Feasting with Julia Khan Anselmo
A few months back I was invited to an event I would have been crazy to pass up: an evening of Moroccan food, inspiring women and wine, set in a envy-triggering bakery-turned-apartment in Strathcona. As some friends and I pulled up to the mysterious address in a cab, I was both curious and intimidated (I’m terrified of networking). My fears began to fade as I was handed a mint tea and brandy cocktail, began a round of introductions, and gorged on the meal as the evening carried late into the night.
Julia Khan Anselmo is the brains and beauty behind Feisty Feast, a series of dinner and workshop events designed to connect like-minded creative people in the city. The week following the dinner, she invited me over for breakfast and we chatted about what triggered her vision.
When did Feisty Feast launch?
“I started Feisty Feast in the autumn of 2013 after I was laid off from my job. I asked myself what I was doing with my time and it came down to three main things: meeting incredibly inspiring women, cooking and experimenting with world cuisine and hosting and connecting people.”
Describe the first dinner that launched the concept. What did you take away from the experience?
“I held the first four Feisty Feasts in my apartment, which was great because I felt very comfortable cooking in my own kitchen and it was intimate. It was autumn and I made pasta with foraged chanterelles and a beet salad. The second one was bigger and I rented a table and included a guest speaker who was Tori Holmes, the founder of Nectar Juicery. She shared her courageous and inspiring story of how she began learning about Ayurvedic medicine and why she started a juice company. That’s when I realized the power of story telling and vulnerability to encourage meaningful connection. I feel like story telling is missing from our community.”
The last dinner’s theme was Moroccan. How do you source inspiration for the theme of each one?
“I’m fascinated by learning about cuisines from around the world – what different cultures are eating, what they’re making at home – those things are endlessly interesting to me. I like to know what the local people are eating in different countries and I have been experimenting since I was a young girl. My Father has also been a huge inspiration to me. He grew up in Portugal before fleeing to the East Coast of Canada during the dictatorship. He’s always had a passion for cooking and hosting and even used to own a restaurant in Vancouver in the late 1970s. Growing up we used to have large dinner parties where my dad would cook wonderful traditional Portuguese dishes like Bacaloua – that was always a favarourite for me. I like to show people something traditional with a bit of history and off the beaten path in terms of food.”
What has been most rewarding for you out of each dinner?
“Every event I host fuels inspiration for the next one. Knowing that I’m helping to facilitate meaningful connections among women in my community is what I find the most satisfying. There’s a powerful momentum in Vancouver (and in the world) where women are creating their own businesses, coming together and celebrating femininity – and that’s what inspires and invigorates me to the bone! It’s an exciting time. There is a magic energy when we get together and open our hearts and minds.”
Where did you get your inspiration for cooking? Was it something you grew up surrounded by, did your family cook a lot?
“Food has been a fascination and a passion for me since a young age. My mother is Trinidadian and my father is Portuguese and both of them strove to us to a wide variety of foods from around the world at a young age. My curious nature for learning about different cultures is deeply rooted in finding out "what the locals eat" whenever I travel to a new place. I find that food is inexhaustible and magical exploration that holds and inspires so many aspects of my life.”
Where would you like to see Feisty Feast headed in the future? Have you set any business goals?
“Feisty Feast is an evolution and I am still very much experimenting with the potential of what I can do. For the last Feisty Feast, there was music, dance and a small market place of local female designers which was a lot of fun. I recently attended a women’s retreat in Mendocino, California called Spirit Weavers Gathering. There were 500 women, workshops, ceremonies and lots of singing. It was powerful and I would like to create something like that here on the West Coast of Canada. I still have a lot to learn and I feel like as I keep cultivating my own path that Feisty Feast will grow with that too. For the next Feisty Feast, there will be a meditation, a workshop and a feast at the end of the day! I hope to bring Feisty Feast across Canada and even host retreats one day! I feel like it is a powerful time to be a woman.”
The next Feisty Feast is taking place this Saturday, July 18 and will feature a guided meditation by Dharma Yoga Vancouver, an indigo dyeing workshop by Sophena Kwon, followed by one of Julia's epic feasts and a guest speaker. Click here to snag tickets, and be sure to visit the Feisty Feast website for info on any upcoming events.