Shardath Anand Sharma Maharaj grew up the vegetarian son of a Hindu priest but felt like he lived in limbo somehow: not quite Canadian, not Trinidadian, not Indian. Bullied as a child for how he looked made him feel ashamed of his skin and his heritage, leaving him yearning to belong to something.
It was food that finally offered him a sense of belonging. His 35 years of diverse restaurant work also helped him recognize “being Canadian gave me a chance to explore the world from home, culinary-wise.”
Today he wants to bring people together by sharing flavours using ingredients and techniques borne of those influences.
Shar — as he’s well-known in this community for decades now — will be teaching attendees how to make roti and curry chicken / chickpeas at an online cooking event Thursday, Feb. 25.
Stirrin’ the Pot: Afro-Caribbean Cooking Class is in support of the Guelph Black Heritage Society and the Guelph Black Students’ Association and is presented by the University of Guelph’s Cultural Diversity Office within the Department of Student Experience to celebrate Black History Month 2021 with a focus on Black Heritage.
Caribbean cuisine is a blend of African, Indian, European, Creole, Amerindian, Chinese, Cajun, and the Middle East flavours. The significance of the dish, a history of the ingredients, and where they came from will be covered in the class.
Attendees will also receive a list of ingredients for pre-purchase in order to create the meal themselves during the event. BIPOC-identifying U of G students can sign up to receive a gift card to use toward the purchase of items for the menu.
When asked why it’s important to include this class within the month’s programming, Alexis Charles, coordinator, cultural diversity programs, student experience at the U of G says “Much of our Black Heritage programming this month has highlighted the pervasive anti-Blackness in our society and discussed the necessity of prioritizing Black voices in conversations about anti-racism and allyship. Oftentimes, these conversations are very intense and can be re-traumatizing for us as Black people who experience racism and discrimination every day of our lives.
“So while we do have programming that centres these very important conversations, we also wanted to create spaces that prioritize, affirm, and validate the experiences of Black people. And this cooking class is exactly that – a space for us to celebrate our culture and heritage through our rich, traditional cuisine. Where we can fellowship and come together by preparing delicious foods, building community, and being ourselves unapologetically and authentically.”
Charles goes on to add, “The virtual environment also made it possible for this event to happen! Doing a cooking class in-person presents some challenges and limitations – whereas with an online class, not only can folks participate from the comfort of their own homes, we are also able to reach a much wider audience. So we’re very excited for that!”
There’s also a perfect pairing for this dish. Royal City Brewing Company has collaborated with Guelph Black Heritage Society for the last five years to produce Lantern Ale. Fifty cents from every can is being donated to the organization to support their ongoing initiatives to create a cultural, historical and social community centre within Guelph and Wellington County at Heritage Hall.
To keep up with Shar, you’ll find Shar Shar’s Kitchen Cookout on Instagram at @sharsharscookout where he can be found making food that he enjoys eating, influenced by a world of taste.
Sign up for the free event here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/135947718285