When we share a meal together, we are not just feeding our empty stomachs, but also feeding our minds and fueling our hearts. The dinner table is a simple reminder that we are all human, and we all have more in common than we think. The most common language between one another is food. Food brings people together.
One Wednesday, October 12 Duos Kitchen opened up their doors to us for a women’s friendship dinner between Congolese women and American women. The night included cooking, laughter, smiles, storytelling, and empowerment. We intentionally invited a group of older Congolese mamas, who don’t typically get to do many activities. The American women worked alongside the Congolese women to learn how to prepare a traditional Congolese meal. Together, they made a delicious meal of tilapia with seasoning, stew with vegetables, cabbage, and fufu, which is made out of Masa flour and is common in several countries in Africa.
Cooking a meal together allowed the women to feel connected with one another, and they realized they have more in common than they thought. “I realized that although we may not eat the same food, we all chop the same way,” one of our Congolese friends said.
One of our American guests Sarah said, “We didn’t realize before we got to Duos that we would be helping to prepare the food – and we are really glad that we did. It made it much more fun to be able to interact and see all of the preparation. Even when there was a language barrier, we could work side by side. The food was delicious!”
Around the dinner table, all guests took turns sharing a little bit about their lives. One Congolese woman shared her story of family reunification. Another shared her story of waiting to meet her grandchild for the first time. But each shared how important the event made them feel and how being at that table made them feel like people, made them feel human. At that point, there were tears in nearly everyone’s eyes. Nyirambonimpa gave Duos Chef Becky a hug that nearly knocked her out of her chair and laughter erupted. It was beautiful.
“I can’t tell you of my joy to be here with all of you. Today, you have made us feel big at this table. Please don’t stop doing this type of dinner. It is so important.”
When we were nearing towards the end of the night, we asked if any of the women would like to share anything else. All of them had something positive to share. Mateso started and immediately expressed gratitude for being able to attend the event. She said, “I can’t tell you of my joy to be here with all of you. Today, you have made us feel big at this table. Please don’t stop doing this type of dinner. It is so important.”
Sarah said, “It touched me to hear how special it was to them to be at a table with all of us together. That message is still resonating with me. It’s something that I would have taken for granted if it hadn’t been pointed out.”
Sifa, who has a few health concerns and was not feeling well, but refused to go home, said, “If I was younger and well, I would get up and dance for all of you to say thank you.”
Exodus staff member Nicole summed up the night perfectly, “I just feel the world needs to know that refugees are human too. That is what I got from last night, and it ensured my energy toward my job.”
Thank you to our amazing host Chef Becky Hostetter and to Sarah Bixler and her friends for making an evening of friendship and sisterhood possible.