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Cooking With Words: poets Anjum Malik and Zouk collaborate to celebrate south Asian culture

  • Poet Laurette Anjum Malik performs poetry in celebration of International Mothers Day at Zouk restaurant 

  • “When I was asked to do this residency, I asked to come to Zouk because they started way back in Bradford two doors down from my mum’s shop."head chefs at the popular and trendy restaurant delivered mouth watering  South Asian cuisine before and after sets of poetry for guests

  • Head Chefs delivered mouth watering South Asian cruisine to the guests

Multilingual poetry and the finest South Asian cuisine came together in the form of poet Anjum Malik and Zouk restaurant to celebrate International Mother Language Day at a joint event called Cook With Words.

Anjum Malik read a series of poems at the event, which included a brand new poem especially written for the occasion.

More than 60 people attended the event, seated in booths and tables in the upstairs section of the restaurant, conversing in both English and various south Asian languages.

The poems were mainly spoken in Urdu, with some translated to English afterwards.

Anjum's first poem was inspired by her first visit to the restaurant to Zouk for her residency, where she watched chefs cook samosas.

The poem was an exploration of south Asian culture, examining the relationship between identity and food.

Image taken of South Asian Crusine by Northern Quota

This year will be the fifth consecutive year Manchester has celebrated the event.

Last year due to the covid pandemic 18 digital events were organised to mark the significance of international languages to Manchester and the diversity of the city, 

Anjun said: “So I wrote this poem for a Halloween event for children. It's published in a children's book by Macmillan. 

"And when I was asked to send some poems to be considered, I never thought they would take this poem because its title is called Bloody Samosas!".

Anjum worked with the chefs to curate dishes which accurately represents her culture.

One of her poems, Bradford Asian, she dedicated it to childhood friend and owner of Zouk.

Anjum said: “This poem is about where we come from, and I am so proud of Anju and the people of Bradford.”

She added: “When I was asked to do this residency, I asked to come to Zouk because they started way back in Bradford two doors down from my mum’s shop."

"We grew up together and went through similar things.”

The poem is about growing up as a second-generation in England, specifically Bradford and the respect people have for their parents who were the first-generation settlers.

It also explores the impact south Asia has had on British culture, art, food, music, fashion and other sectors.

Anjum's final poem was dedicated to her parents. She confessed to NQ that her parents always ate off of the same plate, which is the main idea explored in the poem.

Image taken by Gary Brown of Anjum Malik and Reece Williams
Image taken by Gary Brown of Anjum Malik

Reece Williams, Manchester City of Literature’s community engagement manager, introduced said: “Manchester is a city of languages. We have over 200 languages spoken in Manchester, and we need an international language day or a festival that can really celebrate the richness of Manchester’s diversity.

“I think something that is absolutely multilingual is food, right? You can put us in a room, and we speak two different languages, but if the food is good, the food is good.”

Anjun is a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University for creative writing, as well as writing multiple original plays for BBC, ITV and theatres in the UK and for established soap operas. 

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