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“Buying Black is Political”

Picture of the CEO and Founder of BLACK FOODIE, two black women in food
BLACK FOODIE CEO, Elle Asiedu (left) and BLACK FOODIE founder, Eden Hagos (right)

When the Black Lives Matter movement inspired protests around the world in response to the murder of George Floyd, the online platform BLACK FOODIE gained a ton of new followers. The founder of the popular website and social media force, Eden Hagos, attributed it to non-Black people looking for ways to engage with and uplift the Black community. “There was a shift that started happening in the marketing world,” she says, “they could no longer ignore us, and they were being held accountable for the way that racism seeps into their campaigns and their ways of recruiting influencers. The community that I had built and the voices we had in this space started to be sought out by people.”

Hagos started BLACK FOODIE after experiencing racism at a restaurant during her birthday dinner in 2015. The incident led her to reevaluate her own assumptions about Black food and eating African food in public. “I was upset that I wasn’t treated with respect, and that there were a lot of assumptions made about my group because we were Black,” she says. “But, I was also reflecting on my own thought process. I wasn’t really proud of my food and cuisine.”

She launched BLACK FOODIE on the first anniversary of that racist incident, with the goal to celebrate Black food culture and show the many ways in which the diaspora is connected through food. The site features their own original recipes, food content and promotes Black businesses and restaurants. Its aim is both to educate and entertain.

Since its launch, BLACK FOODIE’s Instagram account has amassed more than a hundred thousand followers around the world. Hagos says it’s become “a platform for other creators and other Black chefs and restaurant owners to share their stories and their recipes with the world.”

During quarantine, Hagos and her BLACK FOODIE team (herself as creative director and owner; CEO Elle Asiedu; and a roster of freelance creatives) cooked up their dream project: the BLACK FOODIE Battle, a fun take on classic cooking competitions on TV. The video series (for now, it lives on BLACK FOODIE’s YouTube channel, website and Instagram) invites home cooks, pro chefs and foodies to compete using ingredients that “would never be featured on Food Network, like okra and collard greens.” Every episode centres around an ingredient— recently coconut and sweet potato – and participants use the featured ingredient in any recipe they’d like and BLACK FOODIE followers vote on their favourite. Winners’ recipes are posted on BLACK FOODIE’s website.

This past September, Hagos and her team hosted their first-ever BLACK FOODIE Week in Toronto. Each day of the event, a different local Black chef, restaurant or entrepreneur was featured on BLACK FOODIE’s Instagram feed. The team also hosted cook-alongs, drink and learns, and panel discussions with Toronto food insiders.

Such events forge connections between community and Black-owned businesses, an important goal for Hagos. Restaurants are more than just places to eat, she says, they’re like community centres, places for people in the diaspora to connect to their homeland and culture. “You can feel at home and you can get a taste of home. My parents had an Ethiopian restaurant, and that was a place where a lot of the Eritreans and Ethiopians in Detroit and Windsor could come and get a taste of home.”

Of course, home comes in many flavours given the vast diaspora, and Black Foodie strives to contextualize discussion of food to highlight the different cultures that exist and educate people outside of those communities. “It’s necessary because we’re not a monolith,says Hagos, “There’s so many different cuisines that exist within black culture and so many different experiences and religions, and just all of these things that affect the way that we eat.”  A listicle is not enough to represent it all, she says, “And that’s where we were coming in.”

For years, Hagos supplemented her income with side hustles while working on BLACK FOODIE as a passion project. Then came 2020 and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Suddenly, marketers and brands wanted to collaborate with BLACK FOODIE, in partnerships and ad campaigns. The BLACK FOODIE Battle show, for example, recently got a branded boost from Guinness.

BLACK FOODIE CEO, Elle Asiedu (left) and Black Foodie founder, Eden Hagos (right)
A picture of carribbean food plate called Ful

Ethiopian-Style Ful

A Eden Hagos Family Recipe.

A popular dish across the Middle East and Africa (especially Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan), ful is a popular protein-packed stew with lots of potential. The base of the dish is created with red onions, tomatoes, and garlic which are cooked down before fava beans are added in with various spices. Together, these ingredients deliver a rich and spicy umami flavour that leaves you feeling satisfied and energized.

