Cooking, Culture, and Chaos: Episode 2 — Bolani with Moska Rokay

In this episode, we feature gym member and archivist, Moska Rokay!

I chose Moska as a guest for our second episode because she’s very easy to talk to, does really interesting professional work, and has contributed significantly to the Muslim and Afghan community. It was really fun learning how to make bolani and the conversations we had were super interesting. I was especially intrigued to learn about the Taliban and their not so secret supporters.

 

Cooking:

Bolani is a flat bread stuffed with either leeks or potatoes and is served hot with a minty, garlic yogurt sauce.

Bolani is very easy to prepare in the beginning stages but it gets a little more challenging when you put the layers together to fry. It definitely takes time, skill, and dedication—you can certainly make a mess with all the flour and dough, but it’s SO worth it!

It is a typical street food and can be found pretty commonly at Afghan restaurants and bakeries.

I liked eating the bolani HOT off the frying pan! Moska was surprised I was able to eat it without burning myself but the trick was to put some cooling yogurt sauce on top—so good!

I appreciated that Moska brought the dough ready to be rolled out. The rolling did take longer than I thought it would because it was very sticky and handling it after it’s been stuffed takes a skilled hand.

I mostly loved how good the ones that were stuffed with leeks were—Moska and I both agree that “not a lot of people know about leeks.”

Culture:

Moska was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and immigrated to Vancouver, Canada when she was just five years old. She moved to Toronto in 2013.

As a second year PhD student at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information, Moska’s innovative research garnered her the prestigious SSHRC CGS-D Scholarship (2022-2025).

Moska’s research interests are interdisciplinary: she thinks about archives, critical refugee studies, media studies, and memory in the context of refugee/diaspora communities of war and trauma.

She is an advocate for community-centered, activist archives, and archives of diaspora/migrant communities.

She was the founding archivist of the Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA) at the Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Toronto from 2019-2022 and still continues to be a part of MiCA’s development in a strategy and research capacity.

As a former refugee herself, Moska is actively involved in the Afghan-Canadian diaspora community. In 2020, she was the recipient of the Association of Canadian Archivists’ New Professional Award as well as the Archivaria Gordon Dodds Student Paper Prize.

She completed her Master of Information at the University of Toronto and defended her MI thesis in 2019.

I’m impressed with Moska’s connection to her roots and her commitment to use her talent as a researcher to influence the way we understand refugees, war, media and its impact on Muslims and Afghans.

Chaos:

What does your research and work mean to you? What does it do for you?

My research is purposefully community-engaged and for this reason, is extremely personal for me. Because I am thinking about the life stories, identity processes, histories, and archives of Afghan Canadian refugees such as myself, I am conducting research that impacts me, my loved ones, and the future of my community in Canada.

I have always felt incredibly nourished (in my soul!) when I have done any work for my community, so I feel especially privileged, humbled, and excited to be able to utilize academia as a system as well as my own research skills for the betterment of my community.

I have grown up with false, discriminatory, and damage-centered narratives about my community and the ongoing violence in Afghanistan. This perception is created by mainstream Canadian institutions and the media—by non-Afghans, basically. As a result, I feel that it is incredibly important to empower my community to tell their own stories in their own words, but in a way that does not re-traumatize them.

How do you take care of yourself when you are doing such heavy research, especially about war and trauma?

Honestly, this is still a work in progress but I try my best to make sure that my life is not solely focused on my research. I make sure to have hobbies, spend time with my family, and actively see my therapist. I especially ensure that I exercise (shout-out to Muay Thai at Sister Fit!) at least three times a week for my mental health.

I also have mentors who have done similar heavy research on their own refugee communities so I learn a lot from them as well. You have to find your support system, whether that’s through activities or people. I have found my people, my community, and they make sure I’m doing okay. Otherwise, my research will definitely affect my mental health. Still, I’m not perfect, so sometimes I definitely need a whole day where I do absolutely nothing in order to reset my brain and give my mental health a break.

What are some other random fun facts about you? What are some other things that you like to do? What other hobbies do you have? 

Aside from Muay Thai, I really enjoy Pilates and volleyball! I played volleyball for my elementary and high school teams right up to grade 12 and I still try to play with friends from time to time. I’ve been an anime/manga fan since I was a kid and I still really love the genre to this day.

I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd, history nerd, and I love cats! I have some really old audio-visual equipment at home (and I will continue to collect more!) and, in my spare time, I like to digitize my family’s old VHS, Hi8, and DV tapes.

In terms of fun facts, I’ve been on a 6-week archaeological dig of a site that was dated to 6,000 – 5800 BCE in the Republic of Georgia and we actually found some of the earliest evidence of wine-making! I cannot dance but I will 100% be on the dance floor if I’m attaning (Afghan traditional “warrior” dance)!

Enjoy Episode 2 of Cooking, Culture, and Chaos with Moska Rokay below!