A few months after we launched our podcast in 2016, we began to track our download numbers. Advertisers require this info and we also wanted to learn more about our listeners. One of the things that surprised us was learning that we had a sizable listener base in Toronto, Canada.
Since then, we made it a goal to do a series on Toronto. We are fans of the city--its culture, its food, its people--but we did not know exactly how to frame this topic.
Enter TK Matunda, a radio and podcast producer based in Toronto, Canada who we have wanted to work for ever since we heard this audio segment she did for Bitch Media in 2015 about growing up as a feminist in an immigrant family. Much to our delight, TK is now producing a multi-part series for us on Toronto.
But we need your support so we can pay TK the competitive fee she deserves. To donate to this series, please click here. You can make a one-time donation via Patreon as well!
We interviewed her via email about the series she is planning and what she hopes our listeners learn about Toronto.
ZAHIR: Tell us a bit about this series. Who are some of the people you plan to interview and what issues do you intend to explore?
TK: Toronto is such a culturally rich city, full of stories about different relationships to food. I want to give listeners a peek into some of the facets of the city’s food culture. I want to find out more about Toronto’s distinct neighbourhoods. I want talk food tourism with Suresh Doss. I want to explore Indigenous food in the city. I want to really get into Vegandale. I want to know what kinds of legacies are being built in Markham, Scarborough, and Brampton. And I also want to find out what matters to Torontonians. I don’t know if I’ll get to all of this, but I’m going to do as much as I can.
ZAHIR: Why do you think food is an interesting vehicle to tackle questions of race, gender, and class in Toronto?
TK: Food is both basic and complex — personal and political. A single dish has historical, cultural and personal stories that are all valid and interesting. And since food is something all humans need to survive, there’s such a visceral quality to it. It’s a relatable entry point to so many issues. Take for instance sukuma wiki, a East African dish made from collard green or kale. It’s literally translation means “push the week” as it is an affordable staple that many families used stretch their resources. In my lifetime, I’ve seen my mother go from grocery to grocery store looking for a place that sells the vegetable, to starting her own garden after kale became the new (a.k.a. expensive) “superfood.” For me, that one food has personal, cultural and economic ties, that reflect the power of marketing, colonisation and immigrant experience, and it’s only a side dish!
ZAHIR: What are some of your favorite spots to eat in Toronto?
TK: There are so many great places to eat. La Cubana, Lasa by Lamesa and Fat Pasha are three of my favourite places.
ZAHIR: What don’t we in the US know about the African diaspora in Canada?
TK: I can’t speak for an entire group, but personally, I think there’s less of an attachment to Canada. I wouldn’t say unpatriotic, more so apatriotic. My family has lived in Canada for almost 30 years, yet “back home” will always be Kenya, partly because most of our relatives are in Kenya and partly because we’re still othered on a regular basis. I was born in Canada, yet I don’t know if I’ve gone more than a month without someone saying “where are you really from?” That question really changes how you see yourself in relation to your surroundings. Still, I really love living here and I’m grateful for the life I have. But there will always be a vivid connection to another world and the traditions that come along with it. Also Kenyan food is delicious.
ZAHIR: Up until now, we have largely only explored US cities. What makes Toronto unique in your mind?
TK: Compared to other cities, Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are hubs of diversity. There are people from all over the place, living in a number of “ethnic enclaves.” Anyone living here, can be exposed to so many cultures easily. You can ride the TTC a few stops and be in another world. Every neighbourhood is steeped in the geographical history of the city and of the people who live there today. All those different histories intersect and interact with one another on a daily basis. It’s fascinating to witness.