Uber den Tellerand kochen
Rafael Strasse is one of the two team members of Über den Tellerrand kochen, an initiave that is creating a new togetherness among refugees and locals and achieving long-lasting integration in a process that involves people from all corners of society participating on their own initiative. As a pilot project, Über den Tellerrand inspires cross-cultural exchange and encounters at the groundlevel among cultures and supports an open and tolerant society.
Loukas Koubouris Do you have any special relation with cooking?
Rafael Strasse I always saw cooking as a possibility to bring friends together. Sitting all of us in one table so we can discuss and have interaction with each other. So, yes, I enjoyed cooking before I started with this project.
Loukas Koubouris How did you come up with this idea of cooking classes?
Rafael Strasse As I said, I always saw cooking as chance to bring people together. Also cooking and eating together comes as an intersection between differnet cultures. When we begun this project we saw that bringing people from different cultures to cook and eat together maximised the essence of peace and hospitality among them. We, also, can say that these people bring with them cultural aspects that emerge during these classes. So it works well
Loukas Koubouris What kind of people (from both sides, locals and refugees) get engaged with your initiative?
Rafael Strasse The people that get engaged with the iniative are, most of them, between 20 and 35 years old. But, there are also people from different ages and social backgrounds. We mainly, in the past months, try to reach out to people with no connection to the whole refugee issue, so we can raise the awareness to those who only picture refugees through the media.
Loukas Koubouris Is Uber den Tellerand an initiative for temporary social interaction or is there space for new relations and friendships to spring up after the cooking sessions?
Rafael Strasse Many people that took part to the classes have retain these relationships afterward. I think we are building something like a community, friendships emerge through the lessons and participants continue their interaction afterwards. Some of them get involved on other activities as well, like language lessons. I believe that, Uber den Tellerand helps in the integration of refugees to the local community by building a strong network between people that involves.
Loukas Koubouris How can you describe the connection between food as a cultural aspect and the idea of cooking together with refugees as cross-cultural exchange?
Rafael Strasse All of the recipes that we cook in the classes are recipes that people bring themselves from their countries of origin. So in the first place you can see that is very soothing for these people to feel other's appreciation about their culture, the feel accepted, both personally and culturally. So the exchange thing just happens, they open themselves because first they were shy. It changes something, you can see it in how people react more openly within the classes.
Loukas Koubouris Do you think that Uber den Tellerand besides teaching people about other food cultures, make them aware of the problems (or situation) of refugees? Are there any conversations of this kind in classes?
Rafael Strasse Yes, of course. I mean there are many conversations. I think the most important is the personal contact. Many people that participate in the classes only heard about the issues of the refugees from the media. You can see a change of perception, an apreciation to the importance of the individuals. Hearing a personal story always makes a much a greater impact in the way tha we see a problem. So in many ways raises the awareness of some parts of the society.
Loukas Koubouris In the about section of Uber's website you write «putting the abstract term “asylum” into a new, more positive perspective». Can you tell me more about this?
Rafael Strasse The whole concept of Asylum is that it pictures refugees as helpless individuals, people that only need our help and they can't actively give anything to the society that welcomes them. By saying that "we're trying to put asylum into a more positive perspective" we mean that we 're trying to show the benefits of a multicultural society. It's very important to give value and treat refugees as people society needs, not as a burden.
Uber den Tellerand kochen is a growing community and spreading through 17 German cities.