Ethiopian Food Tasting

By Gisele Umuhoza

During the night of the 13th Oct 2018, I had the pleasure attending the Ethiopian food tasting event organized by Hibret Amharic and Cultural School, dedicated to teaching Amharic (native language in Ethiopia) to young children in the Vancouver Area.

From a short interview with Mekdes, one of the organizers, she said that their main goal in organizing this event was to introduce the Ethiopian culture to the Vancouver community through food as well as a way of enculturating their traditional cultural practices down to their children who were born in Canada.

Expressing hospitality and service to the guests is one of the key areas of the Ethiopian culture that was targeted at this event. To me, this translated into understanding the power that food has as a vehicle through which people’s distinct values can be conveyed and carried down generation to generation and to other peoples.

“I was amazed at how people were brave to try and learn the different recipes and try all the food,” said Mekdes, event organizer.

The room was set up in a way which made you feel very welcome, and we were greeted by a group of kids at the entrance. They would then show you around and help you move to the display table where all the food samples were laid out. The organizers were there to explain the types of ingredient that composed every dish, how it is made and would kindly ask you if you would like to try it. After you were moved to your assigned table, you were ready to enjoy the food. All the serving duties were done by the children who moved around asking if there was anything that you needed and were very happy to chat with people.

Around 70 people signed up for the event. People were seated on tables in groups of 4 to 6 people and they intentionally randomly assigned table seats to the people who attended. This made it easy for people to talk to new people and make friends at the event. Through talking to different people, I realized attendants were either Ethiopian, had some sort of relation to Ethiopia (e.g. married to an Ethiopian, from another African country), knew the organizers through work or other business, or had found out about the event online. I think there was a fine mix of participants and a huge turn out considering it was its first time.

Organizer Mekdes recognized and thanked the Sustenance Festival in helping their event reach the greater public. They would like even more help in the future with more advertisement as well as the organization and the planning process.

Overall, as a participant, I really enjoyed the opportunity to attend this event. Before I arrived, I thought I would stay for an hour or less and go home. However, I ended up staying until the end and made a friend, Suzy, from Sudan, who gave me a ride home. This was not just me since many of the participants stayed longer and people came in rounds. When I left people were still coming in. I think that with further means of advertising these small social and free events that create an inclusive environment for many, we will foster the unification of our community in our various distinct cultural identities.