Food for Language, our collaborative cookbook experiment, is, above everything else, Latha’s brain child.
Over the past 20 years Latha Sukumar, MCIS’ Executive Director, found herself endlessly inspired by the women and men who overcame often insurmountable obstacles to establish their lives in Canada. While MCIS was an instrumental force in removing language barriers, it also witnessed an unprecedented growth of multilingual communities that transformed our city into one of the world’s major cultural and language hubs. Another realization that enfolded simultaneously was Latha’s personal discovery about the bonding force that can strengthen our ties and mutual trust. Food is a tool of communication, and sharing food precedes sharing the language. Several years ago, Latha began writing a food blog, one which explores the themes of uprooting and longing for home-made dishes. Here, this book was conceived.
- Food for Language was born in August of 2013 as a result of a brain storming session that outlined three primary objectives:
- To find a way to engage our 5000+ interpreter community and harness the power of our stories by exploring how our thinking about food changes with geography,
- To reach across sectors and find like-minded partners interested in experimenting with healing capacity of food,
- To affirm Toronto’s leadership in popularizing the local food movement as a source of global gourmet cooking.
This book was created by our talented contributors/ story tellers: our translators and interpreters, and our entire staff at MCIS and Sandgate – chefs and artists who were inspired to join us on the path of self-discovery.
From public sharing of our cultural identities in communal potlucks to our need to re-establish familiarity with our homes in the wide unknown of a new country, food remains an integral component of immigration and settlement.
This book explores the interaction of food and language – finding the familiar within the unfamiliar and recovering food memories as personal identities:
Do people in the language industry, interpreters and translators, think about food vocabularies differently?
Does speaking several languages make you a better chef?
Are the stories that nourish us our food for our languages?
Food for Language is envisioned as a recipe book that collects personal stories and recipes in four main categories (appetizers, mains, sides and desserts) shared by MCIS Language Service staff, interpreters and translators and Sandgate Shelter staff and clients. Our collection attempts to capture transforming vocabularies and their dynamic relationship. The book reminds the audience how food transcends cultures and contributes to the quality of the multicultural fabric of Canada and our global citizenship.
What makes this book unique is the authenticity of the stories.
Its goal is to promote diversity and understanding about how we change our communication through the medium of food when the dominant language of the culture/ environment is changed
The book is divided into four sections: Appetizers, Mains, Sides and Desserts.
Each section features recipes and stories.
The stories are based on personal memories and beliefs about the food ingredients or choices. The recipes follow the standard format of the cook book.
One of our utmost priorities is to make sure that only good quality, nutritious food is available to women and children we serve in our shelters. For various reasons, mostly due to combined issues of family abuse and neglect, our clients’ access to quality food is very limited. Beside healthy dinner choices and nutritious children’s lunches and snacks we also try to embed the knowledge of nutrition and awareness about responsibility and freedom one has when making daily food choices.
What do we do?
We hold weekly “town” meetings where the women are asked to participate and choose the type of food they would like to see on the weekly menu. We also ask them to volunteer – to lead the cooking “class” that will provide dinner meal for everyone. In our kitchen we try to ensure that we are responding well to needs for cultural diversity. For example, our kitchen has separate fridges and stoves for vegetarian, halal and kosher. Our food supply also needs to provide for separate categories of users. However, our clients are very open- minded; actually they are looking forward to tasting different dishes from different parts of the world.
Another thing we do is that we always sit down together for our healthy shared meal at dinner time in an atmosphere where women and children can talk and laugh freely, and feel safe and comfortable. Finally, we promote values of collaborative cooking and sharing healthy food that also promote healing, a sense of cohesiveness and increased cultural sensitivity, generally values that are deeply aligned with our Canadian multicultural policies.
Sandgate Women’s Shelter of York Region Inc. was founded in 1992 by a group of concerned citizens called Committee Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) through the support of the Georgina Community Resource Centre. CADA was responding to a community need prompted by a high number of violence against women related deaths in Georgina. The organization is now a leader in the community as a feminist, anti-violence, anti-oppression organization. Today, Sandgate Women’s Shelter of York Region is a feminist-based organization committed to equity/diversity in meeting the needs of women who are experiencing violence in their lives. It is an equity-seeking organization that strives to meet the needs of all women in an inclusive and respectful manner.
Our story tellers
At MCIS Language Services, Alejandro oversees the recruitment, curriculum development, testing and training of bilingual professionals, and is inclusive in the creation of audio-visual content for online language interpretation training.Alejandro sees himself primarily as a communicator who is compassionate and has a great sense of humour. His current interests are in language research and business strategy design, and he is pursuing a Master of Conference Interpreting (MCI) at the Glendon College, YorkU.
