The power of cooking to support community wellbeing
3 July 2021 at 12:00 pm
A new community-led cookbook features 18 recipes, stories and artwork from culturally diverse public housing residents in Melbourne
Public housing residents who were plunged into a hard lockdown last year have created a cookbook to bring people together and help the community recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19.
Last July, nine public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington were placed under strict lockdown to try and control a major COVID-19 outbreak.
For five days, the 3,000 residents were not allowed to leave their apartments – with hundreds of police officers deployed across the nine towers to enforce the measures.
Now almost a year later, the residents – supported by not-for-profit cohealth – have created a community-led cookbook called “Cooking, Recovery and Connections”.
The cookbook features 18 recipes, stories and artwork contributed from residents representing a diversity of cultural backgrounds including Somalian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Indian, Egyptian, and South Sudanese.
One of the residents, a young artist called MC Cam, has even created a hip hop song about how the cookbook is helping people recover from the pandemic.
Nagat Abdalla, a public housing resident and cohealth community support officer, coordinated the project.
She said the idea was born last year when people were scared to talk to other people in the housing estates.
“We’ve needed to find new ways to connect due to the pandemic. We realised that recipes and food were something we could share. For our community it’s part of our daily life to share food,” Abdalla said.
“If you are a relative or if you are my neighbour, you come to my place or I give you a plate of my lunch or dinner. For us it was really a big thing to create all these recipes together, during such a hard time when everything stopped in our life.
“It’s something we are so emotional about. This book will be something memorable forever.”
Included in the cookbook are recipes for dishes such as shakshuka, a classic North African and Middle Eastern dish, homemade falafel, and Sudanese baklava.
Gabby Creed, community mobilisation lead at cohealth, said the cookbook was a community-driven response to support connection, wellbeing and resilience.
“The lockdown removed residents’ autonomy, even around cultural practices and food choices. Coming together to create the cookbook has been a beautiful way to re-empower the residents,” Creed said.
“No translation is needed for food; it’s an international language!”
You can take a look at the cookbook here.