Global Detroit Blog

Cooking Class Brings Residents Together in Hamtramck and Detroit

By Destine Brown
Social Cohesion Program Manager, Global Detroit

June 12, 2024

As a child, I always wondered why movie characters would bring food as a gift when meeting their new neighbors – casserole, cakes, pies, lasagna. While the food seemed to change, the gesture remained the same. An exchange of a dish can represent that person’s culture, personality, family history, or migration story, often providing the audience or recipient with a quick glimpse into their lives to give us a better understanding of our new protagonist. However, throughout my journey, I’ve learned that food helps foster authentic connections between people from different backgrounds, especially when paired with a good story.

Residents from Banglatown, East Davison, and Hamtramck sharing cooking techniques, recipes
Residents from Banglatown, East Davison, and Hamtramck sharing cooking techniques, recipes

On May 18, 2024, residents from East Davison Village Community, Banglatown, and Hamtramck hosted their first cooking class where attendees learned how to prepare Aloo Bhorta, the Bangladeshi version of Mashed Potatoes, as well as the Black-American version of Mashed Potatoes. While the dishes were great, it was the things we learned about our chefs and their history that kept us satisfied.

At the beginning of the class, each chef was asked to introduce themselves, their dish, and the ingredients included in the dish. While discussing the ingredients, each chef highlighted the potato and the many ways it’s been integrated into dishes prepared for their family because of its accessibility, affordability, and diversity. In addition to the main ingredient, we all began a deeper dive into the spices, butter, and liquids used to perfect each dish. 

While learning how to make Aloo Bhorta, residents were introduced to Ghee, a thinner butter in comparison to brands like “Land O Lakes,” which is not only used to cook, but also used in Bangladeshi culture as a natural medicine.

By the end of the class, residents from all backgrounds wanted to know where to buy it, how to use it for common colds, and if this butter would be a better substitution for people with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, which are common health challenge many adults face in the Black community because of lack of access to healthy options, health care disparities, and more. While this conversation did not answer every question that was raised, it was a direct exchange of culture and appreciation for new information – sparking side discussions between residents about the health benefits of other ingredients such as mustard oil, another ingredient used to make Aloo Bhorta but is also good for colds, pain relief, and more.

The Social Cohesion project, and events like this cooking class, is important because it provides the community opportunities to learn about their neighbors culture, history and desires which creates more understanding and breaks down barriers between communities.

– Destine Brown, Social Cohesion Program Manager, Global Detroit

A similar conversation emerged when preparing the Black American-styled mashed potatoes, however, we focused on the amount of ingredients used to help avoid certain health challenges, such as the use of chicken broth instead of water to boil the potatoes, which enhances the flavor, allowing the use of less salt and butter, in recognition of the health impacts that might arise from a high intake of certain ingredients. By highlighting the things that made each dish unique, we were then able to see the value each ingredient had to that person’s migration story.

Residents from Banglatown, East Davison, and Hamtramck sharing cooking techniques, recipes
Residents from Banglatown, East Davison, and Hamtramck sharing cooking techniques, recipes

What we shared during this class was more than a new recipe to add to our cookbook. We used food to learn about each other’s histories and cultural practices, and importantly, we were able to exchange resources. These conversations brought us closer to each other’s worlds, which provided us all space to be vulnerable and open-minded – helping promote more understanding and connectivity among neighbors, an ongoing goal and hope of the Social Cohesion program at Global Detroit.


To learn more about this event or the Social Cohesion Program, contact Destine Brown: destine@globaldetroitmi.org.

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