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Investigating Identity - A Cultural Mix

Many many moons ago Cooking Up Dialogue hosted 6 wonderful people in a Circle of sharing stories and recipes:

This was the first of our 4 online sessions with this group, each session has a theme and a script of Curated Questions held together with a clear intention; to delight in our cultural differences and to recognise them while connecting through our stories, as always the recipes are our catalyst, our icebreaker and a wonderful doorway into understanding the traditions and the lived realities of ourselves and others.

In a later conversation with participant Huda Starfire I mentioned that "we haven't made the time to talk recently! Time is so troublesome like a naughty fairy in the woods, or a squirrel scampering up and down trees, let's tame time for a while!"

So that is what I am doing right now, making belated time to share some of the anecdotes, the amazing food and celebrating the bonds formed.

The format of our Cooking Up Dialogue sessions is that in each session there are 6 participants and two facilitators. This particular group is very diverse in terms of world wide location and cultural heritage.

So let me introduce myself and my co-host:

My name is Jodie, Location Istanbul. I am white, able bodied, born in England and an immigrant residing in Turkey since 30 years, I have 3 children, am in a happy heterosexual marriage and I identify as a woman and as a creature of the ecosystem of our planet.

Yeşim Selçuk, location Datça Turkey.

Yeşim is Turkish, trained and working as a clinical psychologist, she is married and living by the sea.

Participants in alphabetical order -

Cristina Valencia, location Istanbul.

Born in Ecuador, South America lived in France, Chile and Palestine, currently living in Istanbul with her Turkish husband.

She loves recreating Latin American gastronomy with Turkish local ingredients, and discovering old ways of cooking.

Chris Breedt, location South Africa.

Chris is a white South African living off grid together with their partner. Chris identifies as being trans, non-binary gender and is autistic.

Daisy-Mae Bluebell Bray, location Scotland (at the time of our sessions)

Daisy-Mae has travelled the world working on eco restoration, rewilding and permaculture projects, she is a native of Yorkshire England and is now based in Scotland.

Huda Starfire, location Cairo, Egypt

Starfire was born in Lebanon, lived in Sudan, The US and Turkey and now lives in Cairo. She experienced the Way of the Circle through Native American people while in Santa Barbara.

Melissa R.H location Istanbul.

Melissa is from Madagascar, which many people are unaware is part of the African continent. She has lived in Indonesia, France and Switzerland. She is now living in Istanbul.

Stephanie Veronica Turemiş, location London, UK

Steph lives in London with her 3 children. She is of Jamaican immigrant descent and has always been a minority as a black woman in her neighbourhood in London, but was even more so during her years in the south coast of Turkey.

All the recipes below are shared as told by the participants:


from Cristina Valencia

Special corn drink served during the commemoration of deceased people in Ecuador.

Similar to Day of the Dead, or Toussaint, in Ecuador we do visit graves to bring flowers and pray to our loved ones that that have passed away the 1st and 2nd November, after that we gather in family to enjoy this delicious thick drink, which gets even better when ferments.

“Colada morada” this sweet corn drink is made with fruits, spices and purple corn flour that give that purple color. In Turkey is not possible to find the black or purple corn flour, so using normal corn flour is enough, but to give the purple or violet color, it is important to use berries like “Yaban Mersini” and blackberries. Also naranjilla is replaced by passion fruit or pineapple. Some aromatical herbs have been replaced since there is not here in Turkey like, “ishpingo” Cinnamon flower, that come from the Amazonia, or arrayan ataco (purple amaranth). Finally in Ecuador, we do consume cane sugar, and is possible to get “panela” much better!

The colada is accompanied with special breads shaped in the form of children called guaguas de pan – literally bread babies. This food represents both life and death, and it is a tradition that has been preserved from pre-hispanic times, and of course has mutated with time. When I moved to Turkey, I could never imagined that preparing colada could be possible but my husband did it for me, since then we intend to prepare every year at least once.

Words from Jodie after the session:

I found it so sweet to hear that Cristina's husband made the dish even though it was hard and new for him.

I think living as we do, so far from our family or old home and the culture we know, it is so beautiful to have a partner and friends who care about our culture and our feelings.


