
(So good.)

egg tarts are a sweet treat,
flakey crusts and a buttery custard,
share a taste with your school friends,
spat, spat, spat.

wuo bho toe kuong.
(I’m not hungry.)

silent meals,
chowing down as the chopsticks click clack,
three generations in one another’s presence,
we were peace.

ho jiat, bho nang jai!
(If it were tasty, nobody would know!)

cycles of attachment and of shame,
hiding your language and hiding your food,
your culture’s a memory,
now, who are you?

wuo mzai.
(I don’t know.)

Vanessa Ong is a Teochew-Chinese- Vietnamese-Canadian WOC, living and working in Kitchener, Ontario. She is a sometimes-poet, gardener, and interdisciplinary researcher, currently exploring connections between food, gentrification, and sense of place in Downtown Kitchener. As cofounder of Littlefoot Community Projects, she is interested in building a decolonized food justice movement, which addresses difficult topics like affordability, just sustainabilities, land sovereignty, intergenerational trauma, and cultural loss. She spends her time overthinking and curling up in bed when the too-muchness of life takes hold.

Matter & Molokhia

illustration of Egyptian Molokhia Food

By Basmah Ahmed

“Egyptian Molokhia” Illustration by Yaansoon

I remember vines of tomatoes, cucumbers and baskets of eggplant but my favourite was always the Molokhia; a tall leafy green that grows on thick stalk. Although resembling spinach, when used by Arabs to make warm soup it is adored by children (the toughest food critics). 

I remember those stalks being brought into the backyard from the back of Amu’s (Uncle’s) truck after he visited the farm. They were almost as tall I was in 4 foot piles. I would help pull each leaf off, stem by stem for hours. My friends and I would compete with each other on who could remove the leaves the fastest before they’d be cut into even thinner pieces by our mothers’ knives that rocked back and forth at speeds that seemed too dangerous – even for adults. Some saved for now, and most stored for later. I remember this from my childhood, my mother and other families in our little Arab community in Hamilton growing food in the 4 months of the year that the weather here would allow. They would share vegetables and fruits that they had grown, swapping tips and humbly bragging about whose crops turned out the best. 

It mattered that I could watch and see how food grew, how it could be cut and torn and used in ways that would nourish our communities. That miracle is one that never gets old. You cannot tire of watching the magic of your people and the earth connecting together. 

In his book Divine Governance of the Human Kingson, Ibn Arabi, a Muslim poet, philosopher and scholar says the following: 

“As the whole universe is created from the primary elements of earth, water, fire, and air so is the body of persons. 

The Creator says: 

“They it is who created you from dust” (Quran 40:67) 

“We have created them from clay” (Quran 37: 11) 

“We have created the human being of formed dried mud” (Quran 15:26) 

The separation between us and the land is not one that is natural. It is not one that is sacred, and not one that is held in almost any ancient tradition especially not those of our indigenous land protectors. 

Yet colonial and capitalist policy will tell you that some bodies are made of matter that makes their belly unworthy of filling, that land belongs to some, and should be ripped away from others. Yet the land defies, and is dying to warn us that it is unsafe to continue this way. In the hands of capitalistic endeavors, white supremacy, and systems built off the backs of colonial theft, we were taught that plant beings are nothing but resources, water is nothing but a means of production, people are not worth much – you are not worth much. 

We know that under this model some life is preferred over others. Some bodies are preferred over others. Lightness over blackness. They have blocked, barred, pillaged, and destroyed. That clay matter did this, and yet it is only through a return to our essential being and our natural connection with the land,  that we can even begin to undo what we have been programmed to believe is right.  

We cannot mold this new story by shaping it off a model that has betrayed our most vulnerable.

In Arabic, the word for the people of Paradise is Muflihoon ( Moof – lee – hoon), which  comes from the root word Falah, which means farmer. This word is used to describe the winners who have achieved paradise It is the same word used to describe the farmer who tills the land; who waters it and harvests it only to see the fruits of their rewards after months of patience or who may only see it grow for generations to come.

 I know not everyone will agree that Paradise exists, or will even agree on how to get there but we can agree that gardens grow wherever seeds can find moisture, and can hold on to soil long enough to grow. If we are the earth as Ibn Arabi suggests, we must then also be the farmers. 

