My name is Seika and everything in my life has a connection to history, family, and food – the joy of cooking was something I was lucky enough to be exposed to at an early age. The name The Gypsy Chef comes to me from my father’s side of the family as they are Romany and immigrated to the UK in the early to mid 1700s. My father’s family eventually took up their place of residence in the west end of London, UK, in the Hammersmith area and worked as performers on stage and in music. My great-grandparents immigrated to Canada in 1909, leaving the remainder of the family living in various locations throughout the UK countryside. Once in Canada, my grandfather married a country girl. The rest is history, so to speak.
Being an archaeologist outside my forays in the kitchen I decided to bring together the best of both worlds. In 2006, I began work on a project intended to bring to life old recipes both oral and written using original ingredients, techniques and when possible even original cooking vessels and implements. some recipes have been modified over the centuries and some remain the very same. The idea here was to capture a moment in history when food wasn’t always by choice and recipes were often not written down since most people were illiterate.
Today this project present recipes that embrace the old and the new, but the history is retained and while I recently updated the site to make it more user-friendly for those who wish to actually cook, the history has been maintained behind the scenes.
I would also like to address the name of this project and the website.
The Gypsy Chef was set up as an experimental archaeology project almost 20 years ago with the intention of bringing together the oral recipes within the GTR community.
As the world moves into one of political and collective consciousness the term “Gypsy” is often seen as being something that is disparaging and racially biased. While some GTR people may feel this way, there are others that do not, and have embraced the word to include all that is positive about the community and the culture.
Others may say only 100% Romany people have the right to use the word or term as their own, however, once again we cannot believe that one group of GTR people may lay claim to a term without discriminating against others.
When I created this project it was to research and learn from my father’s community. The Romany people who settled in the UK. “Settled: may also be viewed as a pejorative term in the case of travellers, since for generations we have been forced to assimilate into the places in which we travelled.
Today, many of us with GTR heritage are searching for our roots, and what ties us together. We are also taking the time to educate others who may view GTR people as outsiders or worse.
Our history, our culture, and the amazing contributions that the GTR people make continues, and we shall stand strong and be proud of who we are.
For those who take umbrage with the word “Gypsy” my heartfelt condolences to you. I understand and hope that someday you are able to embrace all that you are, and see the word as positive and a way to make change using it as we move forward.
In many ways the younger generations of GTR now view this word as an old term. Others wish to embrace a more positive connotation that describes one who is artistic, musical, a world traveller, and a person of beauty and uniqueness.
Let us GTR people take back this word, own it, and remind ourselves…we are so much more!