Academic journal article Southern Cultures

Vimala Cooks, Everybody Eats

Academic journal article Southern Cultures

Vimala Cooks, Everybody Eats

Article excerpt

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Almost every week for thirteen years, Vimala Rajendran opened her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to friends and strangers alike to enjoy Indian fare in the heart of the Carolina Piedmont. Supported by donations of time and money, Rajendran and her crew of volunteers fed as many as zoo people at each community dinner. Dinner was served between 5: 30 and 10:00 in the evening, and volunteers would arrive early in the day to prep and cook while others stayed late to clean. Food storage and cooking consumed much of the basement and kitchen, as well as the front porch where her husband Rush had set up propane-fueled cooking equipment. Dinner goers found seats in the living room, basement, or yard to eat and mingle, while other folks took containers of food home to their families.

The dinners started as a way for Rajendran to support her family after leaving an abusive relationship. In turn, the community that formed around her dinners allowed her to support local farmers, showcase local musicians, and provide made-from-scratch, home-cooked meals for those who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Though she sourced most ingredients locally, Rajendran has also been known to haul suitcases of spices from India. …

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