They cannot stop us from entering paradise despite continuing to build the gate that locks us from it. As farmers we can build paradise with our bare hands, extending ourselves into the dirt to excavate and create space for new. Remove the weeds, plant seeds collected from our ancestors and bury them firmly into the new soil that we’ve cleared. 

I know I am not just on the earth but I am of it, made of its same pieces, with all the nutrients I need to nourish my community. I am a pile of stalks  that will have young hands reaching for each leaf , mothers’ rocking them back and forth at speeds that seemed scary even for adults, yet transforming them into the meal that fills up a stomach that was told it was not worthy. Some saved for now, and most stored for generations to come. 

We’re not too different from those stalks of Molokhia. So I ask, what would it look like to know that the earth has enough to feed us? That we can put ourselves in the dirt and come out stalks that can nourish each other? What would it look like to believe the world can provide for us because we are it? I for one will be fighting to find out one garden at a time.  

Basmah is standing amongst forestry in a green long sleeve sweater and one-shoulder overalls on.

Basmah is a writer and poet who
is passionate about the urban food movement and loves getting her hands dirty in projects focused on access to food and connecting people with nature in unexpected places. She is most inspired by how spirituality/ancient traditions tie into the fight against climate change.

My Gardening Journey

black and white sketch of 3 strawberry plants growing

Weeding out colonial ways and reclaiming my roots

By Tresanne Fernandes

Growing up, every summer I would find myself in the airport bathroom in London disposing of plant cuttings. I felt bad that Nana had taken the time to prep them. I felt worse on the phone a few weeks later when she would ask me how the plants were doing. I didn’t want to garden and I wasn’t allowed to cross back to North America with them anyway. I think eventually she picked up on the fact that we didn’t share that hobby. But, since 2018 when I started gardening, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I’m left to wonder which ones she wanted me to have. 


In the 1930s (or 40s?) my grandfathers both left Goa, India and went to Uganda and Kenya for better job opportunities — to increase the likelihood of their survival. In 1948, my Nana and Grandma followed to get married — to increase the likelihood of survival in the long run. My parents (Goans born in Kenya and Uganda) received a good education and then 9-to-5 jobs in the western world for survival. 

I finished university and never got a full-time job, so I decided to scrap that plan. I started working part-time gigs and gardening here on Turtle Island as part of my long-term survival strategy. I don’t see a 9-to-5 as a secure guarantee of money. I see racist hiring (and firing), and a lack of work-life-play balance, if I were to be offered a “real job”. I fear a 9-to-5 will only come with imposter syndrome. I see cuts to funding for typically secure jobs. I may as well learn life skills and balance part time jobs.

Growing food was not something my parents did — their survival was sustained through buying food because they had money from their jobs. Like many brown immigrants in North America, their focus was on education and trying to get that “Canadian work experience”. To fit in was a good path to survival for them. And somewhere buried in my parents (and myself), there might live a fear of being looked down upon for farming and/or not having a 9-to-5. Shadism in Goa relates to people being dark if they worked in the paddy fields, so working in the fields was  frowned upon. My parents decided to buy food, not grow it. Most of the food I consume, I buy. For me, gardening takes a lot more time and energy than obtaining the money to buy the food. But that may not always be true. It’s empowering to know I can grow food. I was reminded at an event hosted by Rootcare that people of the diaspora have developed the skills to use what they have and what’s available to them. My Nana grew food in Kenya and England. She connected to the lands wherever she went. I think she wants me to as well. What is the point of surviving if I’m not also connected to the land and water? 

Surviving and thriving on other people’s land 

In 1972 my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents left Kenya and Uganda out of fear of being killed. We don’t talk about that much. We also don’t talk about what it meant that, before 1972, Goans could settle in Africa and take jobs from Ugandans and Kenyans. Or that now we’ve settled in Canada — we’re settlers in Canada — we’re here taking survival from Indigenous people of Turtle Island. Sometimes invasive species are just trying to survive, but that doesn’t justify them taking over. Replanting myself in Goa is always a valid option. My generation of brown people are starting to have discussions about the complexities of living here but we have a long way to go. White settlers and non-white settlers have to do their part to learn about and honour protocols and treaties as they were understood by Indigenous people where they live. The Europeans did a good job of dividing and conquering. 