” Every family recipe is different, but here’s the one that we love in my house for breakfast. I hope it becomes part of your morning routine too!”–Eden Hagos

1

Ingredients:

For the ful
  •  1 Can of fava beans, drained
  •  1 tsp Garlic, minced
  •  1 tsp Cumin
  •  1 Large tomato, diced OR 3tsp of crushed tomatoes from a can
  •  ½ Jalapeno pepper, minced
  •  1 Small onion, minced
  •  ½ cup Water
Toppings for the ful
  •  ½ Red onion, diced
  •  2 tsp Berbere spice
  •  1 Small tomato, diced
  •  ½ Green bell pepper, diced
  •  2 Boiled eggs
  •  2 tsp Olive oil
  •  2 tsp Yogurt or sour cream

2

Directions

1. Empty and drain the can of Fava beans into a bowl.

Crush the beans roughly with the back of a wooden spoon and set aside. Alternatively, you can add the whole beans to the stew and crush them together with the garlic-tomato mixture — it’s up to you.

2. Saute the diced onions until they’ve softened. Then, add the cumin, garlic, and crushed tomatoes.

Stir the mixture together until well combined.

3. Add the fava beans (make sure they’re drained!) and stir them into the mixture, adding water if it becomes too thick.

If you like a spicier stew, add in the minced jalapeno peppers at this stage.

4. Simmer the bean stew on medium heat until it has reached the consistency you prefer. I typically cook it down for about 10 minutes.

Taste the stew to ensure that salty enough for you.

5. Scoop the ful from your saucepan/pot and spread it evenly in each bowl.

6. Top it with diced red onion, tomato, bell pepper, the boiled egg sliced in half, Berbere spice, olive oil, and a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream.

3

Serve the ful with your favourite flatbread for a complete meal.

Make sure you eat it with your hands for an authentic East African experience. Enjoy!

Since its launch, BLACK FOODIE’s Instagram account has amassed more than a hundred thousand followers around the world. Hagos says it’s become “a platform for other creators and other Black chefs and restaurant owners to share their stories and their recipes with the world.”

During quarantine, Hagos and her BLACK FOODIE team (herself as creative director and owner; CEO Elle Asiedu; and a roster of freelance creatives) cooked up their dream project: the BLACK FOODIE Battle, a fun take on classic cooking competitions on TV. The video series (for now, it lives on BLACK FOODIE’s YouTube channel, website and Instagram) invites home cooks, pro chefs and foodies to compete using ingredients that “would never be featured on Food Network, like okra and collard greens.” Every episode centres around an ingredient— recently coconut and sweet potato – and participants use the featured ingredient in any recipe they’d like and BLACK FOODIE followers vote on their favourite. Winners’ recipes are posted on BLACK FOODIE’s website.

This past September, Hagos and her team hosted their first-ever BLACK FOODIE Week in Toronto. Each day of the event, a different local Black chef, restaurant or entrepreneur was featured on BLACK FOODIE’s Instagram feed. The team also hosted cook-alongs, drink and learns, and panel discussions with Toronto food insiders.

Such events forge connections between community and Black-owned businesses, an important goal for Hagos. Restaurants are more than just places to eat, she says, they’re like community centres, places for people in the diaspora to connect to their homeland and culture. “You can feel at home and you can get a taste of home. My parents had an Ethiopian restaurant, and that was a place where a lot of the Eritreans and Ethiopians in Detroit and Windsor could come and get a taste of home.”

Of course, home comes in many flavours given the vast diaspora, and Black Foodie strives to contextualize discussion of food to highlight the different cultures that exist and educate people outside of those communities. “It’s necessary because we’re not a monolith,says Hagos, “There’s so many different cuisines that exist within black culture and so many different experiences and religions, and just all of these things that affect the way that we eat.”  A listicle is not enough to represent it all, she says, “And that’s where we were coming in.”

