A week ago I participated in a barbecue competition in Limerick city. Forty-six registered teams represented countries in what was called the ‘International Barbecue Cook Off’. Each team cooked samples of their country’s food and gave them out to anyone who stopped by. Teams also prepared competition entries for the fish, chicken and vegetable heats. The barbecues were ringed in a double line on one of the old canal paths in the city with a barricade around so that we couldn’t be mobbed by the general public; who arrived before the barbecues were lit at midday and kept coming all through the afternoon.
While I was helping out with food preparation and other essentials such as getting beers for members of my team I looked around at some of the other stalls. It was obvious that some people took it more seriously than others. The group representing Vatican City were spotted in the supermarket earlier having just come from the nightclub. Kitted out in somewhat fetishistic religious outfits, they started on the chardonnay and gin and tonics on arrival at their stall. As for food, I never saw them light the barbecue or cook anything, and a large pile of raw sausages sat on their table in the sun throughout the day. They played recordings of Vatican City Radio and had their photo taken with tourists attending the event. They won the prize for best dressed stall.
An Irish friend on the Dubai team said they also had trouble taking it seriously and were handing out hamburger patties garnished with sand. Then I talked a while with a fellow from work who is from Poland and was on the Spanish team. As the directions had said ‘dress up’ he came in a very short dress wearing makeup. His dreadlocks made quite a contrast. The Irish team on the next stall prepared very elaborate food and even gave us some samples of the potatoes they had boiled in a pot on their barbecue. The drummers at the Nigerian stall across from us worked us into a festive mood.
As the only Australian on the team for Israel, my Scottish, Israeli and Irish team mates gave me a number of compliments about the huge bowl of hummus I had made from chick peas, tahini and garlic. They told me that some people came back to our stall for second helpings. Even though the hummus was not included in any of the judged events, I feel proud of the third place our team achieved in the vegetable heat. I cannot recall ever winning a medal before.
However, the main message of the event for me was not about winning our place. I learned about myself in my community here in Ireland. Irish people mixed with people from all around the world who live in this city. Food was swapped and shared and recipes discussed. Irish people represented teams from other countries. Many teams like mine were mixed nationalities, working alongside friends rather than people from our own country. The organisers had themed the event ‘the world is one country’. I experienced food the way I often experience music; a way to bring people together. Our music helps us to name aspects of individual and collective identity but more importantly to forego these as markers of difference and share them as means of connections where differences are incorporated rather than elaborated.
In music therapy we may never manage a song for the whole world however I believe we will continue to lead the way in staying open to the musics of the world; exploring, sharing, collaborating and listening to all the different music we can.
Edwards, Jane (2007). The World Is One Country. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=coledwards210507