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Life and Religion

Savor Taste of the World in East Charlotte
Showcase returns for 16th season
Published Thursday, August 23, 2018 1:26 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Food brings you out of your comfort zone.

As the conversation of the nation’s immigration policies continue to gain attention, Charlotte’s 16th Taste of the World event offers a response to the complex conversation—just eat.

“Taste of the World has become all the more important this year,” said Erin Barbee, director of mission advancement at Aldersgate. “We want to be able to bring people to this side of town to be able to interact with, convene with and be with our immigrant and refugee communities in their small businesses. It’s wonderful to have 29 restaurants that represent that population, and bringing people from all across Mecklenburg and Gaston County over food in a space where maybe they would not have come otherwise. We believe that we represent a coming together of people in a nonthreatening way, just because it’s such a difficult topic this year.”

On Oct. 3 from 4:30-9:30 p.m. participants will eat their way through various restaurants throughout East Charlotte. Event registration begins at 4:30 p.m. at SMS Catering Services, 1764 Norland Road. Attendees will experience a guided tour, with the bulk of the evening at three different restaurants for tastings. Two new continents in Africa and Asia will be represented on the tour—Aroy Thai Restaurant, Crispy Banh Mi (Vietnamese), Jyoti’s World Cuisine (Indian and Vegan) and Abugida Ethiopian Café & Restaurant.

Bus guides include members of local and state government: Charlotte City Council member Matt Newton, who represents East Charlotte, District 1 representative Larken Egleston and N.C. Rep. John Autry.

“Taste of the World is an opportunity for people to come together and experience the cultural offerings of East Charlotte,” Barbee said. “We have 29 restaurants that are participating this year, and that is the highest number we have ever had. We found that, because of the high number of participation, more and more restaurants year after year want to participate. It wasn’t hard to get 29 restaurants on board.”

Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, and the Eastside has a larger population than Asheville or Wilmington. It is equivalent to the state’s seventh-largest city.

“This year, more than ever, we’ve talked a lot about being a welcoming city, especially with the conversation around our refugee and our immigrant community,” Barbee said. “East Charlotte has become kind of the hub of where our immigrant and refugee communities live. It can be in its own bubble, to an extent.”

Food offers a way to break those barriers.

“We are facilitating conversation over food, and cultural food,” Barbee said. “You’re out of your comfort zone, because people don’t get to choose where they get to go eat, which is the fun part about this whole experience. You are having to ask about the food which you are eating. You may not even know about the cuisine placed in front of you, which then in turn offers you the opportunity to talk to this person about their culture. Talk to this person about who they are, and where they come from. Talk to this person about why they made this meal, how they made this meal, and then all of the sudden maybe you have formed a friendship. It’s an unconventional way to begin a conversation, but maybe you walked into this restaurant not knowing anything about it, but you walk out with a friend, and it is achieved cross culturally. It’s an important even in this day and age.”  

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