Adventures at Eid Show and the Six Awesome Things

Local fun for young and old
Local fun for young and old

I was always planning on taking my kids to the Eid Show. They have it every year, and it’s held at the Bankstown Trotting Club. We live less than 10 minutes away, entry is free, and to top it off, it’s held at a venue that I have fond memories of frequenting as a child. Nothing but winning in my eyes!

This year however, I had more reasons than ever to attend. True confession time: I’ve been known to argue on the internet. Yes, I know it is often pointless. Yes, I know that, with specific regard to those who happen to have the most extreme of views, nothing that I am going to say is going to change their minds. I can be as logical and rational as possible, with no result. I get that. But dammit, some of these comments are awful. They are hate-filled. They are violent. They are full of half-truths, no-truths, and huge amounts of misinformation. So on occasion, I take the bait. *Hangs head in shame*

Lately I have been challenged in a few threads. “Go to Bankstown, then you will see how bad it is,” “take a trip to Lakemba, see what it is like there.” With the exception of one comment, all of these challenges have come from individuals who live nowhere near these areas- on many occasions, from people who don’t even live in NSW. It always makes me laugh when I see these comments directed at me- I live in the Bankstown area. I grew up visiting my grandparents in Canterbury and Lakemba. This place, that these people are trying to demonise, is my home.

Come to the show! There are dodgems.....
Come to the show! There are dodgems…..

So I decided to take their challenge. I’m going to ‘visit’ the areas that I grew up with as my backyard. And as the Eid Show is held close enough to my home that I can see the fireworks from my backyard, I decided it was a good place to start.

There is a giant slide...........
There is a giant slide………..

Eid  is a big deal for Muslims. For my Muslim friends, the event is a big family celebration, much like Christmas is for those of us who are from a Christian background. New outfits are bought. Food is planned for weeks and cooked over several days. Family members that are rarely seen resurface for the celebration. Kids get to stay up late. It is a BIG DEAL. So it shouldn’t surprise me that Eid Show is PACKED. Seriously, it’s like Good Friday at the Royal Easter Show, but with a smaller venue.

Terrible photo of a few of us at the show
Terrible photo of a few of us at the show

We were planning on meeting up with some friends, so we push our way through the crowd until we find a quiet section tucked between a stand selling buckets of fairy floss and a toilet block. My six year old call out in excitement. “Look, mum! A fairy garden!” And suddenly we find the first Awesome Thing at the Eid Show. The fairy garden is actually the entrance to the show’s sensory room, which has been provided for the benefit of special needs kids, who may need a place to calm down or chill out away from the madness and noise of a crowded festival. It was provided by a community group called Al Fitra, which also provided a disabled access toilet facility and and a wheelchair lending service for families who may require them on the night. I approached the women who were running the tent, and they enthusiastically ran me through their set up. The sensory room was darkened, with a comfortable chair, some rugs and pilllows. Around the space were various sensory play items- textured toys, light and sound items, even a special sleeping bag designed to enclose and comfort kids who are over-stimulated. My favourite item in the tent was a textured light-play board, made from moulded foam with painted pushlights pressed into it- my kids thought it was amazing, and I thought it was pretty damn ingenious. The tent is such a great idea. My kids do not have special needs, and they get over-stimulated in crazy environments like festivals and fairs- I can only imagine how much the inclusion of this kind of room would benefit the families with special needs kids. It went one step further than making sure an event was accessible for kids with special needs, and made them feel welcome.

