People who know Alexandra Park can speak to its great ethnic diversity. Like a smaller version of Toronto itself, it rings with the sounds of a hundred languages, and the delicious cooking smells of many different cultures. A Pinch of This – Recipes From Alexandra Parkis an initiative of Recipe For Community, a resident-inspired partnership with a focus on food, convening, youth engagement and neighbourhood beautification. The organization has spear-headed an number of projects that range from window flower boxes and public art to an outdoor commons area that includes benches and picnic tables. An organic vegetable garden has been created in a central courtyard with a variety of plots, two of which are raised to provide access for those with mobility restraints. There is also an outdoor kitchen with barbeques so residents can prepare meals and swap recipes.
A project of the Green Space Collective, Recipe For Community brings together local residents to share their individual recipes, foodways and cultures. A Pinch of This offers recipes from Jamaica, Trinidad, China, Italy, the Middle East Afghanistan, the Philippines and others. With the assistance of food writer Marion Kane, and contributions from Kane, local councillor Adam Vaughan, and mayor David Miller, the book offers a culinary snapshot of the neighbourhood.
Recipes include pastelles (a Trinidadian twist on tamales), a vegetarian version of a Jamaican mackerel dish, kosheree, chicken adobo, and an oxtail stew contributed by resident Effie Henry, whose claim that she doesn’t cook by books inspired the ‘pinch of this’ title. While a few of the recipes, such as Henry’s, are obviously long-standing family specialties, a few are culled from published cookbooks and obviously represent the vibrancy and diversity of the neighbourhood. The ingenious part is that this is how many Torontonians eat – choosing to “visit” different cultures through their restaurants or recipes, so such a diverse collection doesn’t seem odd at all.
Money raised from sales of A Pinch of This will go to the Alexandra Park Green Space Collective to fund a community cooking program and gardens. The book is available for purchase for $5 by calling 416-678-3439 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Geanie Sarjue prepares for the launch party of A Pinch of This – Recipes From Alexandra Park in early December. Photo courtesy City of Toronto.