Photos courtesy of Cozinha Popular da Mouraria

The context

Founded by Muslims in the twelfth century, and later occupied by singers in the nineteenth century, the Mouraria area was never very desirable to the more privileged social classes, perhaps because of its north facing slopes and lack of sun. A marginalised neighborhood, the area is linked to drug abuse and prostitution. With cheap leases and rent, it has also become the home of many migrants arriving since the 80s and coming from all parts of the world: Chinese, Nepalese, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Indian, Goan, Russians, Ukrainians, Pakistan, Angola, Angolan and Guinean. The Mouraria neighbourhood is therefore more unusual in Lisbon, from fado music to noodles and the smell of curry, to people of all faiths and beliefs, joined or intersected by the narrow streets, avenues and large squares. As night falls, the neighborhood falls silent and another world comes alive, one that is tough and marginal.

In more recent years, Lisbon City Hall decided to start a campaign for the rehabilitation and revitalisation of this urban area. Urban interventions and numerous social projects, financed by the City or others, along with the willingness of citizens, brought new opportunities for about 5000 residents of Mouraria - the birthplace of the music genre fado. The rehabilitation project also aims to emphasise the potential of the area in terms of ethnic diversity and multiculturalism.

The idea

Thanks to the cultural wealth that exists in Mouraria, where Portuguese pride intermingles with numerous beliefs, fado music, a creative project has developed, that considers those most vulnerable: The People's Kitchen of Mouraria involves culinary and cultural sharing that enables social cohesion and contributes to a positive image of the neighborhood of mutual exchange and kinship. A huge component of this sort of communal kitchen is social intervention, which welcomes and embraces the multicultural diversity of sharing and learning, and which has one basic rule: At the same table we are happy. All cooking. Everyone eats. Together.

Beyond this simple and genuine desire, the People's Kitchen of Mouraria wants to work as an engine of entrepreneurship, tackling local unemployment, involving the population, becoming aware of the socio-family - particularly the most vulnerable groups: unemployed youth, children, the elderly and migrants. They are all inhabitants of Mouraria, where Adriana Freire, the renowned photographer lives, and whereby a space has been created to exchange ideas, diverse cultures and cuisines, to share experiences with family and friends, and to travel the world.

The Project and Space

Adriana Freire dreamed of having a kitchen full of people, not unlike the home of an extended family, where everyone gathers at the table and where there are always people to cook a little bit of everything, but always with love. Submitted in 2011, the nature of the project was along the lines of BIP / ZIP and other supportive programmes for urban revitalisation of Neighborhoods and Zones of Priority Intervention Lisbon, which were being promoted by the municipality. The project, having all the necessary criteria, came before the Lisbon Chamber to support the rehabilitation of Mouraria. The People's Kitchen of Mouraria thus obtained its first necessary funding to start the project. The rented space, an old garage, has since been transformed into a large kitchen, a small room with a dining table and a small covered patio for another set of tables and sofas. All the furniture has been donated to us by numerous people.

There are people who cook or wash dishes, as well as others coming with delicacies for the kitchen. There is always music, with people dancing and singing to the playing of a guitar. It is a charity project, a soup kitchen and a business social site.

Operation and sustainability

Rita Griffin, the only resident chef of the People's Kitchen of Mouaria, comes daily. However there are always the passionate volunteers and neighbours of Mouraria. Within this space, lunch is served daily for those who get to cook and / or eat. Meals are varied, generally offering several starters, a main course and some desserts, all accompanied by a drink. The cost of the meal is 5 €, but those who cannot afford this lend a hand in the kitchen, washing dishes, or giving anything in return. If there are leftovers, everyone in the neighborhood knows who needs extra help due to situations of unemployment, sickness, old age, extended family. The revenue taken in covers the cost of the running of the kitchen, the shopping, any necessary renovation work.

On school days, the kids of the neighborhood arrive in the afternoon eager to learn how to cook, mix the dough, make pizza and cookies and get to snack. Here there are no charges. The Kitchen receives other proposals as well: parties, group dinners, various events, celebrations, workshops and food catering for trade shows or local events. These group meals are a bit more expensive: 15 euros / per person, all inclusive.

Purchases are made in local shops, and many of the vegetables come from a garden of an old palatial house in a state of disrepair. It is an occupation that has been permitted by its owners, and is run by those who cooperate voluntarily in the project of the People's Kitchen of Mouraria. The garden is headed by Michael, who began by installing a kind of raised courtyard garden, made of wooden pallets and upcycled milk cartons. Plants start off here, without soil, only water, nutrients and sunlight or artificial light and are then transplanted to the garden outside, which will grow and bear fruit: aromatic herbs, fruit, vegetables, etc. From there they are brought to the kitchen, where Rita utlises her culinary skills. Prices of meals, help from permanent residents, community involvement and financial support obtained through BIP / ZIP, allows for complete sustainability. Adriana would like, however, a larger space for dining and for cooking, allowing them to ensure revenue that would support more jobs for local people. The space serves the interest of all. Residents in need of a kitchen for their business may use the facilities. What is made can be sold legally because they are coming from a certified kitchen.

Since Adriana knows a diversity of chefs in the city of Lisbon, they can engage in certain projects and offer some training to people of the neighbourhood or other areas. In fact, people coming from outside the neighbourhood become aware that, when dining or participating in activities, they are contributing to an improvement of life of Mouraria.

The design lends itself to multiple interests and sustains itself in several ways:

  • Can be rented or used by groups and local artisans who sell their food.
  • Serves daily meals to residents and guests from outside.
  • Promotes kitchen training.
  • Performs catering for events.

Objectives

This project has one goal: sharing culinary and cultural experiences. It is a rich centre for learning and for social intervention, where everybody is involved. The People's Kitchen of Mouraria, in parallel with serving meals or the daily activities that it promotes or endorses, is a permanent service of social business that is in need of a larger kitchen, larger refrigerators and greater desk space. Adriana Freire seeks to meet the financial conditions to obtain another space and make the necessary renovations to the project. Aims also include a space for an irrigated garden for the production of vegetables to supply the kitchen and / or the kitchens of the residents. Linked to this idea is another: that existing fruit may be recovered from trees in the neighborhood in order to serve the residents. The extension of the project is in terms of space and activities, or to create employment and promote greater involvement of the existing multicultural community. Since the kitchen offers a universal language, the aim above all, involving all the existing resources of the neighbourhood, and giving meaning to everyone: a meeting.

Promoters

ENTITIES - FUNDERS BIP / ZIP 2011 PDCM (workshops with chefs for unemployed)

SUPPORT Teka Issues of Taste

Contacts

cozinhapopular at gmail.com www.cozinhapopularmouraria.org Street of the Potteries, 5, 1100-377 Lisbon, Portugal