A Table for All: Feeding Utah’s Culture

Monday, Oct 11, 2021 0

Watch this three-part series about how cultures, flavors and textures can mingle and co-exist in positive ways.

Written by Karen Bayard

Recently, many of us have been asking: “What really matters?” We’ve come to realize that some of the things we’ve held dear simply don’t matter. Collectively, we have begun experiencing life in a whole new way, and some of those eye- and heart-opening discoveries have been painful. However, some of those rediscoveries have been relieving, breathtaking (in good ways), affirming and maybe, most importantly, unifying. Interestingly enough, one of the ways we can come together, heal and grow is something we all have a daily need for: food.

Fortunately, the Utah food community is tight knit. From gardeners to farmers, foodies to restaurateurs and the legion of paid and volunteer workers who help foster an environment where food is a catalyst for change.

“Inclusive” and “diversity” have become popular catchwords. Those who think Utahns wouldn’t have much to say about multicultural diversity would be incorrect. In fact, the state is home to approximately 60,000 refugees, populations formally supported by two resettlement agencies: The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Catholic Community Services (CCS). These agencies ensure that refugees are welcomed at the airport, arrange for their housing, furniture and basic household supplies; offer orientation classes; and prepare a resettlement plan, with referrals to social services and employment.

Chef Haymar of Wann Jale restaurant in Salt Lake City specializes in cuisine from Myanmar and Thailand.

Photo: Nicole Morgenthau

Kafé Mamai food truck serves a fusion of African and Caribbean cuisine from Chef Abudu in Salt Lake City.

Photo: Nicole Morgenthau

Inside the SPICE Kitchen Incubator, a project of the International Rescue Committee.

Photo: Nicole Morgenthau

If we’ve learned anything from America’s tumultuous times, it’s that we still have a lot to learn. There’s much more work to do in bridging gaps, and Utah’s food community can be counted among those working for change.

This state — a naturally beautiful nook — is the home of some soul-soothing loveliness in our glorious landscape — but we also support a surprisingly vibrant food culture, beautifully infused by immigrants and recent transplants.

Yes, a food culture that is mouth-watering, drop-a-utensil, look-to-the-sky as your heart makes your lips say, “MMMmmmph, that’s good!” With slightly squinted eyes and a head shake, you notice someone else nearby having a similar experience. You smile at one another and continue eating, silently but so connected. By food. Food, that is, made well by people who have a deep passion for what and how they create it. Food, grown with the utmost reverence for land and its abundant capabilities.  Food that’s a celebration of culture, one’s roots and life itself. Food as the pop-up art in a book, ready to dazzle and wow diners.

In this video series, we’ll consider how food affords us all an opportunity to slow down, savor, teach or learn something, celebrate people, moments and life. Food is royalty when it comes to breaking barriers, because diners don’t need to speak the same language to communicate how good food tastes or how to prepare it.

Food shows everyone that cultures, flavors, textures can mingle and co-exist in positive ways. Food lures diners into taking risks with our palates, to literally put our money where our mouths are. Even when a food is less desirable than we’d hope, often it’s another food that bails us out of a moment of displeasure.

In so many ways, to so many people, food is a metaphor for life. As Utah continues to evolve, it may just be food that grows us most. Whether you come here to live, visit or are simply passing through, we welcome everyone to join a delicious and vibrant global conversation centered around food, a well-rooted conversation that elevates all of our lives far beyond the plate.

Learn more about Utah – Life Elevated

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