You may not have garnered from reading my blog that I’m kind of into Girl Power. Despite an almost freaky fondness for platforms and pigtails, I’m sadly no Spice Girl (I zig-a-zig-WISH), but it was undoubtedly SportyGingerBabyPoshScary who first brought those two words into my consciousness (and those of most of my contemporaries). Anyway. Enough 90s teenbop. The point is – and I’m going to try not to get all chippy on yo’asses now – I’m one of those people for whom the F-word isn’t a dirty word. Feminism is a fucking great word (in your face, Cuss Brigade).
One foundation who continually prove this point is Women for Women International (find their website here) – a global charity that provides financial, practical and emotional support for women across the world in war-stricken countries, ranging from Bosnia & Herzegovina to South Sudan and all the way to the Middle East. They help survivors of war to find jobs, earn money and establish a degree of independence that otherwise would be nigh on impossible. I’m sure I don’t only speak for myself when I say the potential for self-sufficiency and the empowerment it brings are opportunities I often take for granted as a western woman. The work that Women for Women (and, successively, Students for Women) does reminds us that such prospects are not the norm across the world, but with some hard work and kind generosity, they can be, and should be.
So you might be able to imagine how chuffed I was when I was asked to contribute a recipe towards a cookbook in support of Women for Women International, complied by the Students for Women Society of Leeds University. I was also absolutely bricking it. How could I – the girl whose blog is as much a splurging of the problems of a twenty-something singleton as it is a diary of hopefully delicious dishes – possibly begin to (a) write something serious and (b) write something serious for something that really matters? When I look at my recent posts, all my trials and tribulations (large pants, single V-Day, lack of willpower in the face of a meat-feast pizza) seem pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things, to say the least.
But, after a bit of thinking and a few chocolate fingers, all became clear. I realised that cooking is ultimately, for me (I stress this to remind you of the shocking prevalence of vile and sweeping associations that are somehow still drawn between the words ‘women’ and ‘kitchen’ in our society) an expression of my femininity (I must also stress that this is my choice). I would like to assure everyone that I do not cook because I am a woman, but I certainly cook as a woman. Looking back at my childhood, food (and cooking) shapes nearly every memory I have; licking spoons, eating scones, egging my big brother – you name it. And I learnt to cook from my mother, who provided the strongest image I have of Superwomanhood (like most mothers have done, I imagine). Throughout my life, cooking has, for whatever reason, been done by either my mother or my two wonderful stepmothers. Not because it was their duty as women, but because they enjoyed it (and because, in my mother’s case, she came from a family of matriarchs who ruled that kitchen, man. Woe betide he who suggested…anything, in fact).
(Thinking about it, I’ve realised that it might also be because (luv ya, dad) frankfurters for supper gets old pretty quickly.)
Cooking, in my family, is always an expression of love and friendship. Most importantly for me, cooking is a way of strengthening the link between me and the immensely strong and powerful women in my life. My mother died when I was ten, but I still use her recipes, and I love nothing more than cooking for or with my family. For us, because of the enjoyment we can get out of cooking, homemade food is an incredible assertion of individual creative prowess, not to mention the old adage – your kitchen, your rules (whoever ‘you’ may be). So my contribution to this book will serve as my own small hand extended to those Women for Women International fight hard to support and set free, whose plights are infinitely worse than ours, and who we would all do well to remember.
N.B. I am busy testing recipes (hence mystery sticky remnants in photo) every moment that I’m not sitting picking ma hole in front of spreadsheets while at work, and – sucks to be you – I’m not going to tell you what I’m making. You’ll HAVE to buy the book. It’s going to be a student cookbook (so your wallets can get fatter as you do!!) in the vein of WfW’s hugely successful Share, which featured recipes from chefs, activists and BNs (*big names, durr. Like Meryl, Nelson, Branson dontchaknow. Find it here). Each of the recipes will be inspired by one of the countries WfW work in – namely Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, DRC, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Sudan. Get excited – there is so much more to come….