Gathering around the stove, four women from different cultures share stories, cooking techniques, a recipe and above all, fellowship.
On Sunday, the recipe came from Pakistan as prepared by Nancy Cardoza who came to Canada in June 2016. Abelma Villalta, Myrian Moreno and Fatimah Fatih all pitched in to bring the meal together.
The Sindhi Biryani served at the Collective Kitchen, put on by the Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association, is typically reserved for special occasions.
“It’s not just about cooking, it’s about socializing, making new friends, getting out of the house and doing something,” said Fatih, CAIWA Collective Kitchen coordinator and community outreach.
“Most of the women don’t speak the language, or can’t work, so they stay home. This program gives them a chance to come out and see new people. This is their getaway.”
It was Cardoza’s turn to provide the recipe, sharing her culture and cuisine with the other members. Not everyone was present Sunday, as two members from Syira and Iraq respectively were unable to attend.
“It’s a special dish we cook for special occasions,” said Cardoza. “It takes long, but it’s delicious. It’s something very different, which people aren’t always aware of.”
She said the Sindhi Biryani can also be known as Bombay Biryani.
Cardoza, who came from Pakistan, was joined by Villalta from Nicaragua, Moreno from Colombia and Fatih, from Morocco.
Fatih said the cooking session, which is held in the Seventh Day Adventist church’s kitchen Sunday, also allows the participating women to practice their English.
“They are learning,” said Fatih. “It’s not just about cooking.”
While Cardoza assigned tasks, Moreno, Fatih and Villalta cut up onions, cilantro, tomatoes and potatoes, all key ingredients for the meal. All the ingredients and spices were mixed in with chicken and rice and layered together.
“Every Sunday is a different recipe from a different background,” said Fatih. “Maryam said, in two weeks she wants to teach Colombian recipe. Then people who are interested can come and learn about the recipe and her culture.”