Connecting Cultures through Cuisine in The Village of Humber Heights

The path Douglas Dodds traversed through life to eventually land in Etobicoke took him from England to New Zealand and Australia and several points in between. His accent is a tricky one to distinguish for a good reason. It’s Wednesday around noon and Douglas is sitting in the café in The Village of Humber Heights with two fellow residents, Yoshiko Sawa and Ruth Gregory. Yoshiko’s path to Etobicoke, much like Douglas’s, covers the breadth of the globe as well, from Japan to New England and Texas before she and her husband finally called Toronto home.   

Humber Heights team members celebrated the wonderful cultures of the Village during the final “Diversity Lunch” of the summer.
 Humber Heights team members celebrated the wonderful cultures
of the Village during the final “Diversity Lunch” of the summer.

This Village is filled with countless stories of human migration; they are the stories of Canada, the fabric of the nation that creates such a beautiful tapestry, and on this Wednesday, team members and residents are celebrating this mosaic with their final Diversity Lunch.

Ruth, Yoshiko and Douglas have just finished a meal featuring the flavours of Nigeria, Mexico, Portugal, The Philippines, Greece and Nepal, and the team members who lovingly served them are dressed in traditional garments representing their mother lands. The unmistakable flare of Portuguese music plays in the background.

For the past eight weeks, team members have volunteered to prepare and serve meals to honour the traditions of the lands they hail from. It’s a summer event now at Humber Heights that has raised thousands of dollars in the past six years to fund initiatives such as team member education through The Pioneer Network conference or the Hand up for Haiti events in support of some of the poorest families in the rural countryside of the struggling Caribbean nation.

The fundraising is a nice benefit and the variety the lunches offer residents is a nice treat on Wednesdays, but it also offers residents and guests a peek into the lives of the people who support them in the village. “We get to see which team members are of different cultures,” Ruth says as Douglas nods in agreement. “It gives you an insight into some of the foods that other countries specialize in,” he says, noting that he instantly became addicted to the Mexican Tres Leches cake he sampled for dessert.

As a neighbourhood coordinator at Humber Heights, Abi Belo has been part of every diversity lunch since they began in the village six years ago. “All the families and team members, as well as our residents, look forward to these lunches throughout the eight weeks,” he says. “It brings people together and it recognizes people’s diversity and appreciates it. I think it’s really important because our village is multi-diverse and we respect individuality and each person’s culture and their background.”

Food, Abi says, connects everyone within the village on a day such as this, and those connections are definitely worth celebrating.