I want to undo that. What protocols other than the Points System can I follow to be allowed here? How can I strive to survive without limiting other people’s ability to? Should I move back to Goa? For now I’m in Tkaronto, previously known as “the meeting place”, trying to figure out how to live out the Two Row Wampum Treaty and the Dish with One Spoon Treaty. For now I believe I can live here and do more good than harm. How can I be less like an invasive species and more like a companion plant, with a mutually beneficial relationship with Indigenous communities? 

For as long as I choose to live on lands that aren’t my own, there are a few things I want to do. I want to learn about my roots as well as the history of the lands I’m on and the cultures of Indigenous communities of Turtle Island. There is a lot to deconstruct and reconstruct in this colonial world. 

I want to develop a mindset of abundance and giving. I dream about living in community, growing food with like-minded people, and trading with the neighbours.

Gardening to weed out colonial ways and reclaim my roots

I reflect on the impact gardening has had on my life and I realize how much it has been threaded into my journey of reconnecting to my roots. 

  1. Colonizers try to kill us off and destroy our relationship to the land. Gardening to survive is an act of resistance. They want us to rely on the systems they create but we learn to sustain ourselves.
  2. As I opened to the plant spirits, I started to allow myself to open to my ancestors. I pour water intentionally as an offering in my backyard. I am reminded there is another way of being in the world. In Goa, the Portuguese colonizers introduced Catholicism and likely beat out other spiritual practices of my ancestors. I don’t know what those were but I’d rather create rituals through intuition and connecting to ancestors than practice what the colonizers forced on my people.
  3. My right brain is important too — I want to allow my creativity to flow, feel my emotions and listen to my intuition. Post-university degree, I learned the importance of moving away from left-brain — linear and analytic — thinking. In the garden I am free to be myself. I grow my emotional awareness. I calm my nervous system when I run my fingers through the soil. I breathe slower. It’s fulfilling to work with my hands and I’ve started to value what I most dreaded in school — the arts. The right brain is what the colonizers didn’t want us to use. I’m the first generation of my family allowed to use my left hand (controlled by right brain). Uncle Ernest was Nana’s helper in the garden. As a child he was beaten for using his left hand. As an adult he was pitied for not having a “normally” functioning left brain. But he was so mindful — he made everyone laugh, and when we visited he would stand up mid-conversation and dance and sing. I wonder if he pitied us for not using our right brain more. Sometimes I pity white men for not seeing the true beauty of the cultures which they suppress/suppressed.
  4. I know some things like Catholicism were from the Portuguese, but other things — like what grows in Goa — have not changed. Thinking about the land there makes me certain that I can know some aspect of my culture that existed pre-colonization. I may not grow coconuts or rice. But I can use rice as an offering.  I played with and then mulched my plants with coco coir, a product made from coconut husks that is commonly used for gardening. My family has always used coconut heavily when making Goan sweets at Christmas time and now I will do it with more pride. The shame around eating rice and curry disappears.
  5. I want to develop a mindset of abundance and giving. I dream about living in community,  growing food with like-minded people, and trading with the neighbours. I want to move away from the western fear of scarcity and isolation that often fuels greed and individualism. Initially I wanted to garden because my (white) activist friends used to talk about the importance of growing food for oneself when civilization collapses. In my body is a very human and intergenerational fear of landing in a new place and not being able to survive. But I’m also learning to trust the Earth’s abundance. I’ve seen a whole African violet plant grow from one leaf. Plant cuttings are amazing. I’m also seeing the abundance and resiliency of my family who kept bouncing back after migrating. And the resiliency of many Indigenous people and communities on Turtle Island who survived so much trauma. And I’m seeing the importance of community. I recognize that my privileges of living with my parents and having light brown skin make it easier for me to change my mindset to one of community, trust, sharing and abundance. Gardening also helps me with this.
  6. Life is seasonal, not linear. I’m learning to nourish myself with what’s available now. 

