A Multicultural Dinner Party

by Elizabeth Atia -

Shetland's unique geographical location, midway between the mainland of Scotland, Norway and the Faroe Islands means that for as long as man has been sailing these northern waters Shetland has been a stopping off point for visitors.

Sometimes these visitors stay and sometimes they go.

This constant migration of people is not unique to Shetland. Scotland itself has become increasingly multicultural over the last few decades. To celebrate this the Glasgow 2014 Cultural programme has commissioned India-born and Edinburgh-based visual artist Arpita Shah to produce a series of family portraits for an exhibition entitled 'Portrait of Home'. A selection of these portraits will be displayed at indoor and outdoor exhibitions in Glasgow during the Commonwealth games this summer.

Arpita is travelling the length and breadth of Scotland seeking out families living in Scotland who are culturally rooted to other commonwealth countries. Last weekend she visited two such families here on the west side of Shetland.

Arpita found me, an ex-pat Canadian living in Shetland for these last 15 years, via my blog and I introduced her to another family living a few minutes down the road from us. In their family Shetland born Susan Msalila had travelled to Tanzania to do VSO (voluntary services overseas) around 13 years ago, fell in love and brought herself back a husband! Together they made the most beautiful set of twin girls.

Last Sunday each of our houses turned into photographic studios where we donned our best clothes, put on our most serious Victorian faces (no smiling or slouching allowed!) and posed for our family portraits.

Afterwards, the lovely and personable Arpita patiently showed our children how to use her camera, a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, released in 1995. Arpita prefers to work with film and enjoys photographing families, culture and identity.

Following our photo session we were all invited by Susan to join her and her family in their home for dinner. There were eleven people around the dinner table with cultural origins including India, Ireland, Norway, Iraq, Tanzania, Canada, England, Scotland and Shetland: it was a very multicultural dinner party.

Dinner was bright, colourful and positively superb. I savoured every single mouthwatering, delicious morsel; Susan and her family are wonderful cooks! The evening sun warmed us through the kitchen window as we dined on Shetland lamb, roast vegetables, couscous and a whole range of delicious sauces, salads, accompaniments and desserts.

The lamb dish, pictured above, is one of Susan's favourite ways to cook lamb: Ottoman lamb by Sunday Telegraph food writer Diana Henry. In this dish the lamb is marinated for a day and night in yogurt, red wine, tomato purée, olive oil, garlic, cayenne and bay leaves before being roasted. You can find the recipe online here and in her book Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons.

This is not the only time the Commonwealth games celebrations will reach our village on the outskirts of the UK. On the 1st of July the Commonwealth baton will arrive here in Aith after its travels through the other Commonwealth countries around the globe. The baton will then be transported via Britain's most northerly RNLI lifeboat, the Charles Lidbury, to the village of Brae before heading back down to the mainland of Scotland.

If any Taste of Shetland readers end up at the Commonwealth Games this summer in Glasgow, do keep an eye out for our family portraits either in the Tramway gallery or in the Glasgow Green!

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