Mantι, Börek, Baklava – Shabbat Dinner at the Jewish Museum & Archives of BC

When I arrive at the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC in the late afternoon, there are already two sesame spinkled, gleaming loaves of challah ready and the kitchen smells of roasting chicken and fragrant rice with a pop of lemon. Sara Ciacci, Leonor Etkin, Claire Hammer, Debbie Kafka and artist Derya Akay have been hard at work putting together a Shabbat dinner as part of Mantι, Börek, Baklava and The Chosen Food, a collaboration between the Contemporary Art Gallery and the Jewish Museum & Archives of BC.

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Hosting the dinner at an archive feels oddly appropriate. Both the women and Akay are drawing from their own archives in the preparation of the dinner—archives formed through experience, conversation and memory.

Leonor leads us through making the dough for challah reminding us that a portion of the dough is set aside and burnt as an offering.  Guests and collaborators share their own experiences of making challah as they roll the strands of dough. Some strands are twisted and knotted, other formed into the iconic braid, and each brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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Once fresh out of the oven, the challah is served with chopped liver and herring. I had never had challah or herring before and the combination of the tender strands of challah and the tangy, bright, creamy herring was delicious.

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The challah was followed with matzo ball soup and the main course: sumac-rubbed chicken on a bed of lemon and turmeric infused rice, steamed vegetables and roasted potatoes.

IMG_9929As the night wore on, it became clear that food was not simply an expression of faith but a gesture of love for one’s community and a desire to see future generations share in these rituals.

 

 

For more information on the Jewish Museum & Archives supper club The Chosen Food, please visit their website: http://jewishmuseum.ca/program/the-chosen-food/

 

Mantı, Börek, Baklava – Cooking with Maria Dyulgerova and Biliana Velkova

“Two eggs or three?” There’s a bit of debate amongst three generations of women as preparation of the banitza begins. A mixture of leeks, yogurt, feta cheese and eggs is combined and spread onto buttered sheets of filo pastry then rolled tightly like a cigar. Guests take turns rolling the filo—a delicate task that requires both a careful balance of pressure and motion. Once rolled, the banitza gets brushed with another coat of butter and then is baked until golden and crispy.

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We’ve gathered for the first of a series of dinners open to the public as part of Mantı, Börek, Baklava a project initiated by Vancouver-based artist Derya Akay.  Akay has collaborated with women elders to share the knowledge and stories that food activates. Today Maria Dyulgerova and her granddaughter, Biliana Velkova are sharing traditional Bulgarian recipes that have similar counterparts in Turkish cuisine. What is called “börek” in Turkey could be described as a variation of banitza in Bulgaria—at their most basic, both are stuffed baked pastries and devastatingly delicious.

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Apart from being appetizing, these meals offer a way to connect and a means to look at how diaspora shapes food histories, culture and communities in Vancouver. For women elders like Maria, Akay’s project celebrates the crucial knowledge brought from afar and cultivated throughout generations.

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Mantı, Börek, Baklava – Cooking with Derya Akay

It’s been raining for days on end now, but late on Sunday afternoon, the sun appears and its light falls across the Field House.

We’ve gathered for the beginning of Derya Akay’s project Mantı, Börek, Baklava and for this initial dinner, Akay is sharing southern Turkish recipes inherited from his grandmothers.IMG_8188

This spring, we have the pleasure of hosting Akay at the Burrard Marina Field House. In collaboration with women elders from a variety of diasporic cultural backgrounds, Akay will host intimate and participatory dinners both at the field house and off site at Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre and the Jewish Museum and Archive of BC.

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The Field House creates the kind of intimacy that those who host dinners in Vancouver’s small apartments will recognize. The kitchen is the dining room, the living room and in this case, the artist’s studio.  Food appears in waves, seemingly out of nowhere and “tucking in” takes on a double meaning– somehow there is always just enough space for one more person.

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Guests get a chance to partake in the preparation of some of the dishes. A mixture of lentils, spices, onions and garlic gets formed into bite-sized logs before it’s garnished with flat-leaf parsley and pomegranate molasses.

Cabbage rolls decorated with lemon slices, yogurt soup, tomatoes, parsley, onion, olive oil tossed into a salad, and feta cheese nestled in tender sheets of filo dough all form part of the feast.

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The word feast shares roots with “fête”, a French word that connotes celebration; to “faire fête” means to show honour or respect to someone. What is so vital about Akay’s project is that it celebrates the knowledge these women elders carry with them. Food is sustenance not just because it keeps us alive but because it sustains our connections to one another through the cultural and personal histories it activates through the senses.

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Mantι, Börek, Baklava – Cooking with Hayat Shabo and Carmen Aldakhlallah

-For tabbouleh:

-Not too much bulgur and keep it uncooked. Let it sit with the tomatoes and absorb their juices.

-When you cut parsley, cut it very finely but only cut it once.

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I’m mentally noting all of the tips and tricks that Hayat Shabo and Carmen Aldakhlallah are sharing with us on a rainy and blustery Saturday at the Burrard Marina Field House. Hayat is a chef from Damascus who is graciously and patiently guiding us through the preparation of kibbeh and tabbouleh amongst many other mouth-watering dishes. Carmen, her daughter, is translating and offering her own expertise as we gather to prepare Syrian dishes as part of Mantı, Börek, Baklava, artist Derya Akay’s field house residency project.

