The kitchen is the heart of many stories, shared memories, aromas and flavours that take you back in time and connect you with history, personal and collective. In Chandigarh, it seems to be the building block for small communities comprising like-minded people. For instance, at ‘Parshada’ in Sector 18, education-based activities, centred on food, wellness and nutrition get people from various walks of life together, encouraging them to share their experiences, expertise and recipes.
“Our health as individuals is deeply linked with the health of the community we inhabit and it is a deeply inter-connected phenomenon,” says Moonstar Doad, a health educator, and the person behind Parshada.
Parshada began as a garden, where they collected organic waste and composted this to plant fruit trees and vegetables. Gradually, this kitchen garden grew into a community hub, where regular talks, film screenings and workshops on a variety of topics which have included ‘Integral Health’, ‘Discovering Wholesomeness’, ‘Food as Medicine’…were held.
Today, this garden is the venue of bi-monthly community get togethers, with a wholesome meal, along with nature connection activities. “On weekdays we make wholesome, organic meal tiffins. Regular cooking classes are held where secrets of quick cooking, keeping taste and nutrition balanced are taught. We also have a library, open to the community,” says Moonstar, who creates recipes inspired from various regions of the country, using fresh ingredients and innovative combinations.
“Eternal Now’ is a concept and idea that began with the thought of doing things together in a collaborative manner, be it an initiative of art, music, reading, cooking and sharing it with a larger group. “Slowly and steadily, the number kept growing and now we are a small community of like-minded people, who have created a concept and informal space, where people come together to cook their specialities, from any cuisine, country and region, and we bond over food,” explains 42-year-old Chandigarh-based Sameer.
‘Vegans in Chandigarh’ is a group formed three years back to promote the philosophy of veganism and now there are more than 150 members in the group, who do a vegan potluck once a month in a member’s home. “Over time, we have built strong connects and the idea has got together so many people, whom we may have never met. We also meet outdoors, organising motorcycle rides, bicycle events, walks and it is an enriching experience,” says city-based Inder Sandhu, one of the founders of the group.
At the Chandigarh Organic Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday evening near the Sukhna Lake, a group of fabulous home cooks put up their tables to dish out delicacies, ingredients for which they mostly procure from the farmers, who are here with their fresh produce. From exotic black rice kheer, to healthy vegetable wraps, crisp cool salads to bun tikkis, kadhi chawal to baked falafels, it’s a treat each week. On festivals, farmers get together to cook a traditional langar, on the house for shoppers. “The larger philosophy is to get people together to also talk of issues and causes, support farmers, promote natural food, kitchen gardening. Eating under the sky, with other people, becomes a wonderful way to bridge gaps and make new friends,” smiles Raman Mann, founder of the market.