The beautiful thing about food is its ability to promote understanding between cultures.
For this dinner, diners got to experience Afghanistan not through the media’s usual stories about the country – the Taliban and suicide attacks – but through its food. Chef Fauzia Garner of Fauzias kitchen, took me back into the homes of my Afghan friends and family in Kabul through a scrumptious family style feast in the home of Tish, our host. All my favorite dishes!
I met Fauzia of Fauzia’s Fauzias Kitchen through Dr. Ghazala while visiting the Central Mosque of Charleston. Fauzia left Afghanistan in her teens and grew up in Germany. When we sat down to plan the menu, she immediately reminded me of my adopted Afghan sisters in Kabul – kind, warm, and generous. Though I had just met her, I started using the Afghan term of endearment, “Jan” at the end of her name. I feel like I have a new sister here in Charleston.
When I left Afghanistan for the first time in 2007, I stopped to say goodbye to a group of women with whom I’d been working. One of them, Basirah, said to me,
“When you go back to your country, please tell them not all Muslims are terrorists.”
Indeed they are not.
With heaping plates of Afghan food in front of us, we laughed, listened and debated with people we’d never met. In addition to sharing hobbies and activities – Luis wins cool points for being a volunteer diver at the Aquarium – Christopher talked about what it’s like to be a black professional in Charleston, how the city has changed from the point of view of locals Dana and Michael, the Dylan Roof trial and the act of forgiveness – or not – and how race plays out in the Midwest versus the South. We didn’t agree on everything. Yet throughout our lively discussions, we were respectful of our diversity of opinions and able to express our different points of view without judgment.
That’s what I call a successful dinner.
Our host: tish
“Transformation Table is the perfect name for this experience. From start to finish, as a host, I placed my trust in Tina to take care of all the logistics around the dinner, which she delivered effortlessly and always with a warm heart and smile on her face! All I did was clean my house and open my door.
Then, I placed my trust in Tina’s sensitivity and sensibility to bring together a group of people, whom I did not know and who did not know one another, to take a shared leap of faith to meet in a stranger’s home to share a meal, conversation and, often, personal truths.
The reward was an inspiring reminder of the depth of our shared human experience, which civilizes discourse so that we can hear and receive different points of view without feeling threatened or diminished…and might even grow from it.
If that isn’t transformative, I don’t know what is?”
Our Chef: Fauzia Garner
“I always consider being asked to share my love of cooking with others a distinct honor; this was more than I had expected. The home that was selected had everything one would ever require to prepare a wonderful evening’s dinner. The hostess Tina was more than accommodating and made me feel more as a member of the group than the evening chef. What a lovely and endearing group of guests, charming, welcoming and expressing such interest that made me feel completely at ease. It is because of experiences such as this I have decided to introduce my love of cooking and pride in Afghan cuisine further. Hopefully, in the first few weeks of July my own restaurant will be open for business, expanding my knowledge of Afghan cooking to my fullest.”