Angie is a mother, student, entrepreneur and advocate for women’s rights. She’s also a foodie and enjoys preparing a wide array of sweet and savory vegetarian dishes. She delights in her culinary abilities and enjoys the conversations that develop in thecompany of friends and family and she never passes up an opportunity to dine at the latest Toronto hot spot with her fellow foodies. On occasion, Angie puts her voice forward as a voice talent, recording marketing and training materials. She has a degree in Political Science (YorkU) and apost-graduate diploma in Corporate Communications (Humber College, 2003).
Arati is a Children’s Advocate at Sandgate Women’s shelter, experienced in facilitating social and culturally oriented workshops. She is also experienced in crisis counseling and frontline service delivery.Arati was born and educated in India, where she did B.A. and Post Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education and worked as a primary teacher. She immigrated to Canada in 1996. She is passionate about various classical and non-classical Indian dance forms, and art. She has conducted workshops on South Asian art of Henna tattoo at summer camps and women’s gatherings. Arati loves to cook her favourite recipes from among multitude of Indian food traditions. Indian food is as varied and diverse as India’s customs, languages and heritage.
Assmaa Bailouni (MCIS Interpreter)
Assmaa is a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin, and she lives in Ottawa.
She was introduced to Syrian cooking at a very early age while helping her mom and learning a hands-on approach with no recipes and no measurements. In her married life, having lived in the United Arab Emirates and being exposed to the Indian, Arabian and Iranian cuisine Assmaa always looked for ways to introduce variety of healthy and tasty meals to her family table. When she arrived to Canada, her interest in cooking deepened and she was encouraged by holding frequent social gatherings and shows her talent, This has eventually led her to create a Facebook -based cookbook Cooking with Asma that features her recipes and her daughter Hanan Awneh the talented photographer.
Carolina Alfaro De Carvalho (MCIS Translator)
Carolina was born in Argentina but grew up in Brazil as a bilingual Spanish and Portuguese speaker. She lived in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro receiving a degree in English – Portuguese translation in 1996 With her husband she arrived to Canada in 2007 where she continued in a professional translator capacity. Carolina maintains very deep bonds with all three countries through family and friends, culture and food, and at this point she wouldn’t know where to call “home”.
Claudia Sisco (MCIS Interviewer)
Claudia was born in Caracas, Venezuela. She was professor at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) where she was a founder and a chair of the Peace and Conflict Studies
She is an environmentalist, loves traveling and studying languages.
Besides her native Spanish, she is fluent in English, French and Portuguese and has a working knowledge of Italian and German.
She begun to work at MCIS as a volunteer and eventually joined her husband, Oláguer Chacon, to participate in creation of this book.
Eliana Trinaistic (MCIS Staff, Editor)
Eliana’s entrepreneurial drive and over 15 years of professional experience includes multiple careers in education, administration, public relation and stakeholders’ management. Eliana’s enthusiasm in working with diverse teams complements her personal objectives around facilitating individual empowerment and encouraging people to become an affirmative, influencing force.
Eliana believes that women in particular, by strengthening their inner and outer networks, have a role of a main driving agent in finding solutions to our contemporary issues such as access to healthy food, environment and sustainable economy.
Eliana holds a BA in Education & Slavic Languages (Croatia), a Master’s in Information & Environmental Sciences and post graduate Certificate in Project Management (UofT). Her current interests include sustainable city planning and community gardens as “edible landscapes”.
She is also a practising therapist and a relentless pursuer of knowledge that can continuously challenge her mind.
Jehan Chaudry (Sandgate Women’s Shelter of York Region)
Jehan was born in Tanzania, studied in Kenya and spent over 12 years working in social services in London, England. She is the Executive Director of Sandgate Women’s Shelter of York Region for the past five years. Under her leadership the agency has grown from one shelter in the region to two Shelters in the region and two satellite offices in Keswick and Markham. Jehan Chaudhry was a past co-chair of OAITH and a board member of MCIS. Jehan Chaudhry sits on several committees to forward the cause of Violence against women in the region and in Toronto. In 2011 Sandgate took the lead for the York Region Centre for Community Safety (Community Hub project) in the Region and the project is up and running.
In 2007 she completed an intensive Film Production course from Ryerson University, fulfilling a long time ambition. Jehan is an independent documentary maker who concentrates on social & women’s issues. Her films: On Honour Crimes and a Survivor Story of breast cancer won awards at the Multimedia Film Festival of York Region, in 2010 and 2013.
