#MightyWomanMonday: Tulsi Lathia
Bridging the cultural gap in New Zealand with a ‘Spoonful of Spice’
Whilst still a high school student in Christchurch, Tulsi Lathia had an idea to help bridge the 'cultural gap' in New Zealand, bringing her own experience as a migrant to the table.
Knowing that food brings people together, and is a common thread to share one’s heritage, Tulsi and her teammates started a social enterprise to publish a multicultural cookbook called a ‘Spoonful of Spice.’ This special cookbook contains not only recipes, but stories from the contributors who are refugees and migrants living in Christchurch. This month, Tulsi will be participating in a talk-show with bestselling and much-loved cookbook author, Annabel Langbein in Christchurch to share more about Spoonful of Spice!
Interestingly, Tulsi’s favourite cuisine is split between Indian and Italian, and although they’re polar opposites, she can’t choose between them! Tulsi’s dream situation would be to travel around Europe out of a suitcase and adopt a puppy; sounds good to us! One of her favourite quotes is: “If no-one from the future comes to stop me from doing it, how bad of a decision can it be?”
Tulsi kindly found some spare time in her busy university schedule to share more about herself, her hopes, aspirations and passion for a more understanding and multicultural society here in Aotearoa.
What’s your herb and spice of choice?
Herb – Basil
Fun fact: my name translates to Holy Basil but also “the incomparable one.” Guess which one my mother intended it to be?
Spice – Smoked Paprika
Jaime Oliver or Gordon Ramsay?
Can’t beat Gordon Ramsay’s roasts!
Favourite go-to Christchurch spot or hidden gem?
My parent’s Indian supermarket, Bombay Bazaar! I spend a lot of my spare time helping my parents run this hidden gem in central Christchurch. My favourite aspect of this place is the inclusive atmosphere we’ve created for anyone that wants to learn about Indian food. Plus, I love trying all the different products we bring in from India which remind me of home. It almost makes me feel as if I’m back in the street markets of India!
You saw a need to help bridge the 'cultural gap' in New Zealand, and to do so, you started a social enterprise to publish a multicultural cookbook: ‘Spoonful of Spice.’
How did this unlikely tool, a cookbook, achieve this goal/need?
We never wanted Spoonful of Spice to be just a cookbook, we wanted it to be a movement. Each element of this project, from collecting the recipes and stories from the refugees and migrants, to selling the cookbook has supported the main aim that is to help ‘bridge the cultural gap’ in New Zealand.
To emphasise this ethos, in order to collect our cookbook content, we organised a series of potlucks where we invited 4-5 contributors to bring along their recipe and their story to share with us and the other contributors, instead of doing individual interviews. This way, we were working towards ‘bridging the cultural gap’ all throughout this project. It was so heart-warming to see the development of friendships between the contributors and to see them develop appreciation for each other’s culture and to know that ‘Spoonful of Spice’ will amplify the same purpose for whoever picks up the cookbook.
Some of the profits from your cookbook went to the Christchurch Refugee Resettlement Centre.
Why was this your "organisation of choice" to invest in?
From the day my team and I began this project, we knew we wanted to find a way to give back to the people this book was all about: the wonderful migrants and refugees of Christchurch.
After some research, we discovered the Christchurch Refugee Resettlement Centre and learnt about the incredible role they play in creating a welcoming and comforting new home for refugees coming into Christchurch. Donating to this organisation allowed our project to come full-circle as we were able to directly contribute to ‘bridging the cultural gap’ in our local community by supporting refugee families as they settle into their new home.
After the Christchurch mosque shootings, the need for understanding and togetherness was needed more than ever.
What were some inspirational stories or admirable actions you witnessed during this time of upheaval and mourning?
The Christchurch mosque shootings were an incredibly sad time for our community, we never imagined that such an unacceptable act of hate could be committed in such an auspicious place. Within the darkness and sadness of this event, I discovered moments of brightness in the compassionate acts undertaken by members in the community. From organising food donations and volunteering, to providing mental health support, to running remembrance services and showing extra kindness to anyone you encountered. Every time I passed the river of flowers and murals laid across Hagley Park for the victims, I was reminded that we cannot change what has happened but moving forward each one of us can do all that is possible to stop this from ever happening again.
It’s amazing seeing your creative and practical actions directed towards the celebration and acknowledgement of the diversity and rich heritage we all have.
What are your next steps, beyond your cookbook, to continue your work in this area?
I’m really excited to represent Spoonful of Spice and be a part of the WORD festival here in Christchurch in October, where we will be showcasing our cookbook and participating in a talk-show with bestselling cookbook author, Annabel Langbein. Two of our cookbook contributors will be joining us and sharing their recipes, published in Spoonful of Spice, and snippets of their journey that have brought them to where they are today.
I am also currently helping organize Christchurch’s first ever Indian Food and Culture day and I cannot wait to be part of more events that support my vision for a multicultural New Zealand.
Has anyone guided or supported you so far? Can you share who and how they helped you?
My teacher, mentor, and friend, Jacqui Griffith played a great role in helping my team and I bring this movement to life. She contributed countless hours to edit our work for publishing and was always ready with words of encouragement. Jacqui put in a lot of effort to help us get connected with the right people and achieve what we have today, she is an awesome role model!
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