Cooking Tales aims to shine a light on those who have enriched Glasgow’s cuisine and culture and made it their home
“It started as a wee project on a small budget, but it has been an amazing revelation of the lives of early migrants in Scotland in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. An unexpected story of integration.”
Gauri Raje is a professional storyteller, anthropologist and first-generation migrant who came to Scotland from India in 1999. The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Gauri about her upcoming project, which she is helping to compile and illustrate. Cooking Tales is a biographical recipe book authored by Glasgow-based first-generation South Asian female migrants.
The women behind the book are part of the Scottish Asian Ekta Group, a community group of around 40+ women of South Asian origin who meet weekly in Glasgow. “Many of them came to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s just after the partition of India and Pakistan. They come from a region today known as Punjab, now divided into Pakistani and Indian sides. Most of the women came to Scotland as young brides in arranged marriages and have lived in Glasgow since arriving. Today, they are over 65 and meet regularly to keep in touch and socialise after the passing of their husbands and their children leaving the nest.”
Cooking Tales initially stemmed from Gauri’s passion for amplifying and uplifting the life stories of underrepresented people, including the women from the Scottish Asian Ekta Group. After meeting them, Gauri realised they were hesitant to share their personal stories. This obstacle is precisely what unlocked the recipe for the success of Cooking Tales: “One of the group members suggested that I look at the language these women may be familiar with and love, such as food and recipes. That’s what they have worked with all their lives. The project was born from trying to understand these women in a language they understand, the language of food.”
Around 20 women from the Scottish Asian Ekta Group have provided 2-3 recipes for Cooking Tales, each preceded by the story of how that woman herself came about the recipe or ingredients. “In a way, you get the life stories of these women through the recipes they discuss and how they innovated that particular recipe with ingredients available in Scotland in the 1950s to 1970s. The women call themselves Scottish-Asian, and looking at the recipes, one can understand why they claim this identity. They have been so used to handling what is most intimate to us: food and bringing together Asia and Scotland in that way. It’s a wonderful story of how integration happens in the most intimate ways.”
“When the women came to Glasgow, there were almost no Indian or Asian shops, so the women had to create the taste of home with ingredients they were not familiar with. This recipe book shares the innovations they introduced into home-cooked Asian food in a place where the ingredients or spices of the Asian subcontinent were unavailable.”
Along with Jasami Publishing, the Scottish Asian Ekta Group and Gauri are launching a fundraiser to support production costs: “It’s quite a unique publishing project as ownership and copyright rests with this women’s group. The fundraising money goes towards publishing the book, and the royalties go directly to the women. The women own this book and hold authorship in a larger sense than simply writing the book.”
“The more money we can collect through crowdfunding, the better we can make the book, but all of that depends on people willing to donate to the publishing process. It’s very much a community publishing project.” Community is nestled at the core of Cooking Tales, and it is the hope of this particular community of women that their tales of cooking and migration can be shared with other communities.
“Cooking Tales is about getting to know the lives of women who are seen to stand out through their different origins but have found integration through the intimacy of fusing cultures in the kitchen.”
If you are interested in donating, the link to the Cooking Tales fundraiser can be found here: https://crowdbound.org/product/cooking-tales-2/