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Veins of the vine leaves

Tara Miran
Tara Miran

The Green Way, a new trail connecting public space in St Pauls, has just been completed. The trail includes artwork that has been inspired by local residents’ cookery. More than 200 people submitted recipes, and three winners were selected – Amina’s samosas, Glen’s akee and saltfish and Tara’s dolma. In our latest blog post, Tara Miran tells us about the inspiration behind her dolma recipe.

This project was a deeply meaningful, symbolic and expressive way of bringing us closer as a community but also closer to our own communities culturally too, through the celebration, inclusion and recognition of our cultural foods. In a fast paced and busy world and life, food is like music, it connects us back to our culture. 

Kurdish food is a huge part of my identity. In Kurdistan, food brings families and neighbours together on a daily basis. I associate love, family, community and laughter with Kurdish food. Preparing it is a labour of love and to see your loved ones enjoying and appreciating a dish like dolma, makes its long preparation absolutely worth it. 

Dolma is my favourite dish and our family favourite! The ingredients and special touches I add to my recipe remind me of myself watching my mum prepare it and all the flavours, textures and smells take me back to my childhood and bring a smile to my face, as I now prepare it for my own children. 

My children are of mixed heritage, so food is a celebration of their Kurdish culture and background. It’s like a deep root that brings them back to Kurdistan and their Kurdish identity. In some parts of the world it is even forbidden to have a Kurdish name or identity. So to enjoy, share and be a part of this project where my Kurdish food is celebrated will be a memorable and continuous happiness for myself, my family and the Kurdish community in Bristol. 

It brings an extra special sense of pride for my children too, to see their culture and mother’s recipe being celebrated and recognised. I can’t thank all the teams involved enough for this wonderful project. It is a highlight for me among all the other community initiatives I’ve been involved in. 

Two years ago I founded the St Pauls Community Garden. We have signed up to Bristol Going for Gold, having enjoyed first-hand all the benefits that urban growing brings. Members of the community are now taking care of the space and nurturing it each in our own capacity and free time, which is brilliant!

We’ve recently been awarded some funding and our shopping list will definitely include plants for us to grow vine leaves. A beautiful fit with The Green Way launch, not to mention a fit with my love of dolma!

The title of this blog post is inspired by a poem of the same name which I read at the recent launch of The Green Way. This poem was co-created by Beth Calverley and myself. Beth is a fantastic Bristol-based artist, poet and storyteller who works regularly with different communities to draw out stories, histories and ideas with words.

She truly captured the depth in my words when I spoke about dolma, its significance to me and my connection with Kurdistan.

Veins of the vine leaves

Your children wake
to the tastes of colours
in the air – bright and powdered,
the perfect alarm. Something
is pulling them from beneath –
down to the kitchen
where the smell of dolma lingers –
delicate parcels wrapped like hugs
a world from the cold-cracked fruits
you left beneath the waterfalls
in kurdistan. They eat them
for breakfast, eyes closed,
melt in the mouth, molasses
massage their morning – spices
unmeasured yet expertly balanced.
At school, they show their friends –
“that’s our mum’s recipe” pride
like veins, reaching vines,
rooted.

Glen of Glen’s Kitchen was one of the winners of the recipe competition. His akee and saltfish recipe inspired the artwork at the St Pauls Learning Centre. The St Paul’s Adventure Playground features Amina’s samosas and The Halston Drive Community Room artwork is inspired by Tara’s dolma. Graft, a local art collective, has painted the murals and Helyn Gulley was the signwriter for Tara’s recipe and the murals. 

A co-design-and-build collaboration between The Architecture Centre, St Pauls Learning Centre, St Pauls Adventure Playground, Talo and the local people of St Pauls, The Green Way celebrates local residents and creates spaces to gather and engage with the local area. It is the result of a two-year long project that joins green spaces and community hubs together in St Pauls through landscape architecture, public realm improvements and public art murals designed in collaboration with the St Pauls community. The Green Way is funded by Bristol City Council (CIL) and Arts Council England (ACE).