· 250 gr purple or black corn flour can use simple corn flour as a replacement

· 1 pineapple peels and core + 2 cups finely diced

· 150 ml passion fruit or pineapple juice if you can’t find naranjilla juice

· 300 gr blackberries frozen or fresh

· 250 gr blueberries frozen or fresh

· 250 gr strawberries sliced

· 2 pieces orange peel

· Some orange leaves

· 350 gr brown sugar (cane sugar)

· 12 cups water (8 cups for the pineapple skins + spices part, and the remaining 4 cups for the berry mix)

· 5-6 cinnamon sticks

· 4-5 cloves

· 1 star anise

· Allspice

· A few lemongrass leaves fresh or dry

Other fruits that can be also added: peaches, apples, pears.


1. If possible, the flour must be soaked for at least one night. Use a ceramic pot, but not aluminum. The next day when it is going to be used it must be sifted in a fine sieve, that will give it greater smoothness at the end.

2. Place the pineapple skins and core, cinnamon, spices and brown sugar in a large pot with 8 cups of water. Boil for about 20-25 minutes.

3. Add the lemon verbena, lemongrass, and orange peel.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and strain.

5. In a separate pot, add 4 cups of water with the blueberries and blackberries, boil for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool down until safe to handle, blend and strain.

6. Mix the cup of the purple corn flour with 1 cup of the spice pineapple liquid until well diluted.

7. Add the strained berry mix, the spiced pineapple liquid and the diluted purple flour mix to a large pot.

8. Cook over medium heat, stir constantly to keep it from sticking, bring to a boil.

9. Add the pineapple chunks, the strawberry slices, and any additional fruits, and reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes.

10. Taste sugar and serve warm or cold. Even the next day will taste better!

Recipe: For Healing

from Chris Breedt

Chris kindly joined us and blessed us with sharing time while they prepared an elaborate BBQ in memory of their grandmother who had passed the week before.

These are some of their words:

This past week has been a big deal for me, my grandmother passed away... and its complicated, I identify as non binary, transgender... but I come from a very conservative quite bigoted part of Afrikaans culture....

I fell so very far from the tree... and it is difficult to know what to take away from how I was raised, and the more I thought about Jodie's instruction to come along with a dish

what I realised was that the part of the culture that I came from and want to preserve, the bits that matter to me are best embodied in the tradition of the braai. (South African word for barbeque)

I identify as very inclusive, very much for equal rights, anti racism, anti colonialism and these are the kind of values that I want to embody.

The nearest thing I can find in my traditional culture is in our history as

people who were driven to escape from British colonialism....

this speaks to me... this suits my identity, the idea of the communal fire and preparing a meal for a community, meals were not individual affairs, they were group affairs, almost the entire village.. the laer.... (or camp) of 4 or 5 families.

Food was shared he spirit of sharing and communality sits well with with my view of the world and how I am as a person.

That was the bit that I wanted to experience and reconnect with as I deal with this difficult time.

This whole elaborate braai is a sort of wake and a sharing of my culture and my history.

The braai is a very traditional way to eat here, we all have a duty when preparing, typically the men folk make the fire and the meats, collectively they would stand over the coals and fuss, while the women would do all the real work, making different salads and getting drinks ready, but everyone would collectively be involved in preparing the food. typically when you show up for a braai nothing is ready so it is about sharing the experience, that is the thing I miss the most, the shared experience, you don't make a braai for yourself, you make it for your community. Tonight's meal here will be shared with our neighbours.

Recipe: English Trifle

from Daisy-Mae Bluebell Bray

Traditional English Trifle Recipe:

(I used the recipe from - but didn't use almonds for decoration, instead I used chocolate flakes. I also didn't use gelatin, I used a raspberry jelly already set.)

6 ounces/160 g sponge cake (or pound cake; halved and cut into thick slices)

3 tablespoons sweet sherry

1/2 cup/135 g unflavored English gelatin (see the kitchen notes)

10 ounces/300 g fresh strawberries (or raspberries; if frozen, defrosted)

2 cups/500 mL thick homemade custard (or canned)

2 cups/500 mL whipping cream (softly whipped)

Garnish: sliced strawberries or whole raspberries

Garnish: toasted flaked almonds

In a conversation during and after the session Daisy and I shared how it is hard to realte to the colonial reality of our nation:


"At the beginning of the session my head was throbbing, I felt incoherent and lost my thread as I did the intro.. I was blaming my headache but I think, after you spoke that there's a resistance in me about my identity too... I mean I know there is, but it seemed hearing you say it was like a relief.

A bit later my headache passed... Coincidence or not"


"I feel like it was so healing for me....