Kadria Faraj (MCIS Interpreter)
Kadria was born in the North of Iraq (Kurdistan). She holds a diploma in Health Technology Information and completed 3 years of study in Social, and Political Science from the Al-Mustansiriya University of Baghdad. For seven years she worked in hospitals in the North Iraq where she was also interpreting in Kurdish Arabic and Farsi.
In Canada, she graduated from Library Technology Information Program (Seneca College) and she is currently employed in financial services. Kadria’s main interested are issues of women’s rights that, in her view, profoundly shaped her life. One of her aspirations is to open an ethnic restaurant and provide an atmosphere she remembers was created around her family table.
Latha Sukumar (Executive Director, MCIS)
An advocate for the rights of new comers, Latha has served on a number of community boards and has spoken in the media, before legislative committees and at public gatherings on victim rights issues. Latha believes in applying new discoveries she makes to grow personal and professional life and work and she loves creating and participating in entrepreneurial opportunities. Latha is also an avid blogger, a yoga teacher, Vipassana meditator, and an enthusiastic, occasionally committed, foodie. (lathasukumar.com).
Miguel Hortiguela (MCIS Interpreter)
Miguel was born in Madrid, Spain, but has lived in Toronto for most of his life.
His formal education is in Field Biology (Fish and Wildlife) during which time he was also introduced to his second career as a professional photographer. In his view, there is an elegant symmetry between the two, because they both require one to be observant of one’s surroundings and to document seemingly irrelevant details. Miguel maintains a blog (photographybymiguel. com) and corresponding web site where samples of his artistic work can be found. He is also a volunteer with CUSO International, an organization with a mission of reducing poverty and inequality world-wide.
Mónica Missrie (MCIS Interpreter)
Mónica was born and raised in Mexico City.
She started her career as a system’s analyst and moved on to the environmental conservation field.
She holds a Master of Science in Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota and has worked on the conservation of the monarch butterfly’s migratory phenomenon for more than 15 years in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
She currently resides in Toronto and combines her conservation work with Spanish-English interpreting and translating. Mónica always finds time to bake delicious desserts to satisfy her “sweet tooth” and treat her family and friends.
She also loves books and spends a lot of her free time in coffee shops reading and -naturally- having a sweet roll with a hot coffee.
Olaguer Chacon (MCIS Interviewer)
Oláguer was born in Venezuela. He is journalist specialized in foreign affairs and has an extensive experience in teaching international politics, geopolitics and international law to teen-aged students.
He was also a professor of international journalism at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) in Caracas. He is married to Claudia Sisco, whom shares his love for teaching and studying peculiar habits of the world.
His current interests evolve around multiculturalism, communications and food.
Sadie Scapillato (MCIS Translator)
Originally from Wakefield, Québec, Sadie grew up in a bilingual environment and developed a passion for language and reading—but not cooking.
Despite regular coaxing from her mother, Sadie always preferred to be the recipient of delicious foods rather than the creator. In her first year of university, she lived on couscous and cereal. Finally, in her mid-20s, she began dating Jesse, who is both an expert at simple, healthy cooking and a patient tester of her early attempts in the kitchen. Today, Sadie takes pride in making spicy butternut squash soup, slow-cooker chili (her dad’s recipe) and, of course, her brother’s carrot cake! Sadie is a freelance French-English translator and editor living (and cooking) in Hamilton. She enjoys editing fiction and, someday, hopes to take on a literary translation project (maybe a novel about learning to cook?). Connect with Sadie on her translation blog at www.cibliste.com or on Twitter @cibliste.
Sharareh Shodjaei (MCIS Volunteer)
Sharareh is a sales and marketing professional with a decade in delivering services to large corporate entities, both locally and globally
Shara holds a BA in Applied Science, a Master’s Degree in applied chemistry (environmental), and is currently completing postgraduate Project Management Certificate at the University of Toronto. She had worked in various capacities and with different industries such as chemical, manufacturing, environmental, international sales and marketing/management consultancy for profit and non-profit sector. During her most recent post at MCIS Language Services, she was engaged as a ISO 9001 consultant. Shara loves to travel and experience other cultures while capturing street life moments through the lenses of her camera (sharashojaei.com). Shara is also a professional floral designer and a decent gourmet cook who enjoys spending time outdoors with friends and family.
Sriranjani Vijenthira (MCIS Interpreter and Translator)
Sri received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, and was a high school science teacher before moving to Canada in 1992.
For the next 18 years, she taught, interpreted, and translated Tamil while working in other industries. In 2010, she graduated from the MCIS community translator program and began working full-time as a freelance interpreter and translator.
Sri writes Tamil stories and essays for local and international magazines, and she has published three books, including a collection of stories about the immigrant Canadian experience.
