When you roam about the lively Waco Downtown Farmers Market on a Saturday morning, you’re bound to find some of the best culinary artists, agricultural producers and local vendors in Central Texas. But if you look closely enough, you may notice that many of your favorite booths and vendors have stories of their own that extend far beyond the borders of Texas.
My South African Kitchen is a popular booth at the Saturday Farmers Market, and third-Sunday Eastside Market, that specializes in South African-style treats and desserts. A quaint and delicious home bakery, My South African Kitchen is not only in the business of baking treats but bridging boundaries.
Started by South African immigrants Lauren and Daniel da Silva, My South African Kitchen uses culinary skills and delicious food to create a space that embraces the beauty of other cultures and celebrates the treasure of immigration.
“We are passionate about celebrating immigration,” Lauren said. “The desserts and treats that we get to share with our community here in Waco really are, to us, a celebration of how immigration can bring people together and create opportunities for sharing.”
Originally from a small town south of Johannesburg, South Africa, Lauren and Daniel promised each other early on in their marriage that if they ever had the chance to work overseas, they would take it. In 2016, that promise slowly started to become a reality. At that time, Lauren was a social worker in full-time ministry who heard about Baylor’s joint MDIV and MSW graduate program and was extremely interested.
The two traveled to the states and stayed in Waco for a week while Daniel interviewed for an exciting job opportunity, and Lauren explored the program some more. Their week-long trip really set the wheels in motion, and the da Silva family made the move to Waco in 2017. Upon arriving in Waco, Lauren spent two years working for the World Hunger Relief in the Local Education Department and completed one semester of grad school before she and Daniel learned they were pregnant with their third child.
That led me to decide to stay home and really take some time to think about what it is I really wanted to do.
After some thought and discussion, we decided to start My South African Kitchen,” Lauren said.
Having moved to the United States around the 2016 election when immigration was a nationwide discussion, the da Silva family found themselves stuck in the middle of a conversation about immigration. They felt like they had a unique opportunity to use their own immigration journey to speak to add to the larger conversation.
“Despite all the polarization, we’ve still been given this incredible opportunity to share the value and meaning of our immigrant journey and the value and meaning of other immigrant journeys,” Lauren said.
Moreover, the da Silva family started My South African Kitchen to celebrate their own culture and journey, how far they’ve come, their courage and all the richness that their experience has brought to their family.
The da Silvas believe there is no better way to celebrate and share stories than through food. With unique and delicious menu items like koeksister, chocolate lamington and malva pudding cups, My South African Kitchen pride itself on creating authentic, home-cooked South African treats and meals from scratch with the very best, as-local-as-possible Texan ingredients that they can find.
Their hope is that in sharing these delicious treats, people will find themselves sharing and listening to new stories. Ultimately, My South African Kitchen is a celebration of diversity and in particular, the many treasures of immigrant journeys that are full of courage, resilience, strength, joy, opportunity, generosity and change.
“We together can make something amazing. We want to share a human story about how, if we are open to it, input from a different perspective can make something bigger than what we started with,” Lauren said.
My South African Kitchen believes that through good food and generous hospitality, people will find the courage to come to the table, enter into dialogue with others and be embraced as they are.
“We are the same. We love eating delicious food. When we’re away from home, we miss our mom or grandma’s cooking. We all have those very human elements in common, and when it comes down to it, there’s really not so much that divides us,” Lauren said. “Let’s just pull up a chair, sit around the table and find the ways we are the same.”