A Matter of Taste Chapter I.

This chapter of A Matter of Taste is about the culinary ties that bind families together, across generations. Set around literal and metaphorical dinner tables, the artists here are in conversation with children, parents, aunties, uncles, kokums and great grandmothers about loneliness at meal times, pantry adaptations, nostalgia and domesticity.

In Chapter I.
This chapter of A Matter of Taste is about the culinary ties that bind families together, across generations. Set around literal and metaphorical dinner tables, the artists here are in conversation with children, parents, aunties, uncles, kokums and great grandmothers about loneliness at meal times, pantry adaptations, nostalgia and domesticity.
In Chapter I.

CURRENTLY VIEWING: Humaray Liye / For Us (2020) Aliya Mazari
CURRENTLY VIEWING: Humaray Liye / For Us (2020)
Aliya Mazari
Humaray Liye / For Us
Aliya Mazari
Karachi / unceded Coast Salish territory
 



Humaray Liye / For Us is a poem inspired by my great-grandmother’s recipe for Chanay Ki Daal Ka Halwa (yellow split-pea lentils halwa), a dessert prepared for Eid ul Fitr and festive occasions. Contained within each English couplet is a loose reference to the Urdu tradition of Bait Bazi which, in its most simple form, is a verbal game where players are challenged to recite poems beginning with the last letter of the poem delivered by the previous participant.

 

Presented alongside an original recipe written by my great-grandmother in Urdu, this poem attempts to link the past and the present, while also reflecting the journey of four matrilineal generations shaped by their geographic migration, adaptation of language and nostalgia.

 
Aliya Mazari for Koffler.Digital 2020
Aliya Mazari for Koffler.Digital 2020
 
دال گھی یا تیل شکر
٢ کپ ٢ کپ ٢ کپ




Yellow split-pea lentils, ghee or oil, sugar, 2 cups
Seeking, trousseaus of reclamation

 
دال کو خوب صاف چن کر کہ کوئی چھلکا
دال کے دانے پر نہ رہے خوب صاف دُھولیں
پھر پتیلی میں ڈال کر اتنا پانی ڈالو کہ دال






Wash the lentils well and put in a pot
Tidal currents, parallel frequencies

 
اس پانی میں خوب گل جائے اور پانی اُسی
میں جذب ہوجائے پھر اس دال کو




Add water so lentils cook, liquid absorbed
Developing the latent image

 
پیس لیا جائے باریک تاکہ کوئی دانہ
ثابت نہ رہ جائے پتیلی میں گھی ڈال دیں اور پسی
ہوئی دال کو ہلکی آنچ پر بھونا جائے اتنا






Grind the lentils so no solid pieces
Still, a solitary figure

Add to pot with ghee and cook over low flame
Ever present, adab of now 1

Keep frying and stirring
Genres retract

 
بھونین کہ دال کا رنگ بدل جائے اور بھنی
ہوئی خوشبو آنے لگے بہت زیادہ بھی




Until the colour changes, fragrance releases
See, a glimmer

 
نہ بھونیں ورنہ کراری سی ہوجائے گی


Do not overcook or it will turn crunchy
Yearning, grasp now

 
چینی اپنی حسبِ ضرورت ڈالیں دال
جب بُھننے پر آئے تو چینی ڈال دیں آنچ
بہت ہی ہلکی کر دیں کہ چینی ایک جان ہوجائے






Add sugar to your taste, reduce flame further
Recollections of churiya & mehndi 2

Stirring until combined to one consistency
You’re, in the fold

 
اور گُھل جائے پھر اس میں دودھ کا کھویا
بھی ملاسکتے ہیں اور اگر کھویا نہ ہو
تو ویسے بھی بہت اچھا مزے کا بن جاتا ہے






Add heavy cream, even without, will be delicious
Shreds are remnants, endure

 
بادام کشمش جو پسند ہو ملا دیں کیوڑا
ڈال کر اُتار لیں۔




Almonds, raisins, add whatever you like
Even now, are we even

Add rose essence and take off stove
Even now, even now.

 


  1. Adab refers to respectful etiquette, good manners.

  2. Growing up in Pakistan, my favourite Eid tradition would always be picking out a new pair of churiya (bangles) and getting mehndi (henna) on the night before Eid. This night, referred to as Chand Raat, literally translates to “moon night” since Islam uses the lunar calendar, the new moon must be sighted to signal the end of the month of Ramadan. This is a night of festivities where shops are open late, and there is an overall celebratory atmosphere.
 
Aliya Mazari Aliya Mazari is a writer, photography researcher, and her family’s unofficial historian living between Karachi and unceded Coast Salish Territories. Her work is informed by experiences growing up and living in Pakistan and Canada (as a settler of colour). She holds a Master of Arts in Photography Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University. Previously, Aliya was working at Walter Phillips Gallery at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. In 2017, she was a selected participant in the Emerging Museum Professionals Training Program administered by the Ontario Museum Association.

