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Zachary’s story

It was a cold and rainy day when we took the train from our house sit near Stirling to volunteer with Sumayya at Kaleyard.

The location was a little hard to find – the wind had blown down the sign for the Old Barn in an obscure part of Pollok County Park – and our shoulders were in our ears as we leaned into the horizontal Scottish rain. We dodged puddles and walked past the stables where unflappable horses cast us guarded glances before we saw a car filled with kitchen supplies and groceries.

We jumped right in by grabbing a few armloads of kitchen supplies to take into the big farm kitchen that was to serve as the site for our cooking class.

It was cold inside, and we had no hot water. To complete our main task of washing up all the dishes used in the cooking class, we had to boil water in an enormous kettle. Our other job was to ensure that Sumayya had everything she needed to conduct the class at her fingertips – we became instant sous chefs trying to anticipate her every need.

It sounds bleak, but it was one of those instances where the best results come from a little adversity. We bonded together quickly because if we didn’t, the handful of elderly folks coming to learn to cook healthy and flavorful meals would have a bad experience.

Some guests had the same problem arriving, and once everybody had shaken off the rain and found their stations, the room became warmer from our body heat and more convivial by our conversation.

The windows steamed over and the room filled with the scent of our culinary endeavors; jasmine, sautéed onions, smashed garlic, fermented radish, flashes of barberry – it was as if the room had turned into a skillet. While elbow deep in sudsy water I imagined spooning the air into my mouth, but my first bites loomed on the horizon.

Adversity sums up Kaleyard quite nicely – how easy it is to cook delicious meals with ingredients sourced locally without breaking the bank. A true challenge in a country whose list of must try foods includes deep fried Mars bars and the eponymous Scotch egg. A courageous Scot may dare you to wash down a hunk of tablet with a glug of Irn Bru.

What most people don’t realize is that Scotland is sitting on a vast tradition of healthy local ingredients that pairs nicely with the exotic spices and recipes brought by immigrants from around the world, including (but not limited to) Sumayya’s home country of Pakistan.

As an added benefit we were allowed taste the recipes being cooked up in that tiny kitchen week after week, which isn’t why we kept coming back. It was for the community we tapped into through Kaleyard and the conversations sparked over great food.

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