A New Colorado Cookbook Features Stories and Recipes by Local Immigrant and Refugee Women

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Prerna Kapoor’s butter chicken is legendary. The Parker resident earned her title of Butter Chicken Queen when she won a Denver cooking contest for the dish, which surprised her, but shouldn’t have. Kapoor grew up eating at his parents’ Indian restaurants in Japan, so it’s safe to say the specialty is in his blood.

Kapoor’s killer recipe, along with many other contest-worthy dishes, is featured in the new cookbook, Culture Dish: Stories and recipes from refugee and immigrant women. The book is a special project of imagine me here, a 10-year-old program that connects Colorado refugees and immigrants through creative workshops in photography, videography and writing. Along with coveted recipes, the book, released in September, tells the moving stories of 16 refugee and immigrant women living in Colorado, from Denver to the North Fork Valley.

“The book lets people see our story as well as the recipe,” Kapoor says. “There is nothing else like it on the market. There is the recipe, but also the journey of the person, how they ended up here.

Close up of butter chicken with side dishes behind.
Kapoor Butter Chicken. Photo by Lynn Townsend

Brigid McAuliffe, a Fort Collins-based photographer, first became involved with Picture Me Here 10 years ago, when she hosted a photography workshop for Bhutanese women in a one-bedroom apartment in Aurora.

“There were crazy language barriers, but we realized that photography was a powerful way to break down those barriers,” she says. “It was only supposed to last a few months, but we ended up meeting weekly for five months and having a photo exhibit. The women who were so shy on the first day were up there talking about their lives in front of their pictures on the walls… I totally fell in love with the project, and it evolved and grew.

One of the developments has incorporated food and cultural identities that go hand in hand with the theme of taste. Many of the women featured in the book had to learn to cook at a young age to support their families – some in refugee camps – and most of the recipes they share are for foods they remember eating. in their childhood in their country of origin.

To photograph and capture the experiences of these women, McAuliffe enlisted collaborators from across the state, including Denver photographer Lynn Townsend. The result cultural dish cookbook allows us to share a meal with them via their stories, photos and recipes.

“One of the goals of Picture Me Here is to connect people from diverse backgrounds and cultures and find what we share in common, while celebrating our differences,” McAuliffe says. “I can’t think of a more powerful way to connect and celebrate culture than by sharing meals and the stories they contain.”

For the cookbook, a team of people – from a photographer to an ESL teacher to other immigrant women acting as translators – traveled to the recipe creators to cook alongside them. (and often with other generations of women, including children and mothers) and to learn their stories.

A photo posted in cultural dish. Photos by Lynn Townsend

“That was the best part of the project,” says Townsend. “To be invited into each of their homes. No matter their situation, we were so lovingly invited. It was a rewarding experience for everyone involved. Each woman, while she was cooking, we were talking about her life, how she ended up in the United States. Many have fled the wars. There was every reason under the sun that they ended up in the United States, but having this intimate conversation and getting to know their lives was the most humbling experience.

Besides Kapoor’s Butter Chicken, cultural dish shares recipes for Malala’s Malagasy spilanthes and potato soup, Paola’s Mexican chili rellenos, Mai’s Laotian boiled chicken, and more. To get hold of cultural dish cookbook, order here, or keep an eye out for it at local bookstores. All proceeds from the $30 book are donated to Picture Me Here, to continue to provide more programs like this to the local immigrant and refugee community.

Prerna Kapoor Turmeric Milk

Kapoor’s version of haldi doodh (turmeric milk) uses toasted almond flour instead of additional spices to infuse a rich flavor. But if you’re eager to up your seasoning game, cultural dish has several recipes that show off its spice prowess.

For 2

1 C. ghee
1 C. almond powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 3/4 cup milk of your choice
Sugar, to taste

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the ghee over low heat.
  2. Add almond flour, then cook, stirring, for 20-30 seconds or until light pink and fragrant.
  3. Add the turmeric and cook for 10 seconds or until it also changes color.
  4. Add the milk, then bring the mixture to a boil. Add sugar to taste, then serve.

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