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Akay is the first to attempt forming kibbeh after Hayat expertly forms the mixture of bulghur, onions, spices and meat around her index finger. Dinner guests follow suit and are all guided through the process by Hayat. For today’s dinner, kibbeh are formed in two ways: into small logs stuffed with filling and pressed into the discs and sandwiched around the filling. The latter is then broiled over hot coals outside which, on such a dreary, windy day, proves a bit more difficult than those that are baked in the oven.

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Hayat’s skill and perseverance pay off in a big way: tabbouleh topped with a tomato rose, kibbeh, hummus and mutabaal along with bread made by Akay make for a delectable feast– I can honestly say that I have never had better tabbouleh.

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The event was presented in collaboration with Tayybeh, a new organization in Vancouver that seeks to support Syrian women through community events centered on cooking. Through community meals, the women of Tayybeh not only feature delicious Syrian dishes but also build connections within the larger community.

For more information on Tayybeh, visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/tayybeh

Mantı, Börek, Baklava – Cooking with Mohinder Sidhu

On one of the south walls of Moberly Arts Centre, fittingly only a few feet away from the entrance to the kitchen, hangs a portrait of Mohinder Sidhu. Turned towards the camera, her right arm is cut off by the edges of the frame but it is not hard to imagine the stove, the pot and the mouth-watering food that likely makes up the rest of the scene. In fact, when I ask to take a picture of Mohinder in the kitchen, she poses herself in a way almost identical to the portrait photo: arm outstretched over a pot of palak paneer with the same kind, patient smile.

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The text that accompanies Mohinder’s portrait testifies to her dedication to community. Sidhu is the recipient of a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her contributions which include a community kitchen program to teach community members to cook intercultural food and delivering sixteen six week cycles of the Canadian Diabetes Association’s Food Skills for Families, a program designed to teach families affected by diabetes how to cook healthy meals. Today Mohinder is cooking as part of Mantı, Börek, Baklava, Vancouver-based artist Derya Akay’s Field House project.

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The kitchen is bustling: onions are being chopped, spices ground for chai, pots being tended by one, two or three people at the same time. A seemingly never-ending wave of dishes keeps coming out of the kitchen: palak paneer, butter chicken, dahl, a mixed green salad with fennel, pudding, naan, the list goes on.

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As with all of Akay’s events, before we dig in, we acknowledge the work of Mohinder and the many women who have contributed to today’s meal. Indeed, the labour, the time, the energy and the wisdom that goes into this food is the life force of our community.

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Throwback: Brendan Fernandes, Burrard Marina Field House Studio Program, 2014

When Canadian artist Brendan Fernandes came to Vancouver for his two-month Field House Residency in 2014, he began a new research trajectory that departed from his usual artistic and dance practice, exploring the gendered and queer body as it is shaped specifically in ballet. His interest in working with photographs and architectural supports to explore gesture and movement also relates to his ongoing interest in interrogating issues of identity formation and performance. Consistent with the Field House’s mandate of community-engaged projects and events, Fernandes organized a series of workshops during his residency.

Following his Field House Residency with CAG, Fernandes has participated widely in solo and group exhibitions, as well as completing a number of other residencies across the United States. Recently, Fernandes produced a new project for the New York nonprofit Recess, which held performances and events throughout August of this year. The project, Steady Pulse, included large, flesh-toned Minimalist panels, which dancers moved, leaned and danced on top of in the gallery. The project recalled the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida from 2016, an incident by which Fernandes felt deeply impacted. The dance component of the project, Hit Back, investigated ways of dealing with confrontation using non-violent gestures, the dancers moving in ways which referenced, “intimacy and care, of picking up, and of holding each other.”*

Interestingly, Fernandes’ desire to explore gestural movement in relation to panels, beams and supports this year at Recess can be linked directly to the train of thought he began exploring during his Field House residency in Vancouver.

Fernandes will have a solo exhibition, To Find a Forest, at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 2018.

 

*As told to Wendy Vogel. “Brendan Fernandes,” Artforum.  August 15, 2017

Throwback: Sameer Farooq, Burrard Marina Field House Studio Program, 2015

Sameer Farooq
Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada.
HERE: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists.
Curated by Swapnaa Tamhane.
July 22, 2017 – January 1, 2018
Opening Reception: July 22, 2017

CAG’s artist in residence at the Burrard Marina Field House from 2015, Canadian artist Sameer Farooq, is participating in a group exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, HERE: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists, Curated by Swapnaa Tamhane.  As part of Canada’s 150 year celebration, the exhibition features over twenty artists working in a wide variety of mediums. The artworks explore issues of nationality and Canadian identity, querying the inscribed complications and multiplicities of diverse cultural experiences.

The Aga Khan Museum, located in Toronto, has been established and developed by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), which is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The Museum’s mission is “to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contribution that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage while often reflecting, through both its permanent and temporary exhibitions, how cultures connect with one another.”

Farooq’s 2015 residency at the Field House was collaborative with Dutch artist Mirjam Linschooten. The two artists explored interdisciplinary practices to create participatory projects using installation, photography, documentary filmmaking, writing and the methods of anthropology to examine various forms of collecting, interpreting and displaying objects. Using CAG’s offsite residency space, the artists explored what Farooq termed, “ethnographic currency” which investigated the binaries of who are the subjects of ethnography and who are not. Their collaborative practice is highly site-specific and materially focused.

Throughout 2015, they completed a number of research-oriented trips to Vancouver. Their work resulted in site-specific installations at CAG (White, Steel, Slice, Mask), the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station (Bear Claws Salad Hands) and the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) over 2016-17.

Sameer Farooq and Mirjam Linschooten, ‘Bear Claws Salad Hands’, 2015. Photography by Trasi Jang