Food is always a brilliant way to bring people together. We all love to talk about food and we all have strong opinions about it. If you’re trying to learn English, it’s good to have a clear focus for discussion and a reason to communicate. The Cook, Learn and Eat courses bring together people who enjoy cooking.
Importantly, as Anna Schwarz, the founder of The World Food Project says, ‘Cooking and eating together are a way of increasing wellbeing. Our sessions are a chance to relax with others, in a safe and welcoming environment.’
Anna is an English teacher and experienced in running community cooking schemes. I joined her Cook, Learn and Eat project a few months ago as an English teacher. In the spring, we ran a five-week course that brought together refugees, migrants and students from Europe, Asia, Africa and America. Their English level ranged from beginners to Masters students.
English and cooking
Every week, I taught a lesson based on food-related vocabulary and useful grammar. Although some students spoke better English than others, all were able to exchange their opinions about their own country’s cuisine and English fare.
Then the students formed small groups to cook a three-course meal based on Anna’s recipes and with her assistance. They used local ingredients: we introduced the students to the delights of beetroot, rosemary and rhubarb.
I learnt from them too. I discovered that you don’t really need to peel ginger if you’re cooking it. Patting dough between your hands chapatti-style produces a better result than rolling it.
On the final day, the students created their own dishes. We had a sumptuous feast of international flavours. It included Moroccan tagine, Syrian kibbeh and hummus, Bangladeshi bhajji and Japanese okonomiyaki.
It was certainly a more satisfying experience than your average English course. I’m looking forward to participating in some cookery sessions for the Hummingbird Global Social Club later this month.