For years, Hagos supplemented her income with side hustles while working on BLACK FOODIE as a passion project. Then came 2020 and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Suddenly, marketers and brands wanted to collaborate with BLACK FOODIE, in partnerships and ad campaigns. The BLACK FOODIE Battle show, for example, recently got a branded boost from Guinness.

BLACK FOODIE CEO, Elle Asiedu (left) and Black Foodie founder, Eden Hagos (right)

Hagos says some who reached out to BLACK FOODIE were only doing so for optics: “I think some people were trying to look woke and things like that.” But others took BLACK FOODIE seriously and wanted to pivot from how they worked in the past. “For so long, ‘Black’ was treated like a dirty word,” Hagos says. “Literally last year was the first time that I saw that start to change.” Brands now wanted to collaborate because they were Black, not in spite of it.

And that’s fine with Hagos, who has always viewed her work with BLACK FOODIE as deeply political and in conversation with Black activists. Being a Black woman in business is political. “Buying Black is political,” she says. “Building sustainable Black businesses and generational wealth and being able to be self-sufficient, that’s really important to me and so many others in the Black communities.”

While people have pushed back on Hagos’ insistence on Blackness in her work, she says emphasizing the Black in BLACK FOODIE is one of the most important parts of her work. “I probably get messages daily like, ‘why does it have to be Black, why is everything about race?’” she says. “It’s completely racist, it’s literally the fear of Black people doing well and having something of their own. And that’s why it’s important that I keep Black Foodie like this. We don’t actually have to fit in. We can support our own businesses, thrive, and be proud of our Blackness.”

When LiisBeth profiled Hagos at BLACK FOODIES’ launch five years ago, she envisioned events bringing together the community as well as a web series or television show. And now? “There’s going to be even more storytelling about food in video format, more programming like the BLACK FOODIE Battle,” she says. “Whether you’re a Black foodie or not, there’ll be something for you.”


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A picture of carribbean food plate called Ful

Ethiopian-Style Ful

A Eden Hagos Family Recipe.

A popular dish across the Middle East and Africa (especially Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan), ful is a popular protein-packed stew with lots of potential. The base of the dish is created with red onions, tomatoes, and garlic which are cooked down before fava beans are added in with various spices. Together, these ingredients deliver a rich and spicy umami flavour that leaves you feeling satisfied and energized.

” Every family recipe is different, but here’s the one that we love in my house for breakfast. I hope it becomes part of your morning routine too!”–Eden Hagos

1

Ingredients:

For the Ful
  •  1 Can of fava beans, drained
  •  1 tsp Garlic, minced
  •  1 tsp Cumin
  •  1 Large tomato, diced OR 3tsp of crushed tomatoes from a can
  •  ½ Jalapeno pepper, minced
  •  1 Small onion, minced
  •  ½ cup Water
Toppings for the Ful
  •  ½ Red onion, diced
  •  2 tsp Berbere spice
  •  1 Small tomato, diced
  •  ½ Green bell pepper, diced
  •  2 Boiled eggs
  •  2 tsp Olive oil
  •  2 tsp Yogurt or sour cream
 

2

Directions

1. Empty and drain the can of Fava beans into a bowl.

Crush the beans roughly with the back of a wooden spoon and set aside. Alternatively, you can add the whole beans to the stew and crush them together with the garlic-tomato mixture — it’s up to you.

2. Saute the diced onions until they’ve softened. Then, add the cumin, garlic, and crushed tomatoes.

Stir the mixture together until well combined.

3. Add the fava beans (make sure they’re drained!) and stir them into the mixture, adding water if it becomes too thick.

If you like a spicier stew, add in the minced jalapeno peppers at this stage.

4. Simmer the bean stew on medium heat until it has reached the consistency you prefer. I typically cook it down for about 10 minutes.

Taste the stew to ensure that salty enough for you.

5. Scoop the ful from your saucepan/pot and spread it evenly in each bowl.

6. Top it with diced red onion, tomato, bell pepper, the boiled egg sliced in half, Berbere spice, olive oil, and a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream.

3

Serve the ful with your favourite flatbread for a complete meal.

Make sure you eat it with your hands for an authentic East African experience. Enjoy!

