Vancouver is home to a multitude of cultures from around the world. It’s important that we celebrate our diversity through building an inclusive environment by sharing our cultures, our traditions and our way of life.
A great thing about Vancouverites is their love for different ethnic cuisines; walk down most streets in Vancouver and you will see a plethora of restaurants catering to the adventurous eaters. Unfortunately there are some ethnic groups that are under-represented here which makes an event like Joy of Feeding, an international food fair, even more intriguing because of its unique exposure.
Sixteen countries were represented at the event that happened earlier this month, including Sierra Leone, Ghana, Hakka Chinese, Chile, Mexico, Maya (Guatemala), Pakistan, Goa (India), Egypt, Syria, Tsimshian First Nations, Canada (Vancouver), Vietnam, Southern Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The cooks at this event are not professional chefs, they are simply individuals who love to cook and regularly prepare their culture's traditional food.
I was curious as to how Meeru Dhalwala, co-founder of Joy of Feeding, finds these "cooks" and after chatting with her it seems she is quite resourceful. As a very warm individual I would find it hard to believe that anyone would say no to her when asked if they would come and prepare food at her event, even after a bit of "stalking".
"I followed Suzanne around for a while and after a quick chat found out that she was from Syria. I was so excited and after explaining to her about Joy of Feeding she agreed to come out and share her country's traditional dish." Explained Meeru.
Next year there will be sixteen new cooks representing other countries in the world. Meeru mentioned that she already has a few lined up including Lebanon, Malaysia and El Salvador. The only countries that will be returning are Indian and China, the main countries represented locally, but with focus on different regions of each country. There will also be someone representing Vancouver again next year.
To enhance the experience there were global beats from Tarun ‘Tspoon’ Nayar (Delhi 2 Dublin), Rup Sidhu (Banyen Roots), Ndidi Cascade. The beautiful thing about these guys is that they always seem to come to events with a couple of songs catered specifically for the event. They even admitted to me that often they go up there and just go for it, without anything scripted, and create a mishmash that gets the crowd moving. And the crowd was definitely moving; almost everyone there seemed to get up at one point or another to jump around.
"You're on a farm get out of your comfort zone," they yelled out to the crowd between verses of inclusive encouragement such as "We are one people, we are equal."
Making a surprise appearance at the event was Vancouver-born, Dan Mangan. His voice is as comforting as it is knowing that all proceeds from the event went to the diverse sustainability programming at the UBC Farm, which includes a Children’s Learning Garden, Aboriginal Community Kitchens, Farm Markets, Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture, a vibrant Volunteer Program as well as multidisciplinary research initiatives and courses.
Joy of Feeding was as much about the food as it was about the blending of cultures. It was an opportunity to escape eating habits driven solely to satiate hunger and replace them with eating for the experience and building connections: talk, breath, bite and chew.
Cooking is the doorway to caring about where our food comes from, taking care of our families and taking care of our health. - Meeru Dhalwala
Whether a picky eater, or a lover of anything, sweet, spicy, salty and edible, there was something at the event for everyone.
Some dishes being served were dishes I had tasted before, but a large percentage of them were brand new to me and offered a great titillation of the taste buds. I revisited many booths because the dishes were so delicious that one small plate simply wasn't enough and left me craving more. Many waited in lines as they nibbled on one dish, as a way to use their time efficiently so that eating, socializing, lounging and dancing could all be squeezed in to the day. We lucked out on a gorgeous and surprisingly warm June afternoon so there was a lot of grazing and no rush to get in and get out. Feeling gluttonous as I left with a full belly I knew I wasn't the only one that probably ate a few more dishes than I needed.
The dishes served at the second annual Joy of Feeding were:
Sierra Leone – Jollof Rice (Cajun/Jambalaya style chicken and rice)
Ghana – Chicken Stew
Hakka Chinese from Tanzania – Pork Spare Ribs
Chile – Pastel de Choclo (Corn, beef and egg pie)
Mexico – Agua Chile (Prawn ceviche)
Maya (Guatemala) – Corn Tomalitos w/ Beans
Pakistan – Mixed Bean, Cucumber and Tomato Chaat
Goa (India) – Lamb Vindaloo
Egypt – Koshary (Cairo street food made with lentils, and very popular during the Tahrir Square protests)
Syria – Lamb and Beef Kibbeh
Tsimshian First Nations – Fry Bread (natural or cinnamon)
Vancouver – Chocolate Pudding
Vietnam – Green Papaya Salad
Southern Italy – Peperonata (Stewed bell peppers and eggplant on crusty bread)
Sweden – Cardamom and Almond Coffee Cake
UK – Toad in the Hole (Yorkshire Pudding and Sausage)
To learn more about the individuals representing each country, visit The Cooks.
Also special for the event were opportunities to get children involved in agriculture and sustainability at a young age. There were booths where one could make a compostable planter with mesculin greens, sample freshly made kale chips, guess different herbs, or make a worm compost.
BC has more than 4 million people and is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada. It only makes sense that we should share our culinary knowledge and practises with one another. Through events like Joy of Feeding where the premise is to "connect those who wish to cook and love eating various types of cuisines, to those who actually do cook," we can see this transfer happening. It was a unique event that I, and probably most of the attendees this year, look forward to attending for their third annual event.
This is a wonderful community event that Vancouver and other cities need more of. Kudos to Meeru, Mary and the steering committee for hosting such a great event. - Rup Sidhu (Banyen Roots)
For more high resolution photos from the event click here.