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City diversity showcased in new cookbook
Platters of food, and bowls of dip covered every available square inch of counter space at a recent potluck lunch at Crossroads Community Center. Women brought fruit cake, fried plantains, Kenyan pancakes rolled in honey and Indian paneer.
Each dish was neatly identified with a namecard and a line identifying its place of origin. The eclectic menu seemed to feature a dish from every corner of the globe.
“What is this?” the women asked one another, as they sampled their peer’s cuisine.
Earlier this month, Cultural Conversations, a program started through Bellevue’s Mini City Hall at Crossroads Bellevue Shopping Center, released a cookbook of recipes provided by its diverse membership. The goal was to bring together the area’s growing foreign-born population.
The food in the book ranges from Matzah ball soup, to Jollof rice from Nigeria and shrimp ceviche from Mexico. Most dishes have been photographed and paired with a story explaining memories contributors have of cooking or sharing the dish.
“The stories really bring life to each of these,” said Nickhath Sheriff, from Southern India, whose idea it was to launch the project after a potluck dinner last holiday season. “It’s a chance to learn something from another culture.”
Sheriff says that the project means a great deal to the members of CC, who pulled from the talent present in their own group to compose and illustrate each recipe.
“We had people talking about making [a dish] with their grandfather or a story they would tell in connection with that food on a particular holiday, in a particular country,” said Barb Tuininga, director of the Crossroads site of Mini City Hall. “The food and the stories were so beautiful.”
CC’s recent potluck lunch celebrated the launch of the cookbook, and another year of successful operations. Members shared stories of dishes from their home countries, while they dined on some of the recipes previewed in the cookbook.
“I didn’t realize how many different cuisines used the same ingredients,” said one member from Jamaica, as she picked at a plate of fried plantains.
The cookbook sells for $10, and funds will go toward Hopelink. A small portion will also be set aside to maintain future CC meet-ups.
For members of Community Connections, the monthly gatherings are more than a chance to socialize. The women say the stories shared can dispel stereotypes about other people’s cultures and allow women not typically comfortable with entering leadership roles, to engage with their communities.
“I’ve learned [from CC] that we have the same passions. We love the same things. We want the same things for our families,” said Sheriff. “We just don’t belong to the same culture. But this makes us become one.”