Cooking to Connect: How Food takes us back to our Roots

Event Panel

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With Imad Alarnab, Melek Erdal, Sathnam Sanghera and Michael Twitty.

This event takes place at the British Library. Tickets are free but booking is required. 

Writer and broadcaster Sathnam Sanghera leads a conversation about the power of food to connect us to place and through time: a  smell that reminds you of home years after you were last able to visit, a taste that brings lost memories back. He is joined by Syrian Imad Alarnab, who came to the UK as a refugee and now runs a central London restaurant; Melek Erdal, whose writing and recipes connect her to her Kurdish roots, and American Michael Twitty, a Black writer whose plantation cooking re-enactments connects him to the food of his enslaved ancestors. 

Part of a special day of Food Season events. 

Sathnam Sanghera was born to Punjabi immigrant parents in Wolverhampton in 1976. He entered the education system unable to speak English but went on to graduate from Christ's College, Cambridge with a first class degree in English Language and Literature. He has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards twice, for his memoir The Boy With The Topknot and his novel Marriage Material. Empireland has been longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. 

Imad Alarnab was a successful restaurateur in Damascus with two restaurants, plus several juicebars and cafés. In the war, Imad's restaurants were destroyed, and he was forced to flee the country in search of safety for his family. Making his way from Lebanon through Europe, Imad shared his cooking skills for other refugees – up to 400 at a time – and found even in the most challenging times, his passion for food and bringing people together to celebrate life was strong. He became known for his cooking in Calais. Today, he runs Imad’s Syrian Kitchen in Covent Garden, London, celebrating Syrian food including dishes first conceived in the Calais refugee camp. 

Istanbul-born Kurdish chef Melek Erdal grew up around the vibrant immigrant community of North and East London. Inspired by the food of her roots and upbringing, and the way it emboldens and brings together communities, Melek opened her own café in 2013. Following the café’s success, she moved on to concentrate on teaching and writing about food, culture and identity. She runs masterclasses, pop ups and tells food stories through documentary videos or essays, believing very much in community-focused food activism. Melek is an advocate for food as a form of connection and preserving identity and history; food as the most resilient form of language. Her most recent work has been with food sustainability charities Made in Hackney and The Felix Project. She is a regular panelist on BBC Radio 4's The Kitchen Cabinet and writes recipes for BBC Good Food magazine. 

Michael Twitty is a culinary historian and award-winning writer who has written extensively about Southern cuisine and the food culture and history of Black America. He has researched his own family history extensively and his best-selling debut book, The Cooking Gene, won two James Beard awards for Best Writing and Best Book of the Year. It charts his ancestry from Africa to America, enslavement through to emancipation. He has run Southern Discomfort Tours, in which he plays a historical interpreter living the existence of an enslaved person. His television appearances include Michelle Obama's Waffles and Mochi and Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi. He is a National Geographic Explorer, a TED fellow and the first Revolutionary In Residence at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

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Name: Cooking to Connect: How Food takes us back to our Roots
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546