On Sept. 23, the Jewish, Islamic and Catholic communities in Windsor, Ont., will host the city’s first ever Hummus Festival.
Several restaurants in the Windsor area will be preparing their own special hummus recipes, along with other Middle Eastern dishes, for the community to enjoy. The event will also be a way to celebrate the area’s diversity. Windsor boasts the fourth most diverse ethic-cultural community in Canada.
The festival came together by happenstance.
Rene Boubol, a Muslim and one of the event’s organizers, said she was talking with a member of the Jewish community “around interfaith and some of the challenges that work can entail,” and they joked that “food always unites people.”
As well, she said, interfaith events typically only draw members from those faiths. But hosting a food festival is something that everyone can enjoy.
They took the idea to Jay Katz, the executive director of the Windsor Jewish Community Centre, who jumped at it.
Windsor has a large Middle Eastern population, perhaps owing to the extensive Arabic community across the river in Dearborn, Mich. As a result, Windsor has an impressive array of restaurants that serve Middle Eastern cuisine.
Boubol said there are a great variety of ways to prepare hummus.
“There’s so many different types of hummus,” she said. “There’s different ways that people make it and you talk to anybody and they say, ‘No, my mom makes the best hummus; No, my grandma makes the best hummus; No, you’ve got to try this one.’ I have my favourites at restaurants across the city, they all do it differently.”
For example, there’s garlic hummus, avocado hummus, eggplant hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, hummus in wraps, even hummus in tacos.
“It’s giving people the chance to get to know each other, while trying hummus,” Boubol said. Those attending the festival will have the opportunity to vote for the best hummus and the winner will receive a plaque named after the late Windsor restaurateur Mark Boscariol.
The event will be held at Catholic Central High School. The inner-city school is home to students from more than 70 countries and even offers refugee services.
“We have people of all faiths in our school. Though we practice faithfully our Catholic faith, all students are so respectful of it and it’s a very harmonious environment,” principal Danielle Desjardins-Koloff said. “So we thought it would be a perfect place to bring together those community partners to celebrate diversity, rather than to empathize our differences – and food is definitely that.”
Katz said the JCC has also partnered with the high school in the past, when they sponsored a refugee family. Besides Jews and Muslims, the inclusion of Catholics “brought in another faith group and we thought that was great,” he said.
There have long been harmonious relations between all faith groups in the city.
“I would say that is typical and indicative of the sort of friendly, congenial, generous place that Windsor is,” said Katz.
The event will also feature a bouncy castle “for the young hummus lovers,” Katz noted, and entertainment will be provided by the “spectacular” group, Light of East Ensemble, which performs music from a variety of Middle Eastern countries in several languages.
“It’s going to be a fun day with a lot of delicious hummus,” he said.