Wednesday 3 May 2017
MOVED BY DHEEPAN? CHECK OUT CERES TAMIL FEASTS.
If you were moved my our 2017 film Dheepan, this is the event for you! Learn more about Sri Lankan culture through delicious tamil fare.
விருந்து Tamil Feasts is a social enterprise supporting recently settled asylum seekers through the celebration of food and culture. Serving up traditional Sri Lankan fare prepared by Tamil men currently seeking asylum in Australia, these thrice-weekly feasts create a context in which the cooks are able to share the food heritage of their Sri Lankan homeland with the wider community. This unique enterprise simultaneously creates a space in which Australians are able to show their support of individuals who are presently undergoing the difficult experience of seeking refuge in a foreign land – all the while partaking in some seriously tasty food! HRAFF spoke to Dori Ellington from the Ceres Tamil Feasts to find out more about this exciting venture.
Tamil Feasts is a big dinner party 3 nights a week. Niro, Nirma, Sri and NIgethan cook up traditional Sri Lankan fare and serve it to diners who pre book. It is 3 course meal – starters, then a thali plate with a main curry, side curry, dahl, salad, chutney, sambal, papadum and rice, and finished with dessert. The guys share some of their story as well – life in Sri Lanka, seeking asylum, 6 ½ years in Australian detention centres, and settling into the Melbourne community.
When and why did the idea for Tamil Feasts first come about?
When Sri and Nirma were released, after 6 ½ years in detention, they struggled to find work. We got together and thought, “Hey lets have a feast”, tickets went online for 2 feasts and sold out within a week. For 4 months, we held weekly feasts on Tuesday nights – always selling out ages in advance. Then Niro was released and we started catering more, and we got Bhaji added to our menu and more Tamil love songs were played. Then Nigethan was released and we added seafood and meat to our menu, and added another night! Now Tamil Feasts are 3 nights a week – often selling out well in advance.
Dheepan, showing this year at HRAFF, examines the experience of a Sri Lankan woman as she moves to Paris, and the violence that she suffers there. How does an initiative like Tamil Feasts help prevent such violence and make that transition easier/better for both asylum seekers and the wider community?
We think initiatives like Tamil Feasts ease the transition and make it better for everyone – both asylum seekers and the wider community because it creates a space for interaction and allows for people to interact. We are able to tell our story and people are able to show their support or to ask questions or to introduce people who do not know where they stand to people seeking asylum. Tamil Feasts lets people see the people behind the politics, behind the fear mongering, behind the lables, behind what holds us back from realizing that we are all people doing our best.
From what we hear, none of the chefs behind Tamil Feasts, Nirma, Sri, Niro and Nigethan, were chefs by trade back in Sri Lanka, despite their ability to create absolutely delicious food – has there been much of a learning curve in terms of serving large numbers of people and other challenges that come with preparing the feasts?
No, not really. Tamil culture is all about communal eating and feeding big groups! So serving big numbers has come easy – but if there are ever any questions about a recipe one of the guys is quickly making phone calls to their mom/grandmother/sister back in Sri Lanka for advice.
Do you have an especially rewarding or surprising memory from the initiative that you could share with us?
Every night! As corny as that sounds it is the truth! We are still crazy over-joyed and overwhelmed that 3 nights a week we get packed houses coming to eat our food and coming to hear our stories! We were only supposed to have one or 2 feasts and now its almost been 2 years!! We are constantly surprised by the joy, the compassion and the overwhelming kindness that people bring to Tamil Feasts.
It seems like the feasts have received a great response so far. Do you and the chefs have plans for the future?
We have so many plans… too many plans! We just launched a Chai brand with 2 different flavours “Welcome’ and “Friendship” and a Catering menu. So we will focus on feeding people 3 nights a week, getting our Chai out there, and more catering…. But there will be more.
Book your Tamil Feast experience here. For more information, visit www.tamilfeasts.ceres.org.au or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.