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Spiritual Flavours: Meals

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Ealing Christian Centre

At the Ealing Christian Centre (Elim Pentecostal Church), which is located in a 1930’s cinema, a group of about forty men from the community attend church at 8am on a Saturday and then eat breakfast together every two months. This is usually a full English breakfast and pastries. Three women, who are actively involved in the church, volunteer and take turns preparing and serving the food in what would have been the cinema bar. Once a year, these women and other volunteers prepare the Appreciation Meal for over one hundred people who do some form of work for the church. This is served and eaten in the main hall.

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Langar, Ealing Sikh Gurdwara.

In the Langar (kitchen) of the Ealing Sikh Gurdwara (temple), like in any gurdwara, vegetarian food is served to all visitors regardless of faith, colour, age, gender or social status. This was started by the first Guru (Guru Nanak Dev) in 1481 to advocate the principle of equality between all people. In the Ealing Gurdwara, food is offered twice a day and most of the work involved in the Langar is performed by volunteers, except for one person who is employed. Although it is traditional to sit on the floor in a row to eat, at the Ealing Gurdwara there are sitting and standing tables with the spirit of being more inclusive for those who struggle sitting on the floor.

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Rabbi’s Tisch, Ealing Liberal Synagogue.

At the Ealing Liberal Synagogue, Rabbi Janet organises a Tisch every first Friday of the month, which is a dinner that she offers to the community, followed by a discussion on a chosen topic. The food that is served follows the rules of kosher and members of the community also bring dishes to share.

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Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman (Hindu) Temple.

At the Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman (Hindu) Temple, a full-time employed man, helped by other male volunteers, cooks vegetarian food that is served daily after the noon and the 8pm service (Pooja). Typically, the meal includes rice with vegetables curry and dahl.  The number of people attending vary from fifty to three-hundred, depending on the time and day of the week, and can reach thousands during special festivities such as New Year. For such occasions food is served in an adjacent tent, rather than inside the temple, and many people volunteer to help peel and cut the vegetables. For the Chariot Festival, a twenty-one-day festival in the summer, deities are paraded in three chariots and the temple organises the provision of free food for over 15,000 attendees, which is served in the nearby Dean Gardens park.

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Caribbean and International evening, St Thomas the Apostle church.

In the 1980's, St Thomas the Apostle Anglican church in Hanwell had a significant West Indian community. In an effort to integrate and celebrate the community, members began organising a yearly Caribbean Evening, where a group of women would cook traditional Caribbean food for other community members. More recently, this has become the Caribbean and International evening, where other people also cook traditional dishes from their countries of origin.

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West Ealing Islamic Centre.

Every last Wednesday of the month, a group of approximately twenty to thirty women meet at the Ealing mosque (West Ealing Islamic Centre) to attend a religious lecture, discuss related topics and eat lunch together. A local Pakistani restaurant typically prepares and delivers the food for free. However, sometimes, women in the group take turns to cook at home and bring the food for everyone else. When the lunch is finished, the men at the mosque eat the leftovers.

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Deanery Dinner, Our Lady & St Joseph Catholic Church.

The Deanery Dinner is an event where all the parish priests from parishes surrounding Ealing come together. This happens in a different local church each time, taking place at Our Lady & St Joseph Catholic Church once or twice a year. The priests normally arrive at ten o’clock and, whilst they have a meeting, a group of about six to eight women prepare the meal, serve it, and clear up afterwards. When the work is finished, the women sit and have a meal together with what is left over. In the same room, a small group of parish members, typically six or seven, volunteer to offer lunch for the homeless every Wednesday, which also takes place in two other local churches on Mondays and Fridays.

Spiritual Flavours

The above sequence of images are part of the collaborative arts project Spiritual Flavours. Working with members of different faith communities in the area of Ealing and Hanwell, the project collates recipes that individuals consider relate to their spirituality and religious practices. The project pays attention to affective relationships with food, as a vehicle to explore ideas about inheritance, tradition and belief. This photographic series pays specific attention to the material settings where these communities serve food and organize meals. All images are courtsey of Laura Cuch 2016.

Laura Cuch

Laura Cuch is a documentary and fine art photographer who has joined the project ‘Making Suburban Faith’ to undertake a practice-led Ph.D. where she employs photography and film to explore the domestic material cultures of faith in suburbia, with a particular focus on food and foodways.

Making Suburban Faith is a research project funded by the AHRC as a part of its Connected Communities programme, and is a collaboration between the Geography Departments of UCL and Royal Holloway. The project explores the ways in which suburban faith communities create space focusing on architectures, material cultures, rituals, music and performance. The project is based in Ealing in West London and focuses on diverse faith community case studies selected to represent different faith and migration traditions.