... Hopefully through these kind of containers and nurturing spaces, we can work through these colonial wounds together in like sacred holding! Thank you so much for initiating that...

And it was also a bit of a surprise for me to share that, to be honest! I really just felt the urge to make trifle, and realised I was feeling into my grandma because of the time of year, and then noticed all the resistance that came up. It felt appropriate to share it!"

Recipe: Mulaah

from Huda Starfire

Dish components:

Huda Starfire told the beautiful story of this Sudanese meal.

The idea of a separate platter is extremely new for us, we sit together around a large round tray, as a matter of fact traditionally at home we will sit together for breakfast on a Friday, all of us with our kids and grandparents and who ever is visiting us all eating from the same dish.

I want to comment about eating with my fingers. The experience of eating with hands means you feel the food differently, you feel it as you prepare the small piece with your fingers, you feel the food going into your mouth. Our culture is based around food, it is about sharing and feeding people, the elderly, the sick, the indigent who are in the culture... actually making the meal so that the meal is shared. it is a very strong community feeling that is unfortunately disappearing with global modernisation arriving at our shores.

We stick to the traditional dishes, the same recipes and spices....

This is a very traditional dishes, but I generally cook more mixed food which

Dried red pepper is hot and is added to almost all meals here, it actually warms up the body and causes a thin film of water which cools the body off, so thinks like hot tea, hot lemonade and hibiscus is consumed in a hot place like Sudan to cool us down.

Starfire uses a traditional tool as a hand blender to make this dish.
Starfire uses a traditional hand blender to make this dish.

Starfire uses a traditional tool as a hand blender to make this dish.

The lime for this dish came from our back yard, we like to grow food.

Jute Mallow or bush okra, (Arabic: Mulukhiya which means "for royalty"), fresh dill, garlic, and that small "rock" is known in Sudan as 'atroon, a natural rock form of sodium bicarbonate

I arranged above some Mulukhiya leaves together(4) so participants can get a sense of the picked vegetable in the plater next to the dill.

The cooked meal: "MulaaH" with "kisra".

Kisra is the traditional Sudanese flat bread. Served with tomato, cucumber and green onion salad. Salad dressing is lemon, salt and black pepper.

BTW, Kisra is similar to the thinness of crepe, made with yogurt leavened sorghum.

Sorghum is a gluten-free grain.

Recipe: Hen Amin'Anana

from Melissa RH

Melissa introduced this dish as being a modest dish that is easy to prepare and very well known all around Madagascar.

The dish is traditionally made with zebu meat, this is a kind of cow that is only found in Madagascar and has a mind of hump on the shoulders.

She says "we like to add many spices as we are a tropical island".

For those who cant afford meat it can be prepared without.

She says if the mum or the grandmother cooks it. it is very tasty, but if the dad cooks it, it is missing salt :)

How to prepare de hen amin’Anana

-1 onion

-1 medium tomato

- curry

- oil

- garlic

- salt

You will saute all these ingredients.

- meat (approx 500g of zebu or beef)

- greens (finely chopped) This is a bokchoi.

Cook the meat until soft (add water a little bit) add garlic.

Once the meat is soft and cooked well add the greens (you don't add water anymore after you add the green leaves).

Rice preparation (Malagasy way)

If 1 cup of rice

You add 2 cups of water.

But you have to clean/ rinse the rice before cooking.

Lemon, fermented, served with the dish.

Recipe: Cheese Pie -Borek

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers & Aubergines

from Stephanie Veronica Turemiş

This is how Stephanie introduced her recipes during the session:

"I have chosen two dishes that make me and my children happy, they brings back our time in Turkey, we think about their grandparents, it connects us...

I used to go to the market on a Sunday, dragging the kids with me, and I'd buy the ingredients and we'd come home and put some çay (tea) and make the borek.

It just makes me smile.

I make it quite frequently as I have a teenage son who is growing, as is his appetite, and borek is a quick filler.

This time we found dried aubergines and peppers for the stuffed vegetables. I had never cooked with these before. I love to use my mother in laws recipes, who is an amazing incredible cook....we really love Turkish food, These dishes take us back to the time we were there. I learned a lot about myself there, These two dishes have a lot of sentimental value for me and for the children, it is the time we sit down together and we connect and reminisce and though we are in England we can take time out to revisit those days, days that were very happy for us..."

