Last April, after feeling creatively unfulfilled and balancing a freelance career, I decided to launch YSM8 (yes mate!), a series of events celebrating my Sikh-Punjabi heritage through the home-cooked food and global sounds that inspired my upbringing.
I started YSM8 because I want to educate people about the stories attached to the dishes and help teach them why sharing vegetarian food is a huge part of Sikh culture. Ultimately, YSM8 is a celebration of my identity.
Born in southeast London into a Sikh-Punjabi household, the values of oneness and equality have been instilled in me by my family and faith. Cooking, eating together and sharing stories are core pillars in my life. I’ve been learning the basics of Punjabi cooking since I was 10 years old – everything from how to roll a roti to understanding the fundamentals of a good thurka/tarka (the method of cooking your spices – don’t rush browning your onions, mate).
In my home, meals are diverse. We don’t eat Punjabi food every day but when we do, everything is created from scratch. The rotis are made from wheat flour and water. The spices are roasted and ground by hand in a pestle and mortar. When my mum has the time, she makes fresh yoghurt and ghee. Our diet is made up from wholesome lentils and beans, fresh vegetables and salads, wheat flour, pickles, yogurt and chutneys. Not forgetting the sweet treats.
Like many other BAME communities, my grandparents came to the UK from Nairobi, Kenya and had to quickly adapt to the British culture. Everything changed for them, yet their food remained the same – an expression of their identity.
To celebrate International Women's Day, I spoke to other young women of colour from different backgrounds who have found ways to use their deep relationship with food to explore, shine a light and educate others about their identities.