Period Stigma is Taught – just like Cooking.
Our virtual community, the Inner Cycle, was joined by Afshan Nasseri (she/her) from The Cumin Club: a subscription meal-kit service which serves authentic, vegetarian and healthy Indian food.
We took a virtual trip together, as part of our ongoing ‘international Cycle Tour’ to learn more about her experiences with culture, food and periods.
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“My name is Afshan Nasseri, I go by she/her pronouns and I lead partnerships at The Cumin Club!
I’ve been with The Cumin Club for 2 years – they were one of the first clients I ever had at my agency and we started working together from a simple cold email I had sent out.
Outside of working for The Cumin Club, I run my own marketing agency for cultural brands, Aam Creative, I blog about South Asian culture + fashion, enjoy the newlywed life, and travel a lot.”
How did you find your passion?
“I found my passion by creating it, honestly.
I initially applied to University thinking I wanted to do psychology. Then, a microeconomics course book about Casino culture and Sephora’s “impulse buys” changed my mind.
I got into the business school at McGill University and started to discover my South Asian culture even more – everything was sort of coming together. My interest in consumer behavior turned into marketing.
Every summer I did an internship at a large agency, and every time I found myself facing the same issue: A client would come along looking to target a ‘niche’, but had no idea of any of the cultural nuances that they were dealing with. This happened every time.
It was in those moments when I found that I could merge my love for culture + history with marketing. I knew how to market to groups that big agencies couldn’t.
That is my passion – creating waves for niche groups and showing them that we DO understand them.”
How would you describe ‘The Cumin Club’ in one sentence?
The Cumin Club is an immigrant-founded business looking to expand the definition of Indian food and make authentic flavors more accessible around the world.
What inspired The Cumin Club?
“When our co-founder, Ragoth Bala (he/him), moved to the U.S. a decade ago, he didn't realize how much he would miss food from back home.
- He didn't know how to cook
- Getting takeout was too expensive and greasy for everyday meals
- The ready-to-eat Indian food market was filled with preservatives and chemicals
So he set out to create a better solution.
When his mom started shipping him boxes of small-batch instant meals from his hometown in India because he wasn't eating well, Ragoth realized that there might be a market for these in the community! He started The Cumin Club in 2019 with two friends with the mission of making authentic Indian food more accessible.
Our company is here to change the narrative on Indian food and bring classics as well as never-before-seen-on-shelves regional Indian dishes to your table. Because just like 'Indian' isn't a language, Indian food isn't just one thing!”
What do you see as the connection between periods x food?
“There’s so many connections.
So much research has been done to suggest that ingredients have healing properties, as well as destructive properties, so keeping close to anti-inflammatory ingredients is really important during this time. Even ingredients like spinach contain iron which can help menstruators fill that deficiency while on their periods.”
What about August resonates with you?
“August’s dedication to destigmatizing periods is so important for menstruators worldwide, who do not always grow up in open environments.
Once we start to realize that menstruation is natural and absolutely ordinary, I think there comes a degree of comfort from menstruators everywhere.”
Why do you think period stigma still exists in many South Asian cultures?
“Period stigmas certainly still exist in South Asian cultures and are typically passed down and taught, similar to how cooking is also taught and passed down.
Even today, it’s still quite taboo in many families for young women to wear tampons for fear of harming their ‘virginity’. There are also consistent elements of certain religions, groups, and sects barring women who are on their periods from entering certain facilities.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about a) cooking and b) menstruation?
“The best advice I’ve ever been given about cooking is that cooking is something that can be felt, not always measured.
The best advice ever gotten about getting a period is to think of it as a monthly cleansing! That’s actually what I was taught in the 5th grade, so I just view it as something that is ‘good’ for me!”
How do you think that we can destigmatize periods without attacking cultural practices?
“It’s definitely a sensitive topic that might not have a perfect solution.
There are too many differences between the bubble that we exist in and some of the bubbles that we look at from afar. We often believe that we operate on the same truths, but we don’t necessarily. However, I think that it can always start at home.
Cultural changes start in homes, through cross-generational conversations.”
What’s your go-to meal on your period?
“My go-to meal on my period would have to be Khichdi!
The Cumin Club has both Sabudana & Rava Khichdi which are both Ayurvedic-friendly options, loaded with amazingly powerful ingredients.
I think people would love khichdi + dal chawal! They’re just so comforting.”
Use code AUGUST20 for 20% your first purchase at The Cumin Club
Thank you for sharing Afshan!
Want to hear more reflections about cultural practices and period stigma? Read this.