It’s no shocker that the pandemic has suspended all means of what any of us consider a ‘normal life’. Last week marks one year since the first national lockdown was announced across the UK, and it’s difficult not to reminisce the exciting memories we created for ourselves and others, let alone the spirited, non-consequential freedom we drastically took for granted.
Thinking back to my first year of university, one particular recollection that left a promising impression was my initial encounter with Jerk BBQ at, well, a barbecue party. Truth be told, the lasting bonds I have to this day happened to originate from these casual cookouts. I consider my university to be a diverse melting pot, and I felt extremely lucky to have met people from a variety of backgrounds, particularly those from the Afro-Caribbean community. Through them, I was introduced to new cultures, cocktails, music, and of course, food! Having been personally brought up by Asian/Middle Eastern traditions, the energy was very different to what I was used to back home, but there was a welcoming sense of familiarity that struck me upon my first bite of Jerk. I realised that it wasn’t just a typical weekend gathering, but rather a celebration of communities which I recognised from my own upbringing.
Thus the real question arises – how did a cooking technique save my university experience? Despite coronavirus stripping away every student’s opportunity of commemorating some of the ‘best years’ of our lives, I continue to appreciate the various Jerk-filled, rum-punched outings that came about pre-(and post) lockdown. Sure, nightlife adventures tend to takeover the classic university life narrative, but after a full year of “closed until further notice” signs, it became evident that the true essence of student experiences stemmed from the simple act of gathering, regardless of the motive.
I’ve always believed in the idea that good food will always bring people together, and my journey with Rum Kitchen only continues to strengthen this belief. Having been immersed into a unique, yet amicable surrounding was a reminder that everyone has a desire to share, whether it be their successes, their heartbreaks, or even their mother’s special Jerk recipe. For me, it was sharing my love of rich flavours with RK, a value they passionately honour and take pride in. Sharing is part of our way of connecting with the people around us, to unite different communities together by breaking boundaries. Although there are no rules to a ‘perfect’ university experience, given the ever-changing circumstances we all live in, this is as close as it gets to one.
by Syahirah Harun – Team Member at Rum Kitchen Brixton