Sharing Thunder Bay's culture, one recipe at a time

September 2021

Canadians like to borrow from other cultures, and many of our traditions are a mixture of customs from other countries. For example, our Christmas was borrowed from Germany, who gave us the Christmas tree, and Greece, where we got the idea to kiss people under the mistletoe. Even the turkey dinner, with all of its trimmings, came from Henry VIII in England. Hallowe’en is a mix of Celtic and old Catholic beliefs, and Thanksgiving comes from the New England states. Practically every special day marked on our calendar contains elements lifted from other countries and cultures.

The point is – if Canadians like a custom, they embrace it, and eventually it becomes their own. I’m hoping this custom, shared by Afra Hussain from Sudan, will catch on in Thunder Bay.

When Afra lived in her homeland, she and her husband, Mohammad Abraham, enjoyed getting together with their family every month for “Lamat Al Osra” - a pot luck dinner/family gathering – but with a purpose. Along with their favourite dish, the guests brought a monetary gift for the host to help him or her out of any financial difficulties. Whether it was to cover expenses for a wedding or funeral or health care, everyone contributed. “It is something families do,” Afra explains. “We look after each other.”

On the day of the gathering, the host would set a mat on the ground outside the home and the guests would place their dishes in the centre, while people sat on the outer edge to eat. If a person passed by on the street, they were always offered some food and invited to join in the festivities. No one was excluded.

Afra explains that this custom is very common in her homeland, even through the month of Ramadan, and it’s a regular occurrence to see families out on the streets, eating and enjoying their time together. “I love my country,” Afra says with a sigh. “It is full of many good and giving people.”

Now in Canada, Afra and the Sudanese community continue this tradition. “We bring our favourite dishes, gather in parks, yards and homes, and enjoy our time together. And yes, we offer our food to anyone who passes by.” Wonderful.

Afra’s favourite dish to bring to these gatherings is an egg plant salad. It’s delicious, easy to make, and is often served alongside a regular salad dish. Feel free to try this recipe, and if you have the urge to have a dinner out in your front yard with your family and offer a plate to any passerby – post Covid – of course, please do so. There are some customs that are meant to be shared.

Eggplant Salad

  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 1 large tomato 
  • 5 Tbsp. yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini 
  • 2 Tsp. vinegar 
  • 2 Tbsp. sliced green olives
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste

Slice the eggplants and wash in salt water. Dry, then fry in skillet with oil. Slice the tomato and green pepper and set aside. Mix yogurt with the tahini, pepper, salt, garlic powder, and vinegar into a separate bowl. Put the fried eggplants on a plate with the sliced tomatoes and sliced green pepper and spoon yogurt mixture on top. Decorate with sliced green olives.

Do you have a recipe from your culture that you want to share? Contact Donna at

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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