Related Reading

Black Foodie Turns The Table

Shoddy treatment at a restaurant inspired Eden Hagos not to stay home but to go big with her business ideas. She sees huge potential in the Black Foodie brand and envisions it evolving into a web series or television show in the future.

Read More »

Black Foodie Turns The Table

Shoddy treatment at a restaurant inspired Eden Hagos not to stay home but to go big with her business ideas. She sees huge potential in the Black Foodie brand and envisions it evolving into a web series or television show in the future.

Read More »
Categories
Body, Mind & Pleasure Our Voices

Black Foodie Turns The Table

eden-black-foodie-photo-web

 

It was meant to be a night out of fun dining with the ladies to celebrate Eden Hagos’ 25th birthday. But when she and her friends were ignored and disrespected at a local restaurant, Hagos, a longtime foodie, began to think about how the food industry treats Black people, and how Black-owned restaurants are regarded. And that eventually led her to launch Black Foodie, a blog spotlighting “the best of African, Caribbean and Southern cuisine and foodie experiences” through a Black lens.

On her 26th birthday, Hagos wrote about the incident that inspired Black Foodie’s creation — the blog post went viral. But the degree of online hate it generated shocked her – derogatory comments about her race, gender, looks. “People are telling me, oh Black people don’t tip,  Black people are bad customers, they don’t deserve good service,” recalls Hagos. “They proved exactly why we need this community – living proof that I could screenshot. It’s not even like you could try to say, ‘Oh, this is what you perceived.’ It’s real, and it’s literal, and you can feel that hate.”

For Hagos, the hate not only solidified her belief in the need for Black Foodie but strengthened her resolve to make it successful. In just over a year, she has built up 11,000 followers on Instagram, attracting readers from across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and several countries in Africa. Initially investing her own funds – the low-cost is part of the reason why she started with a website – she has since secured a couple of small business grants, including $1,500 from the School of Social Entrepreneurs Ontario’s Hook It Up program. She expanded from a website featuring recipes and restaurant reviews to a multi-pronged company that sells merchandise, offers brand and social media services to restaurants and hosts foodie meet-ups and events to generate revenue. In the future, once she’s grown her audience, she aims to sell advertising.

Black Foodie’s signature event, Injera and Chill – a play off the popular saying ‘Netflix and Chill’ – celebrates the classic Ethiopian bread injera that Hagos ate growing up. She started it in the fall of 2015 as a pop-up event in Toronto and drew about 50 people, predominantly Millennial Black foodies, to learn about and enjoy a traditional Ethiopian meal and coffee ceremony. Hagos then took the event on the road, organizing meet-ups for fans of Black Foodie in London, England and Atlanta, Georgia. Back in Toronto, she stepped up the summer 2016 event, expanding the celebration of food to a showcase of East African culture with a DJ, entrepreneurs showing their products and filmmaker Messay Getahun premiering the trailer for his movie, An Ethiopian Love. She charged $35 a ticket, and it attracted 150 guests.

Hagos, who was born in Windsor, Ont., credits her love for food to her parents, who immigrated to Canada from Eritrea, then a part of Ethiopia. Her father owned one of the first Ethiopian restaurants in Windsor. When she was growing up, she remembers him often cooking, which is significant, she explains, since in many Ethiopian households men don’t cook. Her parents knew the struggles of entrepreneurship firsthand and, like many immigrant parents stressed the importance of education. She attended both Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and York University in Toronto, graduating with a degree in sociology. She had planned on going to grad school in the U.S. but when she didn’t have the money or see a career path that appealed to her, her desire for “freedom” pulled her toward entrepreneurship.

She applied for and won a spot in Studio Y, an eight-month fellowship program for innovative thinkers run out of one of Toronto’s leading entrepreneurial spaces, MaRS Discovery District. She says her thinking around education and diversity helped get her in the door. What she appreciated most about Studio Y was the opportunity to earn a stipend while developing and testing ideas. Early on, she considered creating a line of Ethiopian spices; by the time she left, she was on the verge of launching Black Foodie.

