VSN Recipe Book: Interview with Marijke
Our lovely volunteer Marijke Prevoo from the Netherlands volunteered with the VSN Women’s Center in Pepsicola this March, helping with the English literacy and math program for two hours a day. Wishing to do more for the center and share a taste of Nepal with the world, she decided to work with the women to whip up their own Nepali cook book!
I chose to work with VSN because they are a Nepali organisation instead of a foreign NGO and they still had an old volunteer working for them in the Netherlands who was a contact person for me. Next to that they offer a wide range of programs in different areas. I got the possibility to work for three months in three different places with different types of work. At first I didn’t choose the Women’s Center, but the Orphanage. Because during the day they are in school, VSN asked me to spend my afternoon with the women. After the first lesson I decided that I wanted to put all my time in then instead of going to the orphanage as well. That way I could help with the planning of the new center and come up with ideas of funding it.
What inspired you to create the women’s recipe book?
At first I wanted to challenge the creativity of the Women and write short stories with them. When I was teaching them, I noticed this would be to hard for them. That’s why I switched to a travel guide by locals. In the book they had there was an assignment on writing about a Nepali festival, so I started with that. They could write is, but it included all the same sentences in every story, even though they wrote about different festivals. In a travel guide it is boring to read all the same sentences, but in a recipe book it is exactly the consistency you need. So I decided to do this.
What were the stages of creating the recipe book?
I started with reading some English recipes with them. They read everything out loud and we would discuss what everything meant. I taught them the words chop, fry, mash etc. and they remembered them along with gestures like hitting on the table for mashing. After this, they knew how a recipe looked like in a recipe book.
The next lesson we started in two groups with both a volunteer to write the recipes of Dal Bhat and Mo:Mo’s. The next lesson some a previous volunteer and her friend came to visit. Because the Nepali teacher was also there we were with five people and we all paired up with a Nepali woman to write a recipe.
The third lesson we let to write them the recipes alone in pairs and helped where needed. At the end we had a big package of recipes, which we bound together with a purple shoelace. For the women this was the end product, but to publish the book I had to type and check everything. I did this at the VSN office the days after. I let my guest family check the recipes and I even tried some with them. Also with the women we cooked the vegetable pickle on a fun friday. After some days of typing and checking everything it could finally be published..
What was the highlight of the experience?
The highlight of the project was seeing how proud the women were when they saw the finished handwritten product.
Were there any challenges?
There were no really hard challenges, because everyone helped with a great enthusiasm. The biggest problem was that the women would guess the amount of chili peppers, flour or water in a dish. This was solved by checking the ingredients with both VSN and my guestfamily.
What is your favorite Nepali dish?
My favorite dish is pakauda/pakora. We ended up making two recipes of it by accident, because it had two different names.
What will you miss most about the women’s center?
I will miss the smiles of the ladies the most. They were so happy to come to the center every day. And the dancing on Friday of course. They really liked singing and dancing and of course we couldn’t say no to them and danced along. I am happy I will go back before I go to my last volunteering placement and before I catch my plane back to the Netherlands. Pepsicola really feels like my Nepali home.