Another Up Your Street subscriber has been joining me at the Made In Hackney food workshops on Sundays, she missing church and me braving the elements and we booked through Hackney Circle.
Really these are vegan cookery workshops where we chop and stew, massage and mash, listen and learn (not a lot) and taste the fruits of our labour which is a minimal exertion.
The venue is downstairs in a basement kitchen under a grain-selling shop up top. There is an air of 1940s about it; you know, being underground in an old property, under a shop where you weigh out your own grains and nuts, in a very Chassidic Jewish neighbourhood, next to a proper second-hand shop and opposite my granddad’s grave in Abney Park Cemetery. That’s why I go.
The workshops we attend are free although we can donate which we do into a hamper or online. It’s the guilt of eating for free.
We use no animal products and no sugar. I discovered in the twilight of my life, date syrup. I had a cup of tea with Hemp milk.
There is a trace of an assumption that because the participants are in the main young European white folk just arrived in Hackney that spices and vegetables are new experiences. That may be true because many people eat out and/or buy prepared food whether it’s Iceland’s finest or the local vegan café’s Mediterranean wrap. However many people do cook from fresh and have a wealth of experience about managing on pennies and buying good food. There is very little time to share experiences though partly because no-one in a public kitchen wants to be put on the spot in front of almost religious followers of what is still an alternative life style or nutrition practices. There is on every healthy eating programme I’ve attended a gross assumption that all white people eat pre-formed and packaged boxes of food and that all Asian women cook curry and chapattis everyday. And national supermarkets are of course the enemy whilst white bread needs to be shot on sight and those poor carbo-ducks…well!
Londoners have had Asian and Turkish shops for years now and although some UK born people will not set foot in them, many locals indeed do. So there’s a massive invitation to all to get inside those spilling onto the pavement stores and find good quality dates and coriander and coconut oil and all things smelly and tangible. Don’t even think about TKMaxx and their saffron. Even the reduced quirks on the shelf are too expensive. Stick to the clothes and the soap.
So on Sunday we ate together around the table, a manageable smaller group than last time and decided not to discuss the wind of the vegetables. We talked about food energy and almost decided, for the chat was stilted and would not move into politics, that food poverty reaches into every generation not just in the older generation. In a munch it means that many people do not have access to good healthy choices in food because of lack of knowledge. We have to respect people’s personal decisions about food because we cannot dictate. We have to smash addictions for a start. That hemp tea will never replace builder’s tea for me or I will feel deprived and unfulfilled.
There is plenty of education during our sessions about health and safety in the workplace in this case a cramped kitchen with no disabled access, and old stairs without a banister and an outside area packed with bins for this and bins for that. To be fair, it is best to tell the managers what is missing otherwise nothing will change. For example for we seniors the chairs are not good and now management knows.
I support the bringing together of people to cook together. to learn together and to share food. I’n’t it all weird though?