 
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CURRENTLY VIEWING: I miss the smell of cookin' (2020) Francine Cunningham & Myrtle Calahasian
CURRENTLY VIEWING: I miss the smell of cookin' (2020)
Francine Cunningham & Myrtle Calahasian
I miss the smell of cookin'
Francine Cunningham & Myrtle Calahasian
Calgary, AB
 




I miss the smell of cookin' is a short film featuring a poem written by my kokum and myself, about family, longing and loneliness. When my kokum was young and in the residential school system, she was often assigned cleaning duties and, later, when she left and looked for work she found jobs as a janitor. The industrial cleaning products she had to use, without any personal protective equipment, entirely wiped out her sense of smell and most of her sense of taste. This film and accompanying poem reflect on this reality, as well as the isolation her and many seniors experience on a daily basis and especially at meal times.

 
 
Francine Cunningham Francine Cunningham is an award-winning Indigenous writer, artist and educator. A graduate of the UBC Creative Writing MFA program, Cunningham’s work has been shortlisted for the 2018 Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest, won the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for unpublished prose, and won the 2018 Short Grain Writing Contest among others. On/Me is her first book of poems and has been shortlisted for the inaugural BC and Yukon Book Award Jim Deva Prize for Writing that Provokes and the 2020 Indigenous Voices Award in Poetry.

 
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CURRENTLY VIEWING: A Dash of Thuul (2020) Luxshie Vimaleswaran
CURRENTLY VIEWING: A Dash of Thuul (2020)
Luxshie Vimaleswaran
A Dash of Thuul
Luxshie Vimaleswaran
Toronto, ON
 

A closer look at how members of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora navigate their Toronto kitchens

A Dash of Thuul interweaves writing with sound clips and images to tell the story of how white Western foods are adapted in Tamil households in the Greater Toronto Area. By taking a closer look at how Sri Lankan Tamil families navigate their Canadian kitchens, I explore the ways in which members of my community have changed Western cuisine and culinary practices to accommodate the Tamil palate.

 

I can feel my mom’s eyes burning holes into the back of my head as I fix myself a plate of potato chips to eat with my rice and curry. Not wanting to deal with her usual disparaging remarks about my unusual blend of foods, I decide to take my dinner with me to my room, so that I can relish in the heavenly combination of salty potato chips and kathirikai kulambu, free of her judgement.

 

But, as always, my mother intervenes before I can make a clean getaway, insisting that I eat next to her, which in turn, results in her giving me shit for eating potato chips with my dinner, of course. She asks if she can make me some appalum instead, but I assure her that potato chips can do the trick, and that it’s actually a very tasty combo. She sneers with contempt. “Well, I don’t look at you weirdly when you put thuul in our pasta, do I?” I retort defensively. She looks at me, baffled, as though the idea of eating pasta without thuul could even be considered a reasonable alternative. She wasn’t wrong.

 
Luxshie Vimaleswaran for Koffler.Digital 2020
 

Thuul is our safe haven; it gives us the kick of spice we so desperately need when preparing certain western foods. She watched me intently as I wolfed down the rest of my food. “If you like the food I make here, you would have loved the food back home,” she says matter-of-factly. This wasn’t new, my mom often raved about how everything tasted better in her homeland, Jaffna—but this time, something prodded me to delve deeper on the subject. What was it that made it so special? I extended this question to aunts and uncles and parents of friends too. What I didn’t expect to find with each family, was a similar story waiting to be told. One that begins on an eccentric island, rich in flavours and culture, and ends in the multicultural heartland of the Greater Toronto Area. A story of nostalgia and colonial resistance, set in the intimacy of our kitchen spaces, where we assemble makeshift Tamil culture.

Press play to listen as you read
 

“You will never truly know the joy in pulling raw curry leaves from the ground, or picking a fresh coconut from a tree to make kulambu” my aunt tells me, her voice heavy with emotion. This was about the twelfth time I had heard someone use the word “fresh,” it was as though the freshness of the foods from back home were looming over their Canadian processed food-stocked-pantries like a melancholic echo of the past. Their description of the foods back home might have been plagued with the same select few words, i.e fresh, spicy, flavourful, but it proved to be anything but simple. “There was no blender. There was a two stone grinder which we used to crush all of our ingredients by hand. It was hard work, but it made the food taste that much better,” my mom tells me. “Well, what’s stopping you from doing that here?” I respond. “Time. We took our time with food back home. It was a luxury I cannot afford here, I cook alone and it’s usually rushed.”

 

    


Not wanting to deal with her usual disparaging remarks about my unusual blend of foods, I decide to take my dinner with me to my room, so that I can relish in the heavenly combination of salty potato chips and kathirikai kulambu, free of her judgement.
 

“So how have you made the worlds meet?”

What took me by surprise, were the copious amount of answers I received in response to this one question, and how these answers were at once relatable and peculiar to me. “I use a mun setti” my best friend's dad tells me as he proceeds to pull out his clay pot to display to us; though, what I found to be more entertaining than the heavy pottery he struggled to carry in his arms, was the huge smile that had taken over his face. “Cooking in this pot, whatever it may be, even our Western dishes, always brings me a sense of nostalgia,” he tells us.