“I was encouraged by many of the staff and other fellows to dream big – nothing seemed out of grasp to that group and it was very inspiring to be in a community that valued this,” says Hagos. That said, she was often left thinking, “There are so many other people like me, why aren’t we in here?” She yearned to see more people of diverse backgrounds, as well as more conversations around her entrepreneurial mission to target her own demographic, solve problems within her community and be successful at it.

In the summer of 2015, Hagos attended a pitch competition for Black tech entrepreneurs in New Orleans, Louisiana, connected to the Essence music festival. Being in a room full of powerful, Black investors proved inspiring. Though she wasn’t ready to pitch her company then, the event made her see that the start-up world was not just for white men. She also realized that for her company to grow, she had to think beyond the borders of Toronto and even Canada. She sees more opportunities for Black-owned businesses catering to Black people to thrive abroad. Sheer numbers for one:  In the U.S., for example, there are more than 37,000,000 Black people as of 2010 Census stats; Canada has just a fraction of that.

She also sees opportunity in Black Foodie’s appeal to women. Some 70 per cent of her readership – as well as the vast majority of her contributors – are women who identify as belonging to the African diaspora. “It’s crazy to me because we’re the ones cooking. But when you see the ones who are celebrated, it’s usually men. In the Black food world, it’s usually men who are hosting these events.” She also points out that popular images of Black women and food are often associated with racist depictions rooted in an African American context, such as the nanny. “I’m a Black woman, so, of course, I’m drawn to stories of people who I can relate to and I think they’re also drawn to me.”

Indeed, special events coordinator Eden Zeweldi agreed to work with the company, without even knowing how much she’d be paid. She has since planned five events in collaboration with Hagos. “[Eden’s] passion and her excitement for it gave me so much energy,” Zeweldi says. “I could actually be part of a movement that would bring food that my mother makes into the limelight.” Food stylist and photographer If Ogbue also saw the opportunity to work on Black Foodie as “a breath of fresh air.” She sees huge potential in the Black Foodie brand and envisions it evolving into a web series or television show in the future.

That’s exactly where Hagos hopes Black Foodie will be in five years. She would like to develop several Black Foodie branded shows; spearhead a huge Black Foodie festival that brings together chefs, food writers and foodies; and publish a cookbook, perhaps the first of many. Still, Hagos is careful not to get ahead of herself. The key now is that Black Foodie is sparking an important conversation, both outside and within Black communities. “My goal is not just to teach other people that we exist,” she says. “I’m interested in encouraging this conversation to happen amongst each other. Some of the things we talk about in food, you can only understand if you’re a person of colour. It’s kind of like an inside joke, and I don’t always want to be trying to explain that inside joke to other people.”

 

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One of Eden’s favourite things to make around the holidays is sweet potato pie. Here’s her recipe. Give it a try.

sweet-potato-pie-2

 

Sweet Potato Pie 

Filling

  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup of condensed sweet milk
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 large spoons cinnamon
  • 1 spoon Vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice
  • 2 large spoonfuls of cinnamon
  • 1/2 spoon ginger
  • 1/2 spoon allspice
  • 1/2 spoon nutmeg
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • Brown sugar paste:
  • 8 Spoons brown sugar
  • 4 spoons Butter
  • 2 Unbaked pie shells

Brown Sugar Paste 

  1. Mix brown sugar and butter together to form a thick paste
  2. Spread half of the paste onto unbaked pie shell and bake for ten mins or until it forms a caramelized layer (don’t let the shell get brown)
  3. Let it pie shell cool as the filling is prepared

Filling 

  1. Bake sweet potatoes (or boil) until they become very tender
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into small pieces
  3. In a bowl blend the sweet potatoes, milk and condensed milk
  4. Add all of the remaining ingredients sweet potato mixture and blend until it has a creamy consistency then place the half the filling into pie shell and bake for 40 mins on 350.

This recipe will make two pies. Or you can use the remaining filling to prepare a sweet potato casserole, topping the mix with marshmallows and baking for the same amount of time.

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Related Articles:

https://www.liisbeth.com/2016/11/08/not-incubators-entrepreneur/