As a part of its focus on raising cultural awareness, Go Eat Give hosted its monthly Destination Dinner on Saturday, June 14 at Himalayan Spice Restaurant and Bar in Atlanta, GA, showcasing the country of Nepal.
The first hour or so of the event found the 60 or so participants either mingling or watching the World Cup at the cash bar. From there they moved into the dining room where they sat at two long, family style tables. The food was served from a buffet that sat just outside of the dining room.
Appetizer included aloo jeera (potatoes with cumin seed), chicken choila (grilled chicken marinated with Nepalese spices and garnished with onions, ginger, garlic, and cilantro), and plain bara, which is a bread-like patty made with ground black lentil beans. The main dishes consisted of chicken korma (curry made with yogurt, cream, and coconut milk), dal tadka (a curry like dish made with red lentils and tempered with aromatic spices), and chau chau (Nepalese style stir fried noodles). Accompaniments included Basmati rice, Indian-style naan, and mo mos (steamed dumplings stuffed with with either vegetables or chicken). For dessert, a traditional Indian gulab jamun (fried, round doughnuts soaked in sugar syrup) was served.
In addition to a delicious array of Nepalese food, the event also included several speakers and two dance performances. Two of the speakers, Sanjeeb Sapkota and Shailendra Bajracharya, were from the Nepalese Association in Southeast America, or NASeA. NASeA is an organization that aims to promote Nepalese culture and values in the Southeast, both for those who are from Nepal and others. The speakers informed guests about the warm, happy disposition of Nepali people despite the immense poverty that plagues the country. They also spoke of the fact that 8 of the top 10 highest peaks in the world are located in Nepal, as well as it being birthplace of Lord Buddha. While there are many fascinating facts about Nepal, the stories of its people interested me the most.
Keynote speaker Sugam Pokharel, Nepali native and producer at CNN International and soon to be CNN’s New Delhi Bureau Producer discussed the issue of kidney trafficking in Nepal. He stated that due to their poverty and lack of education, many Nepalese are duped into giving away their kidneys either by bribery or by being lied to. They have no bargaining power, and often times do not know that they are having an operation to remove their kidney until after the fact. He showed a trailer for a documentary he produced on the subject, which will be released by CNN International on June 27. Pokharel also spoke about CNN’s Freedom Project, a campaign to end modern day slavery.
Entertainment for the evening included two performances of traditional Nepalese folk dancing. First was Rashmi Kharel, an inspiring woman visiting from Nepal. Kahrel lost one of her legs at the age of 9 after she was hit by a bus while she was playing outside her house. After years of being told she would amount to nothing due to her disability, she was able to realize her dream of becoming a dancer and today travels all over the world to perform. Wearing a traditional Nepalese outfit, she awed the crowd with her performance. I was struck by how easily she gyrated her hips to traditional folk music. Even if she had both of her legs, I don’t think I would have been able to tell the difference. She really is an inspiring example of what it means to persevere and follow your dreams.
Second performance was by a group of three Nepali teenage girls. Also adorned in traditional Nepalese outfits, they moved their hands and feet to a slightly slower traditional Nepalese folk dance. Although their dance was not flawless, their nervous smiles and the sidelong glances they exchanged throughout made the entire performance extremely adorable to watch.
Overall, the event was a great exposure to Nepali culture. The food was delicious and made me want to come back and try everything on the menu. The speakers and the performances gave me insight into the people and current issues they face. If I had to pick one thing I touched me most, it would be that despite suffering from immense poverty and exploitation, the people of Nepal are a kind, joyous group that I think anyone would love to experience firsthand. While I may not be able to visit Nepal in the near future, Go Eat Give’s Destination Nepal event successfully transported me into the small country nestled in the Himalayas, even if for an evening.
To see more pictures from the event, visit Go Eat Give’s Facebook page.
~ By Allie Williams, intern at Go Eat Give.