Cooking and eating food together overcomes many barriers to language and culture.
With a huge migrant population, Port Hedland in Western Australia’s Pilbara is a melting pot of cultures and customs with up to 64 different languages spoken in a relatively small town.
Irene Dempsey, from Port Hedland Community Migrant Service, says no two days are ever the same.
Part of Irene’s job is to support migrants to settle into their new community, and one of the ways is to encourage them to make friends, meet new people – and most importantly to have fun – through food.
The Cooking up a Storm program was developed in 2009 to stimulate an interest in international cuisine, pride in one’s culture and an opportunity to welcome new arrivals. It has been a resounding success ever since, with a cookbook published in 2011.
On the last Friday of every month one of the women selects and cooks a dish from her culture. She demonstrates it by talking through her techniques and offering any tips she uses while cooking it.
When the meal is cooked everyone gets to enjoy it.
The Cooking up a Storm program encourages harmony and friendship and creates a link for women to grow in a new environment.
Irene Dempsey says: “With up to 30 women, and their children at each event, there are constant sounds of laughter. Add this to the delicious smells, good food and free recipes and you have a wonderful and welcoming atmosphere.”
To date dishes from all over the world have been shared including India, Bali, Indonesia, Sweden, France, Lebanon, England, New Zealand, Japan, China, Ireland, Bangladesh, Africa, Malaysia, USA, Pakistan, Thailand, The Maldives, Malta, Italy, the Philippines, Germany, Mexico, Austria and Brazil.
An annual Multicultural Lunch is organised where everyone brings along a dish to share. National costumes are proudly worn and singing and dancing is encouraged.
Frontier Services acknowledges the support of Hedland Well Women’s Centre where the program is held and the Rotary Club of Port Hedland which has provided funding.