In the last few years of my Nana’s life, she used to sit in her wheelchair by the window so the sun would warm her back. In my backyard I have a chair in the East that catches the rising sun. It faces the blackberry bush and hydrangea bush, two of her favourites. There is a picture in the window of Nana and Uncle Ernest so they can watch it all grow. 

Tresanne Fernandes has roots in Goa, India. She is a new gardener, excited to grow food and medicine. She loves her jobs facilitating workshops and babysitting, where she gets to practice mindfulness, play, creativity and spontaneity. She is also starting out on her journey as a birth doula.

Restoring Indigenous Foodways

black and white illustration of two acorns and the plants accompanying leaves

Highlights across Turtle Island

Highlighting and shouting out Indigenous run food projects and businesses across Turtle Island.

Acorn Energy Bites 

Pomo and Miwok youth in Northern California are reclaiming traditional ways of harvesting and gathering acorns from nearby ancient oak groves. Acorn Energy Bites has been a project of the Tribal Youth Ambassadors in Santa Rosa California for almost four years. The project is a part of a bigger resource to teach Pomo and Miwok youth about ancestral traditions and cultural heritage. The youth – who range from grade school to college – harvest, process and then sell Acorn Energy Bites at a local farmers market. The Acorn Bites project began as a way to restore access to wild and traditional foods that the US government commonly restricts or prohibits. 

Mr Bannock  

Chef Paul Natrall, from Squamish Nation, has opened Vancouver’s first Indigenous food truck. Mr Bannock Indigenous Cuisine serves up award winning tacos, salads, and vegan dishes that use a range of fresh ingredients and are prepared with some traditional methods such as drying, clay and stone ovens. Owner Paul, is a long time chef who began his career in 2009. Paul works closely with Indigenous communities in the Lower Mainland; providing jobs, teaching, and volunteering at schools. Mr Bannock food truck began in 2018 and has been catering for offices and events around the city. If you’re ever in the Vancouver area go grab a taco or you can support him by purchasing gear on the website: 


Qajuqturvik Food Centre

The Qajuqturvik Food Centre (OFC) is redefining every common perception of a conventional soup kitchen. OFC, which is located in Iqaluit, offers a variety of accessible programs geared to combat food insecurity and empower local residents. The centre hosts a cooking club, a culinary skills training program and a community meal is served seven days a week. In addition to this, Qajuqturvik Food Centre provides a variety of other services such as free tax clinics, finance workshops, group socials and more. The centre has a dedicated team from full time staff to volunteers who are making all this possible. You can donate to OFC by going to: https://www.qajuqturvik.ca/

Miqmak Catering Indigenous Kitchen 

Norma Condo opened Montreal’s first Indigenous Restaurant in the summer of 2019. Miqmak Catering Indigenous Kitchen is Montreal’s first and only Indigenous owned restaurant. Norma initially started as a catering company but soon expanded due to popular demand. The menu at Miqmak Indigenous Kitchen has a variety of traditional recipes such as a three sisters casserole, wild rice and of course, bannock. If you’re ever in MTL go show her some love.

Book Review of Freedom Farmers by Monica M White

Book cover reads "Freedom farmers: Agricultural resistance and the Black Freedom Movement by Monica M White" the image is of different aged black farmers harvesting

Book review by Shabina Lafleur-Gangji

In her book, Monica M . White tells us a story of how Black folks in the  US have always used agriculture as a tool,  not just for survival, but also for liberation. She has done an impeccable job of meticulously searching through archives and interviewing community members to tell us about the legacies of people like Fanny Lou Hamer and George Washington Carver. Her book draws on the work of organizations like the Freedom Farm Cooperative and The Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which have been instrumental in the fight for emancipation, and connects their work to current initiatives like the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.

This book left me feeling not only inspired, but in awe. Food justice is a tool of liberation. This book shows us how Black people have used agriculture to build housing, worker’s cooperatives, and schools to create a road map to freedom.

