A taste of home: How a Somali supper club explores identity through food


Thursday August 2, 2018 ” It’s summer and the sun is slowly setting over the hilly green space near Fozia Ismail’s house in Bristol. Her husband Andy opens the door as Foz, as she likes to be called, makes final preparations in the kitchen.

Fourteen people are arriving tonight to sample Foz’s take on Somali food as part of her monthly supper club “Arawelo Eats.” Fozia was born in Kuwait but moved to the UK whilst she was still young and grew up in London.

The name Arawelo Eats comes from stories of an ancient Somali Queen who was known for female empowerment.

In some stories she is portrayed as having castrated men but for Foz it’s the fact that she forged her own path which is important. Fozia studied social anthropology at Cambridge University and started off working with young people before she became interested in exploring her roots through food.

“With the EU vote, with all this kind of hostile environment, I was just really wanting to reconnect with my culture through the food.”

She laughingly admits that her mother was the main cook in her house and moving to Bristol meant that she missed the Somali food she was used to eating. So she had to learn to cook it herself.

Connecting through food

Her mother, Foz explains, grew up as a nomad on the Ethiopia-Somaliland border. She is illiterate and didn’t get the chance of an education. In the kitchen, cooking with her five brothers and four sisters for the crowds of visitors who visited over Ramadan and other big festivals, was where she really connected with her mother through food.

“You’re just feeding so many people, so you have bags of onions and you are just cutting through again again and again and again,” to make the Somali style samosas or sambusa, Foz explains.

Foz thinks that her mother’s intelligence and love was expressed through food despite the lack of her formal education; she still regrets not having learnt how to make all the specialties. “I didn’t really learn any of the stuff. I would love to learn Lahoh. Lahoh is the sorghum based pancake, She [my mother] makes great Lahoh. Certain skills, I think, I still need to practice. That’s why it matters to me, because I feel like she shone through her food and she really taught us through food.”

Now Foz is teaching her guests through food. She introduces each dish to the 14 people who have arrived for the supper club and are congregating in the kitchen accompanied by the sounds of sizzling, chopping and frenetic activity.

As a welcome, Foz stirs big jugs of vodka and lime cocktails and pours them into glasses graced with a cinnamon stick twizzled in honey. “This is rocket fuel,” she jokes, admitting that most Somalis, being Muslims, don’t tend to drink but this cocktail comes from Kenya where many Somalis live in the diaspora. The ice breaker works and the guests start chatting happily in the garden whilst Foz and her husband prepare the big communal table in their kitchen for the feast.

Uncomfortable about the ‘white gaze’

Studying in Cambridge sometimes made Foz feel uncomfortable, as a Somali British woman who grew up on a council estate in London. In Cambridge she suddenly found herself in a rarefied world of privilege and a majority of rich white people.

“I liked the challenge of being there but I also felt like it is so removed from reality. Because you’d have all these super rich white kids who were completely thoughtless about the way they traveled around the world —in a completely entitled way. I felt very patronized by the whole process of doing social anthropology there as a Somali woman.”

But, she explains, it gave her the tools to understand the food world; which she is now essentially part of, having written for The Oxford Symposium of Food – an annual weekend conference in which members of the academic food world meet to discuss issues in food studies and food history – and appeared on the BBC Food Program; as well as hosting supper clubs and cooking for pop-up restaurants. That trendy food world of supper clubs and the latest interests in world cuisine also tends to be white dominated says Foz:

“Part of me is a bit angry about the fact that the links between food, travel and wealth have not been made. And that actually, it is wealthier white people that travel abroad and it is wealthier white people who ‘discover’ new foods. This idea of ‘discovering’ food as though it never existed before the white gaze, I really find offensive.”

Exploring indigenous Somali culture

Somali food and Somali identity bear the marks of centuries of trade, colonization and spheres of influence. From pasta, which they call “Basta,” dating from the Italian presence, to trade with India resulting in samosa style parcels called “sambusa” and middle eastern influences. Somali food is rich and diverse and shares a lot with its neighbors across East Africa and the Horn of Africa. But it is indigenous Somali culture which interests Foz the most. Engaging with her blackness and her African roots is where she and many other young Somalis are now headed.

“I think there are lots of Somalis who are re-engaging with their blackness. I have always identified as Black British Somali. But there are a lot of issues of internalized racism, where some Somali people don’t want to be associated with Africa. They want to be associated with Arabs and Arabic culture more than the Somali culture. But I think there is a real fightback against this way of thinking. There are so many young Somalis who are re-educating themselves about their own indigenous culture, pre-Islamic.”

Forging your own path

Before she places every dish on the table, Foz explains the background to the food and gives some insight into how different generations of Somalis react to these dishes and what they mean to them. And she clarifies that the exploration of Somali indigenous culture ties in neatly with the idea of hospitality and the supper club; because inviting people to your home and cooking for them is also part of being Somali for Foz.

“I love that aspect of hospitality, which is really important to nomadic culture. I think all Somalis grow up knowing and caring about hospitality because you rely on your neighbors and you rely on your community and you help out when you can because the next year you might need help when your crops fail. I think that’s really important.”

The guests are all white and middle class at this supper club; they’ve paid to come and try something new. But the feeling of hospitality and exchange runs strongly through the whole evening. It is all about forging your own path through the food scene, thinks Foz, just like Arawelo is said to have done all those centuries ago,

“I need to carve it out for the others. Hopefully the food scene will get more diverse and there will be a bit more nuance. Hopefully there will be less white people talking about the best new ethnic foods. Let’s talk about food in a way which is a bit more meaningful and a bit less consuming of otherness.”


