Karakia: Cooking Up Inclusion
Televisió de Catalunya
Television that promotes cultural understanding by bringing regional cuisine and real people together for dinner
Food and the rituals that surround it are an easy way to introduce new tastes, explore new cultures and make new friends. Sitting down to a shared meal establishes an immediate sense of commonality. Conversation is part of the sauce.
While this can happen unintentionally, Televisió de Catalunya has put the spotlight on food as a deliberate tool to increase cultural understanding among the region’s diverse ethnocultural groups… and to boost programming back at head office.
New Migrations, New Kitchens
Spain’s northern province of Catalonia has a long history of migration, much of it from regions within Spain itself. However, the first decade of this century has brought the largest number of international migrant’s to the region in its history. In 2008, the foreign-born population reached one million persons, representing 15% of Catalonia’s total population and 21% of all international migrants in Spain as a whole.
Suddenly, many Catalans were living and working next door to people who spoke different languages, followed different customs and ate different food. This could either be an opportunity for new cultural experiences or a breeding ground for mistrust and suspicion.
At Televisió de Catalunya (TVC), it was an opportunity to explore new ideas and get a taste of the wider world. So, why not start in the kitchen.
Have A Seat
In the late 1990′s, TVC was looking for a way to establish increased connection with the ordinary people who were the mainstay of their popular local programming. This included a desire to tap potential audiences in the growing new immigrant population. They decided that food, the sort that people cook at home for their families on a day to day basis, would be the ideal way to make these connections work.
The result was Karakia, a cooking show that is filmed in a private homes and features recipes from the diverse communities that have come to Catalonia.
Launched in October 2001, the show has produced more than 100 episodes, featuring over 400 families from more than 90 different countries. Karakia has created a collection of over 700 recipes to add spice to their ongoing success. Culinary treats range from Turkish mezes to couscous from Senegal to brownies from the US.
Karakia has established itself as a positive and popular television show for ordinary and culturally diverse communities across the region. It also broadcasts a valuable counterpoint to how immigrant groups were being portrayed by the media. Instead of negative images of isolated individuals, Karakia showed immigrant families interacting in their homes with their neighbours and families, cooking and eating together, speaking Catalan, sharing stories about their cultures, local news or maybe just the price of oranges. Most importantly, it was a conversation shared with thousands of other viewers in Karakia’s audience.
Karakia has become one of TVC’s most popular and widely viewed programs, averaging 185,000 viewers and a total screen share of 7.2%.
In 2004, Karakia it received an award from the City of Barcelona for “the skill and originality of the programming, which reflects the pluralistic and cosmopolitan image of the city… and, through the kitchen, the discovery of different cultural traditions of communities that have recently come to the country.”
It has also won the GAC Script Prize (2005), Catalan Viewers’ Zapping Prize (2008); Bronze Angel Communications Prize (2009).
The success of this pioneering program has become a model for other television shows increasingly eager to incorporate diversity and multiculturalism into their characters and storylines.The authenticity and cultural sensitivity of Karakia’s programming has also been recognized by educators who have worked with TVC to bring Karakia episodes into primary and secondary schools, as well as university classrooms, to teach their students about the diversity all around them. To give them a taste of real life.
Making it Work for You:
- Intercultural understanding starts with finding common ground.
- Television and radio, like public advertising campaigns on city streets and transportation systems, have the power to reach ordinary people and make diversity part of the mainstream
- Promoting the positive benefits of cultural diversity can be as easy as recommending your favourite restaurant.
- Being persuasive does not always require a complex argument. Karakia's success comes from the personal and familiar dimension of their culinary approach to diversity programming, showing similarities over differences.