Review: Cooking as an Act of Remembrance

Published on
November 20, 2019

The 6th of November Weaving Realities, based in Amsterdam, travelled to Wageningen to give us a cooking workshop. But we did not just cook. The evening was filled with memories and with tributes to our ancestors. The evening made us aware of where our food comes from, the inequalities of the world and about the struggles of people in Mexico and all over the world. All our senses were touched and our feelings were moved.

Aldo Esparza Ramos first told us about cacao and the history of chocolate. How it became a mass product, ‘falling out of the sky’ - literally during the liberation in the Second World War, and still figuratively. At the same time, deforestation for the construction of plantations are the reality in places like Ivory coast. While Aldo was telling us this, Yuchen Li was roasting the cacao beans, filling the room with a soothing sound. We were handed some of the beans to peel, that left a nice chocolate-like smell on our hands. The peels were later used for tea and the beans were to be used for a drink called chilate.

When rice travelled from Asia to West-Africa and then people from West-Africa were kidnapped to Mexico, a new drink consisting of rice and maize came into existence: chilate. Yuchen spoke to us about rice. In China, if you ask someone how he or she is doing, you can say: ‘Have you eaten rice?’. This is one example of how important rice is for the Chinese culture. She explained how her grandparents really understand rice, but that she doubts whether she does. In the times we live – times in which there is fighting over water, but also tons of water are used for transporting water – this is difficult. Do we still feel this connection?

Another dish that we made was tortillas from purple maize. Mayra Telumbre, Laura Diana Rodriguez and Fernanda Franco that are visiting Weaving Realities all the way from Mexico, were showing us how to make the tortillas. At the same time, they were telling us stories about maize and their childhood. We also got some dough ourselves to knead it into round and flat tortillas. After finishing the tortillas, we could fill our bellies with the food: tortillas, chocolate and chili paste, beans, salsa, guacamole... All Mexican dishes prepared by Mayra, Laura and Fernanda that day.   

After emptying the first plate, Aldo invited Laura and Mayra to the floor for an interview. Mayra and Laura have been raising awareness about Forced Disappearance in Mexico. They have a cousin that disappeared together with 42 other students five years ago. Aldo asked them questions about their lives in Mexico, their struggle to get clarity from the government about the disappearance, their struggle of being a woman in Mexico. They spoke in a beautiful and powerful way, stressing always our shared human nature and how we should unite as compañeros.

Fernanda closed the evening with a traditional dance in honour of women that have suffered of violence. Everyone was captured by the dance.   

It was a very emotional and powerful evening. In a short time, people were able to connect with each other and with the origins of our food.