B.C. Culture Days mixes the right ingredients with Poets in the Kitchen

The annual arts celebration blends spoken-word and Southeast Asian cooking in this interdisciplinary event

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      Food, spoken word, and different cultures getting together under the same roof: these are the magic ingredients of Poets in the Kitchen.

      One of scores of events taking place in the Lower Mainland this weekend (September 28 to 30) as part of B.C. Culture Days, it captures the spirit of community engagement that drives the annual celebration. And it’s being run by one of eight Culture Days special ambassadors, interdisciplinary artist and spoken-word poet Johnny D. Trinh.

      “My whole family has had experience in food services, and we’ve been surrounded by food our whole lives,” Trinh tells the Straight over the phone. “I wanted to share family recipes and my recipes, and I wanted to share the work of other artists. So at Poets in the Kitchen, I interview them, we talk about food we like, we make it, we share it, they each perform, and, if we have time, we have a jam session.”

      For the free event on Saturday, to be broadcast live on Instagram at @johnnydtrinh, he’ll be demonstrating a salmon recipe, to tie into the North Vancouver Community Arts Council’s current Journey of a Salmon exhibit in the space where his event will take place.

      “To stick with the theme I’ll be making a soy-ginger-scallion steamed salmon with a few side dishes,” he says of the Southeast Asian food he’ll demonstrate and hand out before the performances take place. He also plans to emphasize the importance of salmon to local Indigenous people.

      For Trinh it’s a chance to celebrate and share his own cultural traditions through food, and his larger interest in providing a space to hear the stories of others. “Back at school, bringing cultural food for lunch—the friends or the bullies would say, ‘That’s so gross!’ And all you wanted was a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich,” he recalls of growing up. “Then there was that moment of switch where we’re proud of our food, proud of our culture.”

      He says the event he’s hosting reminds him of something Ghanaian-Canadian poet Ian Keteku once said: “He says when you’re communicating a story where you’re telling it to someone who’s completely foreign to you and has a completely different background than you—well, that’s where food is huge.”

      Poets in the Kitchen is at CityScape Community Arts Space (335 Lonsdale Avenue) on Saturday (September 29) as part of B.C. Culture Days; register via email to camila@northvanarts.ca.