Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kulishana Cookbooks

Jess Londeree, owner of Kulishana Cookbooks, a line of cookbooks that will contain favorite recipes, personal narratives and photographs of women from three developing countries is taking over the blog today to tell her story about how she has combined her education and passions into a business venture that keeps paying it forward.

My name is Jessica Londeree and I am a PhD student in global health at Ohio State University. During my travels to countries such as Kenya, Haiti and India, I found that every nation, every culture, has its own unique food. I also realized that the sharing of this food can be a wonderful tool to foster understanding  and respect between people from different nations, which is especially true for developing countries where often little is known about the inhabitants beyond their need.

Several years ago I took some time off school to work for a non-profit in rural Kenya. I worked in a very small clinic doing HIV prevention, and there was exposed to some of the anguish of sickness and poverty within developing countries. At the time I believed that this experience would make me into a deeper person- would somehow shape me forever into a person who no longer cared for materialistic pursuits or trivial issues.

This was not the case. I still fret over that reoccurring pimple and believe that the world is over when my internet craps out. And while I have plans to work in the field of global health, I would be lying if I said that I’d rather watch the world news over ‘Parks & Recreation’.

But I believe that there is one thing that has permanently stuck with me from my experience, and that is humility. Prior to leaving for Kenya, I assumed that I was a heroine coming in to save ‘those poor Africans’. I was 19 years old, with almost no experience in public health, with no knowledge of the local culture. I confess now that I went to Kenya believing that I somehow knew better than them, of how to live life and to be happy.

Looking back on this now, my beliefs were not just mistaken, but insulting to the local population I came to support. I egregiously ignored their own capabilities and adaptive powers to overcome the suffering they experience. I failed to acknowledge their strength to better their own lives, which was certainly far greater than mine at the time.

 I was no savior, and this became very clear to me when I witnessed the inherent ability of many Kenyans to thrive even in the harshest of circumstances. I fell in love with the culture, the food, and especially the people. My host family welcomed me with such warmth. I remember nights eating together with the family, struggling to communicate with my broken Swahili amid their unending patience.

I also realized that it was when eating together that I felt the most connected with my Kenyan family and friends. Cooking with them and trying their food, and also making them some of my own favorite dishes, was transferring a small bit of our cultures despite linguistic barriers and different backgrounds. It is a shared experience where both parties can glimpse into the flavors and smells that have been such a resonating aspect of one another’s lives.  Sitting together and satiating that universal urge for good food and good company can also foster communication, understanding and respect between people from different nations.

This is especially true for developing countries where often little is known about the inhabitants beyond their need. My love of cooking for others as well as my admiration for the countries I have visited (Kenya, Haiti, India) has led me make many new dishes for family and friends back in the States. Yet in many ways I am still shocked by how little many Americans know about these countries, or how many misconceptions they have developed based on their limited sphere of exposure.

For this reason I decided to create 'Kulishana Cookbooks', a line of cookbooks that will contain favorite recipes, personal narratives and photographs of women from three developing countries. Kulishana Cookbooks would act as a tool to acknowledge of the value and beauty of a nation’s culture and people beyond the violence, poverty and starvation portrayed in the media. In this way I can help foster the same appreciation and respect of different cultures that I gained from my past travels by establishing ‘global community’ through cooking.
Kulishana will also give back to local communities in two ways:
1) The women who contribute their stories and recipes will be paid royalties for their contributions. In this way, the cookbooks will empower the local women through a sustainable income. In addition, it will be giving them a voice by acknowledging the value of their wisdom and culture throughout the global community.
2)Twenty five percent of the gross margin will go towards sustainable nutritional interventions within the countries.

In Swahili, Kulishana means ‘feed one another’.  By donating funds to these communities while simultaneously recognizing their ability to share their recipes, stories and joys in return, Kulishana Cookbooks aims to truly live up to its name. 

Go Check out and "Like" Kulishana Cookbook's facebook page and checkout their IndieGoGo Campaign.

*Photos are courtesy of Jessica Londeree and Kulishana Cookbooks

1 comment:

Karen Koblan said...

This is an amazing story! Thank you for posting this, I am going to check out their FB page. I am always interested in new types of cookbooks and to know that the profits will give back to those communities is even better.
Karen @ Karen's Soiree