By way of introduction to a small group of people who have joined her for the Food, Faith Feast Taste Tour, Yamane Fayed clarifies she is no “foodie”, but she does love food.
Fayed has been a Taste tour guide of the Bonnyrigg area for the last two years, after being recommended by a friend who was one of the co-founders of Taste Tours.
“I was just looking for casual work because I have three young children; two girls and one boy,” she said.
The former school teacher admits she loves speaking to people about food and hopes to shed a different light on Western Sydney through her tours.
“I want to show the generosity of the people here, and that they work hard and they’re not sitting on Centrelink and bludging.
“I also want to show them that the crime rates are not so bad; you can walk in Cabra[matta] without being robbed. Personally, when I first moved here I was told to be careful on the streets, and I use to think, ‘Why?’. If you go to Bondi or Double Bay you could get robbed there too.
“I want to show the migrant culture is important, we are Australians, they are Australians, and that we are part of this food bowl, or the Fairfield City Council area is the food bowl of Sydney. This an area where you can try authentic food, and you wouldn’t find that anywhere else.”
Born to Lebanese parents, Fayed bares the typical features of a Lebanese woman: Smooth olive skin, big almond shaped eyes, and enviously thick lashes. But unlike most migrants from Lebanon, Fayed speaks with a French accent.
She reveals she spent most of her childhood and her teenage years growing up in Paris, a city her family decided to settle in to escape the civil war back home in Beirut.
But despite the move, her parents never let her forget where she came from. Her mum would often cook Lebanese dishes at home, and to add variety, the odd Italian or French inspired dish such as pasta bake, spaghetti, and schnitzel.
“We also used to go to eat Vietnamese and Chinese food in restaurants. Our family favourite was to order fresh spring rolls at a Vietnamese traiteur nearby our house,” she said.
Fayed also recalls they visited Lebanon frequently, as it was never her parents’ intention to move to Paris permanently.
“[My parents] eventually became homesick. It wasn’t in their mindset to live in Paris forever, it was always temporary for them to leave; we always use to go on holidays back to Lebanon. It’s not like in Sydney where people don’t go back, or if they do, it takes them ages. I find I go back every year or two years,” she says.
Fayed and her family eventually moved back to Beirut. By then, Fayed was 17-years-old and was completing the equivalent version of the high school certificate, but in French.
“My mum tried hard to teach me to read and write in Arabic, but when I was in France I got caught up learning other languages, including German and Spanish. When I returned to Lebanon and tried to speak Arabic I spoke with an accent, and people would laugh at me,” she said.
Despite unable to fully grasp her native tongue, Fayed says her mum continued to ensure they were always generously fed Lebanese food, including her favourites, Warak Enab (stuffed Vine Leaves) and Mloukhiyyeh, dishes that she is still trying to learn how to make.
“When I go back my mum knows what I miss the most and I’m slowly trying to learn those more difficult and time consuming dishes,” she said.
But it wasn’t until arriving to Australia nine years ago, after – what she refers to as – “accidentally” meeting her husband, a Lebanese-Australian, in Beirut just as she completed her Masters in French Literature, was she flooded with the diversity of food.
“I have to admit that Australia opened my eyes to the wonders of the diversity of cuisines here, and that’s when I started experimenting cooking food other than Lebanese, with a lots of tips and advices from my local Thai grocer around the corner, my friends and of course online,” she said.
“So at home for my family I cook Lebanese food I learned from my mum but also a variety of Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, and South American dishes.
“Food is part of everyday life, we gather around food, food is connector, it’s something that brings us all together, brings us joy and pleasure. I believe in pleasure, I think we should treat food with respect, and don’t take it for granted and enjoy it.”
Community Table attended Taste Food Tours courtesy of Benevolent Society.