 
Luxshie Vimaleswaran for Koffler.Digital 2020
 

Other parents could relate to my mother’s infamous thuul and pasta combo. Some combinations I didn’t expect to hear, however, were thuul in burgers, tumeric in pasta sauce or onions and green chilli getting tossed in chicken wraps. These were just a few of the many assimilation foods that have kept them tethered to their Tamil palate here in Toronto. For some, it is the practice of eating with their hands the foods which are conventionally consumed by spoons or forks. For other devout Hindu families, it is the refusal to let go of their traditional silver dishes used only to eat vegetarian meals. For my uncle, it is his determination to buy jackfruit from Tamil grocery stores at every chance he gets, since it is a fruit that is generally scant in local supermarkets.

 

    

Some combinations I didn’t expect to hear, however, were thuul in burgers, tumeric in pasta sauce or onions and green chilli getting tossed in chicken wraps. These were just a few of the many assimilation foods that have kept them tethered to their Tamil palate here in Toronto.

     

 

What I came to realize was the dishes and practices that continue to emerge out of the hybridity of my parents, aunts, uncles and other families from the Tamil diaspora here in the GTA, are what have allowed us to concurrently embrace our Tamil and Canadian identities in a way that makes the most sense to us. Through our negotiation of gestures, habits, rituals, utensils and ingredients we resist colonial influence and pay homage to our rich and flavourful cuisine back home. So, the next time I watch my mother reach for a jar of thuul when making her signature pasta sauce, I will consider how she has cooked up her own revolution by reimagining traditional uses of ingredients in new ways; ways that have allowed her to explore her hybridity and create an identity of her own.

 
Luxshie Vimaleswaran Luxshie Vimaleswaran is in her third year at York University, completing a double major in English and Kinesiology. She enjoys creating works using acrylic and gouache in her visual practice as an emerging youth artist and is currently expanding her skills in graphic design. She uses writing in all forms to investigate parts of herself, colonial legacies and her neighbourhood of Scarborough.

 
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CURRENTLY VIEWING: Endlessly More (2020) Aislinn Leggett
CURRENTLY VIEWING: Endlessly More (2020)
Aislinn Leggett
Endlessly More
Aislinn Leggett
Montreal, QC
 



They fly their pasta through the air on a fork. They make tunnels from a large bite in their sandwich. Small index fingers glide along the porcelain to make patterns in the sauce. They squish blueberries between thumb and index. The oil marinade has become rancid. The smoke from the BBQ lingers on the skin of the fish. The freshness of the fruit is interrupted by excessive sweetness. Cut from the mother plant, basil leaves droop, the stem wilts over the glass of water. A forgotten celery stalk limps with depression. Cutting through fresh watermelon sounds like the cracking of bones.

 
Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

From the garden
(2020)

Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

T-bone tunnel
(2020)

I take inspiration from the ways my children see and play with their food. Unfinished plates left on the dinner table, half cleaned spills, the cutting board revealing the process of supper preparation and the counter mauled with produce and condiments also add to my creative output. The monotony has inspired recent photographic work by attempting to address food in domesticity, confronting our food waste and our habits of food consumption.

    


I take inspiration from the ways my children see and play with their food.
 
Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Madeleine strawberries
(2020)

Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Breakfast
(2020)

Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Rhubarb in yellow
(2020)

Being at home with two children, a routine around eating has become our new outline of the ways in which the day unfolds. Quarantine has forced us to. Preparing meals and snacks, cleaning the kitchen, putting away food, are perpetual tasks. Quarantine domesticity is more demanding than regular domesticity. There are no options - I can’t run away from monotony.

 
Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Tortellini mess
(2020)

Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Shrimp n' milk
(2020)

Reshaping half-eaten food, transforming limp, soft, wrinkled produce or installing inedible pieces, through my work, I attempt to highlight food usage and waste.


     

 
Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Radish, flower chives
(2020)

Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Crumbs of the fish
(2020)

Reshaping half-eaten food, transforming limp, soft, wrinkled produce or installing inedible pieces, through my work, I attempt to highlight food usage and waste. The construction of the image grows from what flows out of the fridge, from what is neglected to be put away. It also builds from the notions of how privileged countries overlook the accessibility and abundance of food we take stock. COVID-19 has unearthed our inefficiencies and the inadequacies of consumerism. Could this time in isolation put into question our dietary trends and habits of consumption? Can we look forward to a viable future that demands sustainability?

 
Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Rhubarb in silver
(2020)

Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Above the cutting board
(2020)

Aislinn Leggett for Koffler.Digital 2020

Pickings
(2020)

 
Aislinn Leggett Aislinn Leggett is a Montreal-based artist. She studied at Concordia University and has exhibited in Canada and internationally. Aislinn explores the notions of femininity, memory and archives through photography and installation.

 
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Overview
A Matter of Taste Chapter Two: Pinki Li, Lauren Marsden, Anya Shen, Weppler & Mahovsky


Chapter II.


Overview
A Matter of Taste Chapter Two: Pinki Li, Lauren Marsden, Anya Shen, Weppler & Mahovsky


Chapter II.