Stuffed Peppers and Aubergines
Stuffed Peppers and Aubergines

Stuffed Dried Peppers & Aubergines:

3/4 cups of rice

1.5 onions (very finely chopped)

2 tomatoes (finely chopped/puréed)

Juice of a lemon

Tsp dried mint

Salt/pepper to taste

Above ingredients made approximately 12 dried peppers and 12 dried aubergines

Sauté onions then add rice for approx. 6/7mins

Add purée and tomatoes then mint.

After 5 mins add a cup of water and lower heat for approx.10mins stirring often.

Add salt pepper and lemon, mix it in then fill peppers and aubergines.

Place in a large pan, sprinkle with salt, pepper, olive oil and juice of a lemon and pour in a class of water. Cook on medium heat for 15mins then approximately 20mins on a low heat with lid on pot.

Cheese and onion pastry:

Sauté chopped onions for 3mins then allow to cool.

Add any white soft cheese and a bunch of chopped parsley

Add black pepper and red chilli pepper

In separate pot melt 2tbsp butter and vegetable oil and allow to cool before add a small cup of milk and one egg.

Grease a large ovenproof dish and place a layer of filo pastry, a splash of the oil mixture another pastry layer then the cheese mixture (evenly laid).

Repeat process till mixture is all used and finish with last two layers of pastry.

Brush remaining oil mixture, thinly, over top layer and pour any remaining all over.

Cook for 30-40 minutes.

The following are some of the 'harvest', the words shared during this first of four sessions with this wonderful group.


Food is such a powerful way to connect, it is common ground regardless of our different identities. Food brings us together, I also felt a sense of loss because this is lost in British culture, I'm passionate about it, so I felt a sense of loss when I heard the richness of your family and community food cultures which isn't my experience of food culture in the UK, but I'm working to reestablish this connection to the the earth and between each other.


Food is the glue to relationships and to self, seeing everyone's faces as we speak, it is very emotive and we were all full of feeling... everything can be resolved around food, food has power and this sense is very comforting. It is a really good base to use food for connecting us and moving onto different circles.


Food is like a link, a way to travel... u want to see your mothers face (and you can) by remembering a way of cooking, you remember a moment or travel to somewhere through food. We don't need to share the same opinion with everyone, but I feel sad when people don't care what they eat, I think they have not realised the place of food in their life yet. Many have no time to cook, maybe their economic situation isn't good, but sadly we are lacking the rituals of making food together.. but even if we lack community we must cook for ourselves, we must try and make ourselves happy.


I felt a deeper connection to food, the earth... this journey from the seed, this reverence as human beings that we have with food, not just for survival...

like Jodie said at the beginning, our relationship with food starts with our first instinct and connection to the breast of the mother... it is nurturance.

Potluck is a wonderful thing, we never know what will come to the table, people excel with what they prepare, they prepare with love and when the table is set to be shared by everyone people can't wait for the meal to start.

This Circle feels like a potluck.

There are lots of cultures where people eat alone, but eating together is a pathway for us, even in the times of Covid, community living is moving us closer to the deep desire to share our food, about nurturing and healing our bodies through the food we eat.

(Starfire laughs as she talks) I remember the kids... while they ate they would ask " aunty... what is for lunch tomorrow... it is so wonderful how the innocence of children invites us to the center, it is not that they are hungry or they care about the food, it is because eating means all the aunties are together and they love the connection.


It is so telling to me, it is this thing in Circle where everyone's story becomes the one story, our individual experiences of food and what it means to prepare a meal, and within our communities.... as we share this story it is as if there are threads pulling us together.

Though logistically preparing this braai was challenging it felt important to do. There is something about preparing meal, though you guys are continents away I feel like I got to be with you.


Food brings people together.

Feeding our body

Feeding our soul

We are empowering together. I'm meeting 7 different women from all over the world and I'm very happy and glad to hear our voices and to be heard and for you to listen to how I express.

These are our dishes, but also our emotions and our memories, again it is empowering... it is just good!

Note regarding gender inclusivity:

We at Cooking Up Dialogue are keen to ensure that we create an inclusive space and that means using inclusive language. Our project, so far, is specifically designed for the participation of women and female identifying people, but also for non binary and fluid gender people.

We made this choice because we believe that we must amplify the voice of women and the minorities to be able to witness an emergence of true equality in our communities.

In this group one member identifies as non binary therefore I changed the group word 'women' for the more inclusive 'people'. During our dialogue Chris shared really interesting insights about inclusivity which you can read here.

If you would like to support the work of Chris you can become a Patreon here.

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