Every once in a while, an initiative comes along that is so unique, one gasps. And that’s the case with At My Kuwaiti Table (AMKT), a podcast that just launched in Kuwait, the brainchild of Krysia Derecki (KD) – producer of AMKT and wife of H.E. The Ambassador of Australia to Kuwait.
At My Kuwaiti Table is presented by (in alphabetical order) Chaitali B. Roy (CBR) – author of Women of Kuwait: Turning Tides and Dr. Lavinia Davenport (LSD) – wife of H.E. The Ambassador of Great Britain to Kuwait. And Anees Backer assists with the technical production of the show.
Now, who would think of interviewing local women by asking each guest to introduce her favorite dish? These three ladies would! And as they come face to face with each guest, the questions begin, starting from the significance of the chosen dish and expanding to topics that reflect the guest’s interests and contributions to society. This is one of those iconic, original creative platforms that you know is going to resonate.
The marriage of food and conversation, an age-old union. What is it about food that helps a person open up and relax?
CBR: I believe food has a direct connection with comfort and relaxation. I am a complete foodie. For me, food is a mood booster. And I like to experiment. When I travel, I have to try the local delicacies. And so when Krysia suggested using food as a conduit, a conversation starter, I felt it would work very well.
LSD: Food & relaxation must be linked to being fed as a child when one had not a care in the wide world but was just showered with love and yummies.
In my case, those first mouthfuls of goo were put into my newly formed mouth by my Goan nanny – Mrs Dan – on the roof of our Nairobi pent-house flat. I rejoice that in coming to Kuwait, I, at last, come across so many people from Goa. So, in that respect, it is like coming home.
KD: For me preparing and cooking the evening meal is a necessary joyous daily ritual. Like I did when I was younger with my mother (who is a fabulous cook and baker) my son sits up on the kitchen worktop and is either drawing or chopping something for the meal – he also learns about healthy eating and cooking skills, we chat about our day, sharing stories and jokes. We always sit up at the dining table to actually eat – so he lays out the cutlery and the mats and plates and I dish up and then we have more conversations while enjoying the meal.
I also get him to talk about the food what it looks like and tastes like – it is a good idea as it gets him trying new foods he may refuse to eat otherwise.
At My Kuwaiti Table is still in its inception. Will this be a seasonal podcast or are you only presenting one season in a series of episodes?
KD: The idea for At My Kuwaiti Table came from my love of listening to one of my favorite podcasts – Honey &Co, The Food Talks – (Honey & Co. is a restaurant in Fitzrovia in London, which serves up delicious Middle Eastern inspired food and their podcast is inter views with chefs, food writers, or food producers). In another life I would have loved to have been a chef so I feel blessed to be able to use my broadcasting skills to produce our own podcast with a foodie angle.
And when I moved here in January 2018 I was meeting so many amazing women – ladies who are talented, interesting and inspirational. At My Kuwaiti Table (AMKT) is a celebration of both these things – food and interesting conversations with great women. To give you a taster we have lined up a poet, an activist, an architect and inventor and many more.
We will produce an initial series of ten interviews and then hopefully, go onto another series of interviews and the podcasts will be available every two weeks from mid-January 2019. Each guest will also offer up their favorite dish, which will mean something to them personally, be it sweet or savoury – one that evokes memories of a special time and gets the conversation flowing.
Hopefully AMKT will be a refreshing addition to the Kuwaiti media landscape, supporting and promoting women here in Kuwait as well as being of interest to an international audience. Hopefully, it will really take off and who knows where it will take us.
LSD: This is by no means a seasonal podcast- it is an eternal one which we will continue doing together for as long as possible in Kuwait. When we go our separate ways (we are all, alas, only here for a while) with Krysia’s blessing (it was her idea, in the first place), I intend to go on to create other ‘At My Table’ scenarios wherever we land up next. Krysia’s recipe is a recipe for life!
CBR: Definitely, it is not a seasonal podcast. I did a Kuwaiti woman-based show for Radio Kuwait for three years, and I felt I could carry on with the show for at least three more years, so huge was the scope. But that show was limited to Kuwaiti women, with AMKT we are reaching out to other nationalities. I believe we can continue with AMKT for a long time.
Feminine energy is permeating the planet and the local community. And your show, right on the pulse, is dedicated to highlighting influential women in society. Is the podcast a way for women to inspire women to contribute more or merely a way to highlight the achievements of local women? Or both?
LSD: Absolutely both…Hopefully those that listen will reach out to us with their input and be inspired by the unusual discussions with a small precious group of brilliant achieving women – the best Kuwaiti culture can provide. Often hidden in the sands, our task is to winkle these women out and to branch forth from the elite to encourage lesser known women to come out of the woodwork and shine.
CBR: Although we are seeking out women who have a standing in the country we will not leave out those who are not so well known, those who spend years silently working behind the scenes without any acknowledgement of their silent contributions.
KD: I feel very fortunate to be living here, especially at this time and I have found the women in Kuwait most inspiring. Each interview is special and unique and whilst profiling the wonderful achievements of each guest the food element has really helped the guests to reflect on their lives and their futures.
Although the guests are locals, the dishes can be from anywhere. What’s the most surprising dish a guest has brought to the table so far?
KD: We are at the early stages of recording so we have had delicious Indian dishes and vegan inspired dishes and a magnificent chocolate cake. One common theme is that it is food that is seen as a comfort – that is tasty but simple – one that reflects happy times in life.
CBR: Shall I be frank with you? I was pleasantly surprised by your choice of dish, Nejoud. Palak Paneer is a typical North Indian preparation, and it is not a dish I would expect a Kuwaiti to know well. I mean, it’s like me choosing haggis as my favorite dish. But then, food can open an interesting window into an individual’s likes and dislikes, and you continue to surprise me as usual.
Finally, how do you think this era of technology and social media can embolden women and make them less reticent?
CBR: Technology and social media have had a remarkable effect on women in recent years. I recall an interview I did with Tawakkal Karman the Nobel Laureate from Yemen, and she told me how she used social media most effectively to harness public opinion in her country and the region during the Arab Spring movement.
That was the time when women came out of the shadows with the help of social media and became citizen journalists. And here in Kuwait, the effect of social media like Instagram, Snapchat and the rest has been significant on the emergence and growth of women entrepreneurs.
Young women, just out of university, have started their own businesses some of them small scale with the help of social media. Some women have star ted successful blogs, evolved into fashionistas and influencers’ and made an impact. Technology and social media has made them less reticent, empowered them to come out of the shadows, express their opinions and become financially independent.
KD: Well I think social media offers up wonders and horrors – I really believe in responsible social media application and use. By that I mean social media for a reason and positive endorsement. I have a young child and I am really considering social media’s role in my life and how I want him to see me utilize it and how to that monitor that use. Here in Kuwait – Instagram is queen and I really enjoy using the apps and feel for our podcast it is a vital visual way of complementing the audio interviews.
I believe though in thoughtful social media so hopefully our podcast will help foster that environment.
Learn all about At My Kuwaiti table on Instagram @atmykuwaititable.
Featured image courtesy of Nejoud Al-Yagout.