Illustration by Roushan Tabassum
From sitcoms to home improvement shows to commercials, the kitchen is assumed as the central space of a family. It is shown as a spot where its members gather, whether they’re grabbing a quick breakfast or cooking a multi-course holiday dinner.
However, since family can define so much more than just blood, it is only fitting that kitchen spaces be found in the community as well. The North Hamilton Community Health Centre and Speqtrum Hamilton have teamed up to create the Intergenerational Kitchen, an all-ages cooking series for the LGBTQ2S+ communities.
“[F]or myself there is definitely a period of time that I did not feel as comfortable maybe engaging my grandparents or aunts and uncles because I didn’t know what they thought about my identity or I wasn’t sure how accepting they’re going to be. So it’s a way that we can be our full selves in a space and also connect with other people that are different ages,” explained Jyssika Russell, the project co-ordinator for Speqtrum Hamilton.
The kitchen series has run every other Tuesday since Sept. 18 at the NHCHC’s community kitchen. The first series of events ends on Nov. 27 but there are plans to start up a second series of the program in the future.
Each event consists of making three or four dishes, usually consisting of a salad, main and dessert. Care is taken to try and make options for different dietary restrictions. Participants have also brought in their own familial and cultural recipes to share with others.
The NHCHC kitchen has been busting with turnouts of as much as 13 individuals. The program has also received a diverse age group with attendees as young as 16 and upwards of 70 years old. The kitchen is typically set up with learning stations, allowing cooks of different skillsets to learn from one another.
“[O]ne of the things that is the foundation of what Speqtrum does is [that] we try to create opportunities to do stuff together… I’ve always found doing activities, whether that be learning a new skill or doing something together, you’re able to connect and have those conversations about who you are or about the things that you like,” Russell explained.
For those who don’t want to cook, there is also a chill space with a LGBTQ2S+ -themed colouring station. There are also other tasks such as dishwashing and table setting to do. People are also welcome to skip the preparation altogether and just come to eat.
The Intergenerational Kitchen has received a warm response. Having intergenerational events had been requested by the youth that Speqtrum serves and they have been participating, eager to meet and mingle with members of the community with different amounts of lived experience. While there has been a variation in ages, Russell hopes that the kitchen will continue to bring in more generations.
The kitchen has also tapped into the way that food transcends differences. By providing a space outside of partying, it has engaged people with different tastes and ages within the LGBTQ2S+ community. In cooking and sharing a meal, the series has been crossing generational gaps and bringing together those with completely different interests and knowledge, from reality television to sword-making.
“[L]anguage and identities and ways of thinking about gender and sexuality are always evolving. [W]ith younger folks and the Internet… there’s a lot of conversation that happens in those spaces that maybe hasn’t trickled up to older generations so sometimes there’s a generational divide in how we think about gender and how we conceptualize sexuality… I think this is really about recognizing all the similarities that we have across age and across identities,” said Russell.
Like any kitchen, the Intergenerational Kitchen is forging familial ties. It is providing a central space for LGBTQ2S+ individuals of different generations to connect and share in the healing power of a home cooked meal.