Veronica Costea (MCIS Staff)
Veronica thinks her passion for languages may have something to do with growing up along a language divide and playing interpreter between the Romanian and Hungarian-speaking sides of her family. In addition, Veronica went on to study French, English, Japanese and German.
Her intimate relationship with words translates into every aspect of her life – her current and past work in translations, interpretation, language teaching and linguistic research, her love for books of any kind, her endless conversations on controversial linguistic details with her husband and best friend, Paul. To her endless delight, her 7-year old son already speaks three languages and his idea of a cool Halloween costume was at one point a ‘polyglot robot’. Veronica is just starting to discover the joys of food and cooking.
A reluctant cook at first, out of necessity, she now finds taking time to prepare elaborate meals to share with family and friends a great joy that she likes indulging in as often as possible. She also thinks that you can’t enjoy the taste of food unless it looks appealing, so she loves taking the time to choose serving plates to match the meal, arranging and decorating food with all the creativity she can muster.
Virginie Segard (MCIS Translator)
Virginie lives in Lyon with her partner. A French-Canadian citizen, Virginie currently works as the editor-in-chief of Go English and English Now magazines. She has 15 years of combined experience in translation, editing, teaching and writing, and she is passionate about languages, cultural diversity, psychology, sociology and Taoism/Buddhism.
In 2010 Virginie carried the Olympic torch in Prince-Edward-Island for the Vancouver Winter Games. She also recently completed a half-marathon in Lyon.
Having been a victim of domestic violence in the past, Virginie is particularly sensitive to the cause of bringing awareness to this issue.
Williams Pedrogan (MCIS Staff)
Williams is an IT Operations & Projects Specialist at MCIS. He has over 10 years in the IT and project management, database administration and technical support to users.
He holds a BA in Informatics Engineering from Universidad Católica Andres Bello in Caracas, Venezuela. His family emigrated from Portugal to Venezuela in the late 60’s as many other Europeans went to Latin America after the II World War.
Williams inherited his baking enthusiasm from his family which has been running a successful bakery business (90% of bakeries in Venezuela are Portuguese-owned) in Caracas, Venezuela since 1985.
This bakery is also a place where the world best Pan de Jamón can be found in December every year.
Zehra Mandan (Sandgate)
Zehra is third generation East African with a touch of Iranian, South Asian, British and Middle Eastern flavour that influenced her views on cuisine. Zehra’s dishes often start out s as South Asian but end up being distinctively African or Arabian.
In 2001 Zehra immigrated to Canada. In 2003 she joined Sandgate as a transitional Support Worker. Presently she is managing the Jacksons Point Shelter (the flagship of Sandgate) and contributes her expertise to several boards and committees (Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses – OAITH, Community Inclusivity Reference Group -CIRG). Currently she is also involved with 2nd symposium on Truth and Reconciliation focusing on issues of war survivors and Apartheid
Professional team: consultants, editors, and art directors
Gabriela is a Project Coordinator in the Translation & Transcription department at MCIS Language Services, and a full time MA student at Glendon College, York University. She has worked in the language services industry for several years as a project coordinator, often
managing large teams of translators, revisers, and graphic designers for multilingual translation requests. She also has experience as a Spanish – English translator and reviser specializing in legal, medical, literary and personal documents. Gabriela’s favourite pastime is cuddling up with her puppy Porthos and diving into a book. Although her culinary skills are next to none, she does enjoy savouring diverse dishes and has a soft spot for chocolate cake.
Gautam Nath is on the Board at MCIS and the chair of the Marketing & Operations committee.
He works as Vice President at Balmoral Multicultural Marketing, Canada’s oldest and a leading multicultural communication firm. He has over 25 years of corporate experience across a gamut of disciplines covering Communications, Marketing, Market Research and International Trade.
Gautam invites all fodies to join his Food Group on Facebook called Foodies Unite II, and join us for recipes and foodie -related stuff.
Sonia holds a BA in Marketing (Brazil) that led her to being initiated into film industry first as a commercials assistant director. She continued her education graduating from International Film Academy in Sao Paulo and completing her first movie as a student.
Since, she has been working on variety of short films projects, commercials and editorial photo shoots as an art director or director’s assistant. Sonia won Best Art Direction Award for two short films: “Spectaculum” and “The Night of the Dumb Clowns”, both directed by Juliano Luccas. “The Night of the Dumb Clowns” is still circulating at film festivals worldwide, and it was recently exhibited at the Toronto Latin Film + Media Arts Festival.
Emma is a high school student interested in literature and publishing. This project gave her an opportunity to contribute to community and learn about challenges related to diversity and food production in her favourite city in the world, Toronto.