When I started my project, Becoming a Balabusta, my plan was to try one new Eastern European Jewish recipe every week to engage in my own adult education and community development through online educational tools like blogs, book marking sites and videos; as well as other more conventional tools for cooking such as recipe books and family recipes. At the end of this process I decided to add one more element, which was to culminate the whole experience with cooking a full Sabbath dinner for my parents.

In the Jewish religion, Sabbath is the day of rest. Traditionally the family comes together on the eve of Sabbath to share in meal time, discussion, and rest. It offers the opportunity to contemplate and spend time with family. I took this opportunity, Sabbath dinner, to discuss the experience of Becoming a Balabusta with my family, and to engage in a discussion of how this experience of learning using the internet is relevant in adult education and community development. Here are some of the thoughts that were shared during this discussion….

We discussed how cooking can be a central vehicle for teaching and learning. Throughout my own culinary experiences, whether cooking for myself with my mom and sisters for holidays, or just for fun, I have always viewed cooking as linked to social understandings of food history and understanding of nutrition; the preparation of food connects us to world and our histories and creates social identities. Cooking and eating together is not only an educational tool, but also influential in teaching us how to cooperate with and engage in our communities. We are linked by what is on our plates, where it came from, how it was made, served and eaten. Here learning happens through doing; through the traditions of study, preparation, and consuming food.

We also chatted about the pedagogical potentialities of social media. Social media, removed from the formal environment of the classroom, can create more opportunities to learn and engage. I believe in the importance of multiple means of knowledge production. Social media is an abundant means of sharing, clicking and learning. The internet has given us a different set of tools and ideas about cooking that did not exist before. Some of these things are a little unconventional, while others make our lives in the kitchen happier and easier as a result.

When I look back at my learning objective for this project, the first objective was to gain a better understanding of how community can be created through the internet. The internet instantly connected me to communities of cooks and bakers, and with this their resources; it allowed me to use social media to freely explore ideas.  The internet opened up possibilities for sharing of knowledges, inspiring dialogue and mutual learning. Another learning objective was to learn which instructional method I learn best from, in person guidance, written guidance, and/or online guidance. I really enjoyed using the internet tools the best. I found that having videos to guide me through the process provided me with useful visuals. I also found the book marking sites and blogs useful, because not only did they link me to additional sources, but also linked me to other users comments which provided me with a greater understanding and tips of what did and did not work with the recipes. However, for this same reason, having my mother there with me and having in person guidance through some of these recipes provided me with extra insight into the histories behind these food, as well as lived experiences and stories to go along with the recipes. So, I found having her presence gave me a greater connection to my community. All in all, I found that engaging in a combination of both different online resources AND in person guidance provided me with the best learning experience.



The Training.

For my Balabusta training, I wanted to use a variety of sources for each recipe. I often find the internet overwhelming with endless amount of information, so for this reason I kept it simple when choosing my resources.  I used YouTube, a blog, Pinterest, a bookmarking site, and a recipe book. For my experience, I found YouTube to be the most valuable resource, but also appreciated the user comments on each domain and this help guide me when trying to ‘perfect’ my creations. But mostly, having the aide of my Mom cooking with me, along with the online videos, is where I found the most value, not only learning to cook, but mostly in helping build my sense of community.

Matzah Ball Soup






MANDELBROT – Cook Book Recipe

The Grand Finale…Sabbath Dinner!


Becoming a Balabusta…

Two years ago, I set out to a city called Kabale in Uganda to participate in a medical brigade with a group of health professionals brought together by a common desire to help provide healthcare to those in tremendous need. This was a mission to rural Uganda was to provide medical and dental care, improve healthcare delivery systems and train local healthcare workers. My role in this mission was to provide nutrition education to caregivers of malnourished children. I was told before I went that there was a rehabilitation centre for these families in which I was to help out in the day-to-day activities. Upon landing in Uganda, I was taken to the nutrition rehabilitation centre, where five families were currently staying, working with a local healthcare worker. However, the local healthcare worker, also the only person who spoke English at the centre, was gone for the week. As well, when I got there, they expected me to run a program, even though I was told I would just be helping with the daily activities, and had no experience with this type of work.

After a couple days of feeling panic, and lost, invaluable, and a failure to these families and this program, I forced myself to snap out of it. I realized, perhaps, that they had much more to offer me, and this was my moment of illumination. I started sitting in the rehabilitation centre and talking to the women caregivers and workers. Something as simple as conversation taught me so much. I learnt about their family dynamics, what life is like in Kabale, and what they needed the most. Once they revealed to me their needs, I was able to develop a simple program that would allow us to share our experiences, grow, and learn at the same time. Cooking together! I decided that an informal format of cooking together would the most universal way of learning. Instead of me telling them what to do, we would share in the experience together. Here I learnt the value of learning through experience, and the transformative process that this brings about and how this can play an important role in community development.



So by reflecting on this experience, I was inspired for the theme for my personal learning network – cooking. Growing up Jewish, cooking was a way we bonded, that we shared stories, a way that I learned a lot about my heritage. However, when I started to think how important I felt cooking was to my sense of self, creativity, and spirituality, I quickly realized that there was a disconnect. I know about Jewish food, I helped my mom cook it, but I really did not know how to do it myself or really its relevance to my heritage. All four of my grandparents are from Poland, however, I do not know much about their life in eastern Europe, but food was always a connection to this life they once had, that they shared with us to help us develop a sense of what their community was like. I feel this connection of my heritage slipping away, and I want to reengage. For this reason, I have decided to explore Jewish cooking, and reflect on this learning process that has been passed down from generation to generation, drawing us together.

I have titled my project – Becoming a Balabusta. Balabusta is Yiddish for describing a good homemaker, something that my grandfather always described my grandmother as. Perhaps some feminist would take issue with this notion of homemaker, but being a feminist myself, I have always thought the notion of cooking with the family was a very valuable shared experience with positive connotations; a way bringing the family together. So, I plan to critically explore this, through a feminist lens, because I always felt a sense of empowerment, bonding, and learning by sharing the kitchen with the women in my family. I also have always felt that women play an important role as manager in the home, and as such has the utmost capability to impact change, something I learnt from the women in Africa.

Join me as I venture into Becoming a Balabusta382647_10100572394948220_262145541_n.jpg