At the public launch of Food of Love at the Old Fire Station last night we discussed Gender, Class & Race. The panel of speakers were able to speak from decades of experience and from the heart.
Junie James of the Africa, Caribbean Cultural Initiative arrived in the UK aged 6. On her first day at school, she had her identity removed, when her teacher refused to let her be called Junie. She was renamed on the register as June. Chinta Kallie was born in Apartheid South Africa – a third class citizen after whites and coloureds but above black people. While class in the UK is not so stratified, it is still engrained in our society. The nearest thing to Apartheid, I knew of in Oxford was the Cutteslow Wall. When a council estate was built in North Oxford, the construction companies building adjacent private houses constructed a wall to isolate the estate. I interviewed Christine Ravenscroft who grew up there during WW2. She described how Canadians were stationed nearby and one of their tanks accidentally got lost and knocked it down but the Council built it up again.
Rev. Dr. Canon Charlotte Bannister Parker has brought together faith communities in Oxford with love and respect. I was overwhelmed when she said that what she took away from my memoir was ‘love’.
The event took place in the Old Fire Station – a remarkable place. It is the home to 2 organisations Crisis for homeless people and an Arts Centre that is for EVERYONE including the homeless. The café is run by Babylon Rose – a group of Syrian refugees. I concluded that with Food comes Love and with Love comes Hope. I suggested that Nuha and her team serving their cuisine would experience a sense of belonging.
Charlotte liked my invented word. Shakespeare and Donne invented over a 1000 so I invented one, ‘Communessence’. To me, it means that when you eat together you come together. Charlotte says she will use it in her next sermon in the University Church .
There was a lot of love and laughter at the first launch in my village That was the one for family, old friends and people who had contributed to the book including the CeO of Claret Press . In many ways Food of Love was crafted by Katie Isbester who edited it.
We cooked and served some of the recipes in my book .At the end of each chapter is a recipe provided by family members and friends. Starting with my mother’s scones but becoming ever more diverse reflecting the enrichment of our culture due to immigration. Behind us is the restricted diet of the fifties. Now we can taste the world and relish it. I don’t understand Little Englanders who want to box us in . Our culture is better than that . When we embrace diversity we expand our outlook and become less afraid and more optimistic.
Finally demolishing the Cutteslow wall but invisible barriers all over the country remain between Council estates and private housing . Class in bricks and mortar.