The recipes range from ugali, a staple of the Kenyan diet, to Asian dumplings. The recipes would be considered ethnic and even exotic to most people living in Anchorage, but Kuhn strives to include ingredients that are local to Alaska, like the caribou and shrimp shu mai.
“We have 91 languages spoken in the (Anchorage School District), which is pretty incredible,” Kuhn said. “We have a lot of immigrants and refugees that settle in Anchorage and I think that’s really strengthened our community, but there’s some isolation of those communities in Anchorage and I think food and this project could be a way to spotlight those communities and gather people.”
Surprisingly, Kuhn didn’t grow up in a home where family meals occurred that often. As a single mom with two children, Kuhn’s mother was more likely to feed her children on the go.
“I’ve reflected on that a lot and the fact that I wish we did spend more time around the dinner table sharing stories about our day and who we are,” Kuhn said. “I see people moving away from eating together and I want people to regain that.”
Kate Powers, a Food Mosaic contributor who also volunteers with the Spenard Farmers Market, says food has played a major role in her life helping her connect with friends and family in her life.
“As an exchange student in Spain and Costa Rica, food was the primary way for me to connect with the families I stayed with,” Powers explained.
Through her work with the Alaska Literacy Program, Powers said she became more aware of how diverse a city Anchorage is and how food can be life-raft for immigrants and refugees new to the city.
“I think it helps them maintain a connection to home, because a lot of times people come here and we don’t realize how little they have, besides the clothes that they’re wearing, but they still have their recipes from home and the memories they’re connected to,” Powers said.
Right now, the Food Mosaic team is on the hunt for recipes from all over the world.
“Maybe you have a grandma from Mexico that makes amazing tamales and you want to share that or you have Swedish heritage and you have a recipe for strawberry-rhubarb pie or some kind of pastry,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn hopes the Food Mosaic website will become not just an online recipe guide, but a community. The goal is to make the project not about the food itself, but about people and their culture. Eventually, Kuhn wants to expand the project into events and potlucks where food and cultural learning can come together.
“I hope that people who grew up in Anchorage feel that they’re part of something bigger than Anchorage and can realize that our city is special and stronger because of all the people here,” Kuhn said. “We’re all Alaskan, but we all have different stories.”
To learn more about the Anchorage Food Mosaic Project or submit your own recipes and stories visit Anchoragefoodmosaic.com or Facebook.com/AnchorageFoodMosaic.