My parents are from East Africa. Most people I meet have no idea that East Africa, or specifically Kenya, has a large immigrant Indian population that goes back many generations. By the 50’s many of the businesses and restaurants in Nairobi and Mombasa were owned and run by Indians, who were the middle class of the country. They were the bankers, accountants, engineers but they also made clothing, delivered most anything and made food, amazing, authentic Indian food.
I grew up in a small town on Vancouver Island. In the 70’s and 80’s where “food” was typically things like processed cheese and Wonder Bread. Usually put together, but not always.
I was an outsider, and to many of my friends’ parents, a problem child, because I was a vegetarian. What the heck do you feed a vegetarian? And how is that kid not dead already. My, he sure does look tired all the time.
My mother was devoted to our vegetarianism. She had her reasons from her upbringing on a large scale ranch on the Rift Valley in central Kenya. She also saw the way that America has no regard for how they were treating their land and animals. And this was the 70’s.
She started a nut buying club, became an active member in the local food co-op. She became close friends with a small scale Dutch dairy farmer and his wife who would take their prize Sow and piglets to our local fair every Labour Day weekend. She would make cottage cheese, butter, yogurt and quick mozzarella every week.
Because of the environment that my mother grew up in, she was not taught how to cook. There were people for that. She made it through the first 2 decades of her life without understanding the foundation of cooking so when she landed in Victoria it was time for her to work it out.
This gave her a unique perspective. As a new immigrant, a newly dedicated vegetarian and with a burning desire for a good curry she set off on a journey to raise the healthiest and most ethically focused family she could.
My childhood was full of lentils, chickpeas, wheat berries (quinoa wasn’t a thing yet) which were mostly curried with a big dollop of yogurt and some home made chutney. My friends had no clue what to do when they came over. Many of them thought my mom was raised in a mud hut, being an African and all. Ah, the 70’s, only mildly less ignorant than the 50’s.
Fast forward to 2016, when I was first introduced to Shira and Janna from GRAIN. Meeting these two dedicated ladies was like seeing my mother of 30 years ago. They are just as committed to the cause and they’re doing something about it. Many of the issues in our food system that my mother pushed back against have not gotten any better, but much, much worse. We all have our reasons why we eat the way we do but I ask you to do our world a favor and take a close look at the powerhouse food that is GRAIN. There is so much goodness that can come from making plant based choices regarding protein but I am not going to get on my soapbox about being vegetarian. or veganism. What I am going to do is share 5 amazing summertime recipes that were made by GRAIN, with their products as the main characters. And I urge you to follow them closely as they are doing great things that will make our world a better place.
5 Summertime Salads – all at eatgrain.ca