News Briefs

Group of various black women in winter attire and many wearing hijab holding protest signs. The women in the forefront has a mic to her face and the signs read "Amazon #hearourvoice"

Fall & Winter 2019

Photo: Awood labour rights group speaking out against amazon

Autumn Peltier: Continues the Fight for Indigenous Water Protection

April – September 2019

At 14, Autumn Peltier from Wiikwemkoong Territory, was named Chief Water Commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation. Autumn has been advocating for water protection since she was eight years old and is taking on the role of Chief Water Commissioner after the passing of her great aunt. In September, Petlier addressed guests at the UN headquarters in New York and reinforced, not only the importance but the sacredness of clean water in Indigenous communities. Autumn is continuing to fight for her community but is also urging everyone to take steps towards a more sustainable world. She has been nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize.

Unist’o’ten Village Update

November 6th 2019, Wet’suwet’en Territory B.C

An Unist’o’ten village guest was arrested because she prevented a Coastal GasLink (CGL) contractor from accessing a worksite within Wet’suwet’en Nation. The Unist’o’ten bridge monitor was acting on a protocol agreement that states that any CGL vehicles or contractors entering Unist’o’ten Village must provide 24 hours notice before passing through the territory. The commercial vehicle attempting to enter the village on Nov. 6th had not given notice. This protocol agreement between Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and CGL came into effect in June 2019. Despite the agreement, the guest was still arrested – although later released and not charged. This arrest is part of the on-going surveillance and harassment experienced by Unist’o’ten residents and guests. Both the RCMP and the Community Industry Response Group (CIRG) continue to threaten arrest and deny villagers access to certain parts of the territory. Despite this, the Unist’o’ten village and camp have remained strong and resilient.  This is a reminder that the Unist’o’ten Village is not a protest or demonstration; it is a permanent non-violent occupation of Unist’o’ten territory. 

To read more, donate items or join the camp visit: http://unistoten.camp/

Trans Mountain Surveilling Anti-pipeline Activists (Tiny House Warriors)

November 25 2019, Secwepemc Nation B.C

Trans Mountain, a federally owned corporation, is monitoring folks who are actively resisting the Trans Mountain pipeline. A document shows that the names of anyone posting anti-pipeline content or videos on social media are being recorded and monitored. This list apparently includes anyone who is tagged in anti-pipeline posts or anyone who shares the content. Trans Mountain has also begun singling out certain individuals who they deem as ‘persons of interest’. 

Trans Mountain appears to have a particular interest in the ongoing surveillance of the Tiny House Warriors. Kanahus Manuel, one of the main spokespeople for Tiny House Warriors, has been labelled as a person of interest and is often at the centre of many of the security reports. The Tiny House Warriors are a pipeline resistance group that are strategically building ten tiny houses along the Trans Mountain pipeline route.Tiny House Warriors have stated that “any corporate colonial project that seeks to go through and destroy our 180,000 square km of unceded territory will be refused passage through our territory. We stand resolutely together against any and all threats to our lands, the wildlife and the waterways.”

To learn more or find out how to support The Tiny House Warriors, visit: http://tinyhousewarriors.com/

FYI: Animal Rights Activists in Ontario

December 2019, Ontario 

Ontario just proposed a new bill that could potentially fine animal rights activists $15,000 – $25,000 for trespassing on farms or processing facilities. This new bill is supposed to protect farmers who feel harassed and threatened by animal rights demonstrators trespassing on private property (this includes the stopping or interference with animal transport vehicles). The bill would also impose harsher penalties for repeat “offenders”. 

Awood joins Athena to take on Amazon

December 2019, Minnesota U.S

Awood, a small labour rights group based out of Minnesota, has joined forces with a larger coalition to strengthen their fight against Amazon. Awood was organized in 2017 by East African employees to collectively raise complaints against the company. The group has proven their resilience holding a six hour walk-out on Prime Day, negotiating with management twice and cotinuing to advocate on behalf of the Muslim community. Awood has done all of this without the support of a union but is now backed by Athena. 

Athena is an anti-Amazon coalition of over three dozen labour rights groups that are fighting the e-commerce giant on a variety of different fronts. The goal of Athena is to build solidarity and hold the company accountable for employee mistreatment on a national scale. Some of the big issues being tackled are: workplace health and safety, antitrust policies/procedures imposed by Amazon and equal protection for foriegn temporary workers. 

To read more or support Awood, visit: http://www.awoodcenter.org/

To read more on Athena, visit: https://www.athenaforall.org/