The fairy garden at the entrance to the amazing sensory room
The fairy garden at the entrance to the amazing sensory room

We found our friends, and the kids, overcome with excitement, convinced us to head over to the rides. Some crashing fun on the dodgems, approximately twenty rides down the super slide, and finally I managed to convince the kids that we should go check out the camel rides and pony rides. Here we found the second Awesome Thing: adults were allowed to ride on the camels too. Hubby paid for three, so the kids and I jumped on the camel and plodded around the grassed area.  It was, in all honesty, one of the most exciting things that has happened to me in the last twelve months, and I was so excited that bystanders were laughing. It was a beautiful thing. Once they had convinced me to get off the camel and “let the other kids have a turn”, I asked my kids what they thought. Six year old said “Mum, it was OK, but I rode a camel last year, and THAT was along the beach.” Hmph. Turned to three year old. “Mum, can I go on the motorbikes now? I wanted to go on the motorbikes.” Well, I found it awesome. Camels! CAMELS!

They have CAMELS!!!
They have CAMELS!!!

We wandered around for a while. The kids got balloon fairy wings and balloon swords. I convinced them that face-painting was not a festival necessity. We shared an oversized tub of pink and blue fairy floss. I tried Arabic coffee served by a funky man in traditional clothing, which was thick and sweet, not unpleasant at all, but also not to my taste enough to become an Awesome Thing. We decided to stop for some dinner at some tables near the Gift a Smile stand, which brings me to the third Awesome Thing.

Gift a smile
Gift a smile

Gift a Smile is a charity who’s main aim is to bring joy to the lives of people who are suffering.  They hand out bags chock full of toys in children’s hospitals and children’s wards. They organise parties for kids who are stuck in terrible situations, and raise money to financially assist their families. They visit nursing homes and the elderly in hospital, bringing with them gifts and food. They spend time with people, listen to their stories and offer them comfort. As far as Awesome Things go, a charity that goes out of their way to put smiles on faces is pretty damn awesome.

Gift a Smile with their awesome table of fun stuff
Gift a Smile with their awesome table of fun stuff

I happened to be friendly with one of the women who was running the Gift a Smile stand, so we went over to say hello. As part of their fundraising, they were selling some of the brightly coloured toys that they stock their gift bags with. My kids wanted one of everything, and my friend kept on giving them things, refusing my money. My dad eventually pushed some cash into the hand of one of the volunteers. He can’t say no to my kids, and he can’t say no to a charity that tries to brighten the day of sick kids either. Gift a Smile is passionate about giving special needs kids and their families support, and many of the families who volunteer are families with special needs kids as well. The sacrifices these people make, to volunteer their time, as well as taking care of their own families is amazing. Gift a Smile, I tip my hat at you.

Yogi Sanchez- he has an awesome name, and was selling awesome donuts.
Yogi Sanchez- he has an awesome name, and was selling awesome donuts.

As I was speaking to my friend at Gift a Smile, I noticed a very popular stand selling baked donuts. My friend explained to me that these were not just any donuts, they were being sold by a man who had traveled to Sydney from Melbourne. He was confined to a wheelchair after a terrible accident, and is currently on the long path towards his goal of walking again. Not only were the donuts delicious (Nutella filled! OMG!), Yogi was quite lovely, chatting to people, posing for photos, showing off a bit for the kids. His treatment is costly and time consuming, and his dedication and willingness to go the hard yards to get back what was taken from him is pretty awe-inspiring. I believe they are still selling donuts in Sydney, so if you get a chance, buy a box. Yogi Sanchez is definitely the fourth Awesome Thing that I found at the Eid Show. Tasty treats combined with dedicated perseverance is awesome in anyone’s book.

Donuts. Nutella. Mmmmmmm. They are baked, so they are good for me, right?
Donuts. Nutella. Mmmmmmm. They are baked, so they are good for me, right?

It was getting late and the kids were getting cold and tired. My daughter started complaining about not getting a wax mould of her hand, my son was bummed that he was too young for the motorbikes. Suddenly, explosions filled the air, and hundreds of people started streaming towards the grassed area. The fifth Awesome Thing, fireworks! We usually just watch them from the yard of our house, but this year we ran towards the field with the crowd. A friend’s teenage daughter grabbed my three year old, and took him right to the front of the barriers to watch. My one year old stared in complete awe. This is what made it an Awesome thing. I love watching kids when they see fireworks for the first time! The display was pretty spectacular, and we were lucky enough to have a really good spot. Yay for fireworks!