  1. I just want to tell you that I am very new to blogging and site-building and definitely enjoyed you’re web-site. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your blog . You certainly have good articles and reviews. Thanks for sharing your web-site.

  2. What i don’t understood is in fact how you’re no longer actually much more smartly-liked than you might be right now. You are so intelligent. You already know therefore significantly in relation to this topic, made me personally consider it from a lot of varied angles. Its like men and women are not interested except it is something to do with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs nice. At all times handle it up!

  3. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

  4. It is my belief that mesothelioma is definitely the most dangerous cancer. It contains unusual traits. The more I look at it the harder I am persuaded it does not respond like a real solid tissues cancer. In case mesothelioma is a rogue viral infection, hence there is the potential for developing a vaccine as well as offering vaccination for asbestos uncovered people who are at high risk associated with developing future asbestos related malignancies. Thanks for expressing your ideas on this important ailment.

  5. Thank you, I have recently been searching for info about this topic for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve discovered till now. However, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you certain concerning the supply?

  6. Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We’ve ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Great. I’m also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your effort.

  7. One more important aspect is that if you are an elderly person, travel insurance with regard to pensioners is something you must really take into account. The older you are, the greater at risk you will be for making something undesirable happen to you while in another country. If you are not really covered by quite a few comprehensive insurance policy, you could have a few serious difficulties. Thanks for discussing your hints on this web blog.

  8. Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  9. This website is really a stroll-by for the entire information you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll undoubtedly uncover it.

  10. I’ve been browsing on-line greater than three hours today, yet I by no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It’s beautiful value enough for me. In my opinion, if all web owners and bloggers made just right content as you probably did, the internet will probably be much more helpful than ever before.

  11. It is actually a great and helpful piece of information. I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Attractive component of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to claim that I acquire actually loved account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing on your augment or even I fulfillment you get entry to consistently fast.

  13. you are really a just right webmaster. The site loading speed is incredible. It kind of feels that you’re doing any distinctive trick. Also, The contents are masterwork. you’ve performed a wonderful job in this subject!

  14. What i don’t understood is if truth be told how you are not really a lot more neatly-liked than you might be now. You’re so intelligent. You understand thus considerably on the subject of this topic, produced me in my opinion consider it from numerous various angles. Its like men and women are not involved until it’s something to do with Lady gaga! Your individual stuffs nice. Always maintain it up!

  15. I¡¦m no longer positive the place you are getting your info, however great topic. I must spend a while studying much more or working out more. Thank you for wonderful information I was on the lookout for this information for my mission.

  16. I would like to thnkx for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade website post from you in the upcoming as well. Actually your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own site now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a great example of it.

  17. I have been surfing online more than 3 hours as of late, yet I by no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is lovely value enough for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content material as you probably did, the internet will likely be much more helpful than ever before.

  18. I must express some appreciation to the writer just for rescuing me from this circumstance. Just after researching through the the net and meeting techniques that were not pleasant, I assumed my life was gone. Existing devoid of the strategies to the problems you’ve resolved by means of your main guideline is a serious case, and ones which could have in a wrong way damaged my career if I hadn’t noticed your blog. Your good capability and kindness in handling the whole thing was crucial. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t encountered such a step like this. I’m able to at this time look ahead to my future. Thanks so much for this professional and result oriented help. I will not think twice to refer your blog post to any person who wants and needs care on this issue.

  19. You have mentioned very interesting points ! ps decent website . “I just wish we knew a little less about his urethra and a little more about his arms sales to Iran.” by Andrew A. Rooney.

  20. I have to convey my passion for your kind-heartedness supporting people that must have help with this niche. Your real commitment to getting the solution all-around ended up being rather valuable and have consistently helped guys and women just like me to reach their objectives. Your new warm and helpful recommendations implies so much a person like me and somewhat more to my office workers. Regards; from each one of us.

  21. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Cheers!

  22. What i don’t understood is if truth be told how you’re now not really a lot more smartly-preferred than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You recognize thus significantly in terms of this topic, made me individually imagine it from so many varied angles. Its like men and women aren’t fascinated except it is one thing to do with Girl gaga! Your personal stuffs excellent. At all times deal with it up!

  23. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author.I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and may come back very soon. I want to encourage one to continue your great writing, have a nice holiday weekend!

  24. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  25. Some really excellent content on this website, regards for contribution. “I finally know what distinguishes man from other beasts financial worries. – Journals” by Jules Renard.

  26. My spouse and i got really cheerful Michael could complete his investigations using the ideas he got from your own web site. It’s not at all simplistic just to choose to be giving out information people today have been trying to sell. And we all remember we now have the writer to give thanks to because of that. The type of illustrations you’ve made, the simple blog navigation, the friendships you aid to foster – it’s got most impressive, and it’s really letting our son in addition to us understand this concept is exciting, which is certainly unbelievably important. Thanks for everything!

  27. The crux of your writing while appearing reasonable originally, did not work very well with me personally after some time. Someplace within the paragraphs you actually were able to make me a believer unfortunately just for a while. I nevertheless have a problem with your leaps in assumptions and you might do nicely to help fill in those breaks. In the event you can accomplish that, I could certainly be fascinated.

  28. hi!,I like your writing so much! share we communicate more about your post on AOL? I require a specialist on this area to solve my problem. May be that’s you! Looking forward to see you.

  29. I was more than happy to seek out this web-site.I wanted to thanks for your time for this excellent read!! I positively enjoying every little little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you weblog post.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here