“Thank you for being with us. Your supporting us helps us to start a new life. You come to eat but that support is big things for us in Australia.” Nothing summarises Tamil Feasts at CERES any better than asylum seeker and cook Sri, as quoted from Facebook. I read this quote, as a warmness gathered within every cell of my being. I’ve attended the Tamil Feasts on Vegan and Vegetarian Night twice now and I’ve left on both occasions as if I’ve helped marginalised people living in limbo, in our community, achieve a small win.
CERES Community Environment Park in Melbourne’s inner north-east is a non-profit sustainability hub over 4.5 hectares on Meri Creek. CERES engage in supporting environmental and green technology education, urban community projects and social enterprise. The grounds also host a community market, onsite café and grocery, community kitchen, permaculture and bush nursery. An organic, online supermarket brings CERES’ community spirit even closer to Melburnians living in outer areas around town. As the name spells out, this Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies aims to make social and environmental change through powerful means that only education can offer. Even the land on which CERES resides is traditional to Wurundjeri indigenous Australians. Merri Creek was the backbone to the Wurundjeri community – a spot to swim and play and, importantly, a vital source of food.
Through traditional meals served on a weekly basis, CERES hosts one social enterprise that has gained constructive momentum and community awareness – Tamil Feasts. Four Tamil men from Sri Lanka are currently seeking asylum here in Melbourne. Together, Sri, Nirma, Niro and Nigethan are being supported through Tamil Feasts. They prepare, cook Sri Lankan meals at the CERES Community Kitchen on Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights up to a maximum of 50 guests each night. It is a celebration of culture…and seriously delicious food!
Tuesday’s vegetarian and vegan menu is packed with delicious traditional Tamil fare such as onion and spinach bhajji for starters, then eggplant and chickpea curry, garlic dhal (some of the best dhal I have ever eaten), spiced green bean curry, gotu kola (a Sri Lankan green salad of cabbage, bean sprout and broccoli), parsley salad and eggplant chutney, all served on a feast plate with rice jewelled with sultanas or roti. For dessert, gulab jamun is prepared for vegetarians while vegans like me swoon with every mouthful of payasam – a Tamil style sago pudding prepared with coconut milk.
But, it’s not just all about turning up and eating the delicious food on the menu; it’s ‘more than just a meal’. Tamil Feasts offers Sri, Nirma, Niro and Nigethan a platform on which they can share their culture and their experience while going through the paces of seeking asylum in Melbourne. Through community interaction, Sri, Nirma, Niro and Nigethan can continue their unpredictable journey with just a little less stress. Their authentic Tamil cuisine is an avenue these brave men travel along to help us – Melburnians – build tolerance and understanding while they await the decision of their permanent destination. Will they be granted asylum in Melbourne?
Over a banquet of starter, curries, and dessert, we are taken on a journey that transcends the viewpoint of tonight’s feasting guests that Sri, Nirma, Niro and Nigethan are welcome in Melbourne; in Australia. By supporting Tamil Feasts, we’re effectively declaring what has been in our hearts and minds all along: “I say welcome.”
Bookings for the CERES Tamil Feasts are essential and can be made via their website. $30 per person, $20 for kids and includes three courses. A bar is available and beer, wine and kombucha are available to purchase as priced on the night. The fourth Tuesday of each month is also dedicated to Spice Night.
Takeaway containers of leftover meals can be purchased at $5 a container
or bring your own container to save on plastic waste for the same price
For more information, you can visit the CERES website.
CERES Community Environment Park, corner Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East Victoria Australia 3057 Phone: 03 9389 0100