Eman and her young children endured great hardships to reach the safety of Australia when war made living conditions unbearable in Iraq, in 2002. After having lived in Cobram, Eman moved to Shepparton where she had been working as a part-time language teacher for some time. The ever-growing and developing cultural landscape keeps her engaged with the local community.
As a child growing up in Iraq, where cooking was an essential skill for every woman, Eman learned to cook by watching female relatives around her prepare traditional foods. Many ingredients were home-made or grown, like yoghurt and vegetables, or sourced from local farms. Eman loves the unique flavour of her traditional herbs and vegetables, such as Iraqi celery and parsley, that she tries to grow and take with her everywhere she lives.
Her garden is very important, as she sees it as a wonderful gift that provides healthy, organic food for herself and her family. She enjoys tending to her many fruit trees, vegetables and herbs each day and sharing their fresh flavour and nutrition with friends and neighbours. The connection between nature and her religious practice, where everything in nature is described as worshipping God, is very important. Looking after her garden complements Eman’s worship and consolidates the connection between healthy eating and emotional well-being.
“We have overcome many challenges to adapt to the Australian way of life and the way we eat here. In Iraq, we eat only breakfast and dinner but here we have adopted to the routine of three meals a day. It is very important to me to feed my family well using fresh, organic, local ingredients where possible. I hope others will understand and accept our traditional food cultures too, in the same way that I always like to learn about other ways to live and update my knowledge. That is one of the reasons why I have loved being a part of Shepparton Culture Kitchen. I have been able to taste many different kinds of food, meet people from different traditions and learn many new things and heard many different perspectives on food through this project.”
Produced by MAV, Greater Shepparton City Council and Point of Difference Studio, the Shepparton Culture Kitchen project is one of 5 initiatives supported through VicHealth’s Art of Good Health program. Drawing on Shepparton’s identity as Victoria’s ‘food bowl’ and its most culturally diverse regional town, Shepparton Culture Kitchen is a significant arts initiative centreing the voices of local women of colour, to build a future in which we are connected through empowering, healthy and sustainable food cultures.