If food is the way to the heart, then sharing recipes is the way to stay in the heart—nobody wants to eat the same thing every day. That’s why the Parkdale Community Food Bank has just launched a low-barrier community cookbook called ‘Taste of Parkdale,’ aiming to inspire community members through the joy of food creation.
Decorated with adorable images of animals cooking in the kitchen — racoons appropriately making the cover page — from local tattoo artist Claire (@waxberrytattoo), the cookbook is a compilation of recipes submitted by a range of people in the community.
“It has recipes from volunteers and people who access the food bank,” says Iris Brown, the administrative coordinator at the Parkdale Community Food Bank. “Sometimes there can be that divide between people, but in the cookbook, everybody’s connected.”
The inspiration to create the cookbook arose when staff members observed a surplus of the same donated food items, particularly rutabaga, at the food bank last summer, distributed to visitors week after week. Brown explains that initially, the staff planned to compile recipes on their own, but they soon considered involving the neighbourhood in the process.
“We have such a culturally diverse community, so we thought surely people are using these ingredients in ways we would never have thought,” she says. “It’s also nice to create connection between users of our food bank so they’re learning more about each other.”
Using social media and distributing handouts in various languages prevalent in the community, the food bank appealed for submissions. They requested recipes for specific categories such as soup, lentils and dessert, utilizing items commonly found in the food cupboard. Contributors of the six chosen recipes featured in the book received a $25 gift card to the Dufferin Mall.
“We had a huge turnout. It was pretty exciting,” says Brown. “We had tons of different age groups and cooking levels from professional bakers to college students sharing recipes they frequently make in their dorm rooms. It was really cool to see the vast range of people who submitted and are in the cookbook.”
Each recipe is accompanied by a brief personal story from the submitter, explaining its significance. Some are cherished family recipes passed down through generations, while others, like the cheesecake recipe, represent years of dedicated effort to achieve perfection.
“It’s really nice to see that generosity,” says Brown.
One of the primary aims of the cookbook is to feature “low barrier” recipes, emphasizing minimal requirements and limited ingredients, making them accessible to a broad audience.
“We are keeping in mind that a lot of people don’t have those items we might think of as ‘pantry staples,’” says Brown, adding that there’s even a recipe that only requires a microwave. “A lot of our community members don’t have access to a stove or a hot plate, so this way they can still take advantage of the cookbook and try something out.”
Providing the cookbook in print is another intentional effort by the Parkdale Community Food Bank to reduce barriers.
“There are a lot of Instagram or TikTok accounts that are based on creating meals on a budget,” she says. “But not everyone has access or is computer literate so it’s really great to have an alternative way for people to access those recipes and resources.”
The cookbook is now available for free for volunteers and those accessing Parkdale Community Food Bank. It will also be available through select local businesses at a pay-what-you-can rate.
With the aim of releasing a new cookbook semi-annually, the Parkdale Community Food Bank plans to launch another call-out for recipe submissions in the spring. The upcoming edition will focus on summer meals and seasonal ingredients, departing from the winter-inspired categories like soup.
In the meantime, Brown is hoping the cookbooks will encourage community members and visitors of the food bank to think about the ways they can experiment with just a few ingredients.
“Our main goal really is just to connect people and create inspiration within the kitchen,” says Brown. “Even if somebody’s grabbing the cookbook and not using the specific recipes in there, we just hope it will spark inspiration to mix things up when they’re eating the same things.”
You can purchase the cookbook at Toutoune Gallery, located at 998 Bathurst St., and at Beadle located at 1582 Dundas St. W.