Already two centuries ago, the celebrated German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach declared “we are what we eat,” in other words that diet plays an important role in defining human culture. What’s certain is that food is a fundamental part of everyday life for each of us. But, beyond providing vital nutrition, can it also serve as a tool for other things? Slow Food has believed so ever since it was founded, and, by putting food at the center of its philosophy, connects it to communities, places and traditional knowledge.
The Japanese organization Peace Kitchen, one of Slow Food’s partners on the 10,000 Gardens in Africa project, is on the same wavelength. To Peace Kitchen, traditional Japanese cuisine, washoku, is closely tied to respect for food and a sense of peace; much more than just something to put in our mouths, food can be a catalyst for creativity and understanding and a way of bringing people together.
Cooking for peace: This was the guiding spirit behind the Food Community Experience organized in Kenya on September 4 by the local Slow Food network with the support of the Japanese organizations Table for Two and Peace Kitchen.
Amidst the gentle rolling hills that surround the Michinda elementary school, in the region of Molo, over 100 people took part in a workshop promoting a model of peaceful coexistence through the sharing of different culinary traditions.
The aim of Peace Kitchen’s Food Community Experiences is to bring together the cuisines of different countries as a way of communicating different cultural identities.
Many representatives from food communities, Presidia and Slow Food convivia, as well as schoolchildren, had a chance to try out their kitchen skills with Gilbert Nsabimana, Slow Food’s coordinator in Rwanda, Helen Nguya, the leader of the Lishe Convivium in Arusha, and Rose Machage, a producer of honey and mango jams from Slow Food Tanzania, along with staff from Table for Two working in Kenya and Japan.
All the participants had a role to play in preparing the recipes. They lit the fire, peeled, washed and sliced vegetables and butchered and prepared lamb and chicken, but also sang, danced and ultimately ate together, all in an atmosphere of conviviality and mutual learning.
Pumpkin chapati flatbreads, mikimo (ripe and green bananas with potatoes, pumpkin leaves and black-eyed peas), mursik (yogurt with ash, a special food for the Nandi people, a Kalenjin ethnic group from East Africa), mutura (an Ark of Taste product, a typically African sausage made using goat or cow intestines in the Kikuyu lands of central Kenya), Mushunu chicken, a Slow Food Presidium and various traditional vegetables were among the Kenyan and Tanzanian dishes prepared for the occasion, while the Japanese team offered miso soup.
The event used food as a way of promoting peaceful coexistence between communities, and also emphasizing how important it is to preserve the indigenous traditions and define people’s identity. If we are what we eat, then we should start eating what we want to be!
Table for Two and Peace Kitchen have supported the creation of 111 school and community gardens in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Find out where the gardens are on the geolocalized map!