Ethiopian-born Foodie Turns Libraries Into Learning Kitchens

Todays News

Though libraries stand as one of the great bastions of learning in civilization, their primary mode of dispersing that learning revolves around words, pictures, words and pictures, or moving pictures. But last Friday, Gulf Gate Library in South Sarasota added food to its pedagogical quiver. Called “Taste of Africa,” the seminar and food demonstration workshop used food to introduce and educate participants in Ethiopia’s vegan staples.

The seminar was led by Ethiopian-born Alex Jordan, whose sister used to own and operate an Ethiopian restaurant in town called Fly. At the time, Jordan was a college student in Colorado and not particularly involved with her sister’s venture. “But I found myself really missing that food,” says Jordan, “but with no nearby Ethiopian restaurants, I had to learn to make it myself when I wanted it.” When she came back to Sarasota, she found a receptive audience for the cuisine in her circle of friends.

“They all wanted to know how I made it and I started inviting them over to show them,” says Jordan, “so, this whole idea of teaching people about the cuisine grew very organically from there.”

And that’s part of the joy of the cuisine for Jordan as well as why it’s such a fitting seminar for a library—Ethiopian dining is very much a communal experience predicated on sharing stories. Guests all sit at the table together and pick from the same shared plates, traditionally with a fluffy, fermented injera flatbread that’s similar to a crepe but made with teff flour. “It’s a very hospitable culture."

The response to her classes has been overwhelmingly positive. “We had over 40 people on Friday,” says Jordan, “and though I make the injera beforehand, I want to eventually teach how to make that too.” As an added bonus, Jordan also gets to focus her courses on the plant-based foods that her native country consumes during their two-month fast from meat and meat-derived products. “It’s great to show people that plant-based diets can still have tons of flavor while still being very nutrient-rich,” says Jordan.

For those who missed Jordan’s February 11th class, she will be hosting another in May (date TBA) at Selby Library in which she will explore the cuisines of other African nations. The class is part of Sarasota County Library’s “One Book one Community” program.

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