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SSC Newspaper : March 2014
14 Strathfield Scene LIFE MARCH 2014 How Anna’s garden is growing a community reminder of their homeland, and a currency to connect with the communities around them. Go to the Australian government’s website designed to promote March 21 as national Harmony Day and you will find A Taste of Harmony – a week in which people can share their culture through food. Ms Dimo and her centre might have been the template for the idea. They’ve been doing that for months. Ms Dimo is big and colourful – exactly the type of person who could brighten up your day. She sits me down in the office to explain her work. The women have been working furiously on their vegetable garden, and are proud of their efforts. They want the community to understand the significance of food in their culture. It started as a project for Sudanese men, but they quickly abandoned it. Now that it has been handed over to their wives and mothers, things have started happening. The women grow an array of fruits, vegetables and herbs, which they sell to raise money for the centre. They try to plant as many vegetables from home as they can. When they can’t do that, they find substitutes. This process has created two important opportunities: they proudly teach other cultures about their homeland’s farming methods, and they learn what Australian produce can work with their way of cooking. “This started out as something for the men to do, if they were unemployed,” Ms Dimo says. “But they lost interest and the women jumped on board and we love tending to the garden. We are experimenting with different seedlings of what grows well and what doesn’t grow well in our garden.” The Metro Migrant Resource Centre gave St Bakhita some funding for the women to buy the seedlings to start their garden. The funding also helped the women buy tools, soil and fertiliser to help cultivate their produce. But Ms Dimo says it has been a challenge for the women, especially since they have found that they are unable to grow things like okra and peanuts, which are a staple in the Sudanese diet. As we talk about food, Ms Dimo makes me a hot cup of sweet coffee, which is a staple in the Sudanese diet. “ We drink a lot of coffee and, traditionally, Sudanese coffee beans are fried and then ground with cloves and hot spices,” she says. “But we drink whatever coffee we can get. We also drink tea, which again is ground with cloves and different spices. Our tea and coffee is sweetened with condensed milk.” The Sudanese diet is fairly simple and the food is just seasoned with salt, pepper or lemon. The main vegetables eaten are tomatoes, onions, potatoes, eggplant or okra. Beans and lentils are also a staple. “There are obviously different types of vegetables and fruits that we can’t grow here that we had in South Sudan,” Ms Dimo says. “The soil is very different. South Sudan is very dry and arid. Typically, in our diet, we like to eat okra and peanuts but these are two things that we are finding difficult to grow. And it is a staple in our diet.” Ms Dimo says the women have to buy okra if they want to put it into their cooking, but they have learnt to incorporate the vegetables that they can grow into their diet. THE ST BAKHITA CENTRE IS A HAVEN FOR OUR LOCAL SUDANESE, WHO HAVE FOUND UNEXPECTED DELIGHTS IN SHARING ITS PRODUCE. ANNA’S HARMONY DISH: BEEF AND OKRA STEW If you want to make a Sudanese stew similar to Anna Dimo’s, try this beef and okra stew. Named Khamisa Baya’s stew, it is served over cooked rice, cornmeal or creamy wheat cereal, or with corn bread on the side. INGREDIENTS 15 mL olive oil 2 onions, chopped 8 cloves garlic, minced 4 beef simmering short ribs (about 500 g) 900 g stewing beef, cubed 375 mL crushed tomatoes 6 green cardamom pods 1 cinnamon stick 2 mL (1⁄2 tsp) salt 2 mL (1⁄2 tsp) pepper 1 mL (1⁄4 tsp) ground cumin 230 g fresh okra, trimmed PREPARATION In large casserole dish, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until golden. Cut ribs into single-bone sections; add to pot along with stewing beef. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until liquid has evaporated and beef is browned. Stir in tomatoes, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, salt, pepper and 750 mL (3 cups) water. Cover, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours or until beef is tender. Stir in cumin and scatter okra on top. Cover and cook, without stirring, for about 20 minutes or until okra is tender. Discard cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Gently stir in okra. By Bernadette Chua Nestled in the backstreets of Homebush West is an extraordinary haven. The St Bakhita Centre could easily be the perfect illustration of what Harmony Day, a national time of cultural respect, is really all about. The centre’s head is Anna Dimo, a South Sudanese refugee who was one of the first from her country to be granted amnesty by Australia after she was forced to flee her war-torn home in 1996. She has helped countless families find homes and jobs around the area and has become an integral part of the Sudanese community. But the project that perhaps helps most to connect this small group of refugees together is outside in the garden. There in the soil, Ms Dimo and her band of women helpers have created a vegetable patch. But it is really much more than that. It is a Anna Dimo, left, guides the gardening efforts.