HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s not often you see eastern European foods sharing a table with east African foods. But, there is one Midstate Food Festival that takes the best from both cultures and shares it with the community.
The Slavic Plus Food Festival has been around for quite some time, but the “Plus” wasn’t added until several years ago. “At first the event was the Slavic Food Fest because the founders of Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church were, for the most part, Slavic-Americans. Their families came from places like Ukraine, Slovakia, Southeast Poland, Belarus, Romania, or Slavic Macedonia,” volunteer, Jim Kushlan said. “In the 1980s and 1990s, Eritrean and some Ethiopian immigrants arrived in Central Pennsylvania and many joined Christ the Saviour Parish. As members of an ancient Orthodox Christian culture from East Africa, they bought a rich and very different ethnic and culinary heritage to the parish.”
A very interesting clash of cultures in the best of ways. You’d think that language would be a barrier between the two groups. On the contrary, it was language that bought them together. “Services at Christ the Saviour were always in English, and that brought all kinds of people into the church community. The new people became Orthodox but kept their own ethnic heritage, a phenomenon that continues to play out this very day,” Kushlan said.
The result makes for an appetizing selection of cultural favorites from both backgrounds. From eastern Europe you can expect things like halupki (stuffed cabbage), pierogi filled with cheesy mashed potatoes, halushki (savory cabbage and noodles), grilled Macedonian pub burgers with onions and peppers, and kielbasa. From east Africa, there will be dishes such as tsebi derho (spicy chicken stew with spongy injera flatbread), alicha wot (bright yellow turmeric-spiked veggie stew), and himbasha (a sweet or savory round, cake-like bread baked for celebrations).
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There’s plenty to be excited about, considering the festival didn’t run last year due to COVID concerns. “It was a difficult decision. But we are very, very glad and grateful to be back this year,” Kushlan said. So this year will look a little different compared to past festivals. “As a public health precaution, food will be for takeout only at this year’s festival. There will be some limited space at picnic tables in the Parish’s grove area outdoors, and guests are welcome to bring lawn chairs for outdoor dining.”
In what should be a beautiful weekend for the festival, Kushlan has some tips so you can come prepared both in the mind and the appetite. “There is plenty of free parking. The parish also invites food fest attendees who’d like to experience the ancient worship of the Orthodox Christian Church to attend the brief vespers service of Saturday evening at 5 p.m. or the longer Divine Liturgy service on Sunday, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.,” Kushlan said.
No matter what it is you do, just make sure you have a good time! It makes it that much better for the members of the church. “For me, the best part is the interaction with our guests! There is a lot of warmth and goodwill, lots of smiles and humor. And there’s just something very satisfying about feeding people,” Kushlan said.
The Slavic Plus Food Festival runs Saturday, Oct. 2, and Sunday, Oct. 3 from 12 to 3 p.m. at Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church. The event is free of charge. For more information visit their site here.