Soul Food Sisters
In the midst of a dusky winter’s afternoon in Glasgow’s Gallowgate, surrounded by establishments selling rolls of carpet and vinyl flooring – last chance! half price! whelk shops teeming with critters, African salons and those distinct and timeless voices carried along high above the stalls, 'get your bacca here', 'cds, three for a fiver' sits a glowing gem of a place, Soul Food Sisters.
Beneath a deeply shaded December sky, its windows steamed up with condensation and warmth emanating from its interior, it beckons with scents of spice and coffee and the chatter of female voices.
Food, for Soul Food Sisters is an international language which everyone can speak.
Djamila explains “We know there are obstacles, especially for women, they are struggling. Statistics are increasing dramatically around mental health. There is something wrong somewhere. We try very hard to see what we can offer, how we can bring these people out and discuss and make life better, easier, for people here.”
Through funding from Foundation Scotland, Soul Food Sisters has been able to offer training opportunities such as food hygiene courses and paid work to women, arming them with new skills and jobs. Djamila explains “The process of training and empowerment has made a big difference to the women, people before were just staying at home. Since we started this project many people have had the benefit of this training. Most of them are working and have gained other skills. It’s been very beneficial.”
The benefits of this training and support are clear – for those inside and outside the collective. Munira, originally from Eritrea, who came to Glasgow with her two sons via a decade spent in Egypt today stands in the Soul Food Sisters kitchen, helping to prepare a range of specialities. Munira joined the team as a chef six months ago, having attended previously as a volunteer. She first learnt to cook in Eritrea and her passion for food and for Soul Food Sisters abounds. Working here has provided not just a small income but also exposure to a network of women whose knowledge and experiences have helped Munira feel at home in the city. Often Munira’s specials feature on the weekend menus, Eritrean stews or Injera – a soft flatbread served with various toppings and salads and sauces. Shortly she will start a catering course at City of Glasgow College, building upon the skills she has learnt at Soul Food Sisters and in Eritrea and Egypt.
For each of these women, food is woven through memory and into identity, a means of shaping and telling one’s own story – of holding onto the past and forging a future.
Walking back out in the crisp twilight, filled with the food and the stories from these inspirational women’s lives, the spirit, determination and warmth of Soul Food Sisters feel as characteristic of the city it calls home as the women who work tirelessly to bring their passion for cookery and togetherness to those that they meet. For Glasgow, and for the sisters, long may it continue.
Mhajab or Algerian Crepes