The sixth Awesome Thing was not specific to any experience or group. It was the sense of community that was present the entire time we were there. It wasn’t exclusive to one group or another. It was completely inclusive. From the young man who helped my son off a ride, to the people laughing at with me when I was rocking out riding a camel, it was an event filled with joy and pride in one’s community. This is a community of people who are often given such a hard time in the media, and an even harder time by certain groups of people on social media. Yet they are incredibly generous, welcoming and fun to hang around with. These are people who let little kids push in front of them in the toilet line when they are busting  pee. They are nice people, regular people.

We left the Eid Show with three happy, sugar filled kids who thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. If you live locally and have always wondered, head on over next year. Have some fun!

My new Eid Show BFF
My new Eid Show BFF
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Knafeh- aka the hippest food in town

If you live in Sydney haven’t heard of Knafeh, you are probably not a huge user of social media. Or television. Knafeh is currently is currently a ‘big thing’ around town. Twitter and Instagram are filled with pictures hashtagged with the name. Knafeh is currently seriously cool. I first found out about them when I was tagged in a Facebook post. Knafeh was going to be in Greenacre, a mere 10 minute drive from my house. I had no idea what it was, but I was promised that it would be delicious.

Behold, a box
Behold, a box!

So, on a cold Saturday night, with kids and husband in tow, I went to Greenacre to find out what this Knafeh business was all about. My dear friend Ossama, a beautiful, courageous and funny individual suggested that we check it out. She also invited me to eat Lebanese food with her family. Delicious food followed by more delicious food? I was sold.

We met Ossie at the house she shares with her husband and six incredibly photogenic kids. I’m not lying about that. Six beautiful faces, beautiful smiles- it’s like walking into a living stock image. Ossie and her hubby Sal aren’t so bad either. As well as being ridiculously photogenic, they are well spoken, polite and friendly. My kids and her kids became instant BFFs.

Our crazy, funny, instant BFFs
Our crazy, funny, instant BFFs

Ossie had prepared a simple meal, which consisted of approximately five courses and was about three times more than anyone could possibly eat. Meat pizza, fresh and hot with flatbread and mince mixture on top. A spaghetti dish, made with cold pasta, and mixed with yoghurt and garlic. As strange as that sounded to me, it was actually delicious, and is also a bloody brilliant meal for little kids- my three happily consumed large bowls of it. Our meal was finished with large bowls of cherries, which Ossama had somehow found, at an exorbitant price, in the cold of Winter. I unashamedly consumed more than was probably polite, they are my favourite fruit, and these cherries were GOOD. We chatted for a while, and then bundled the kids into cars for the short drive up the road to find Knafeh.

The converted shipping container
The converted shipping container

Knafeh, aka “The Bearded Bakers” is a family company that operate their business from a repurposed shipping container. The container moves to a different location every week or so, much like a slightly less mobile food truck. It’s a mini-cafe complete with decorations, entertainment, and most importantly, DESSERT. On this night, it was set up in a little laneway just off the main road, next to a pub and and a carpark. It’s amazing even without eating the food. The interior of the container is decorated with floor to ceiling painting, funky lighting and the kind of food-packaging-as-decor that is so trendy right now. A host of men in beards take orders, prepare, cook, and serve the food, while simultaneously performing- they sing, they dance, they pose for selfies with customers while producing fresh hot knafeh with speed and precision. It’s impressive.

The bearded bakers, doing what they do best
The bearded bakers, doing what they do best
Entertainment- the other thing they do pretty damn well!
Entertainment- the other thing they do pretty damn well!

The popularity is impressive too. We rocked up at 8:30pm, to a queue that went down the laneway and into an alley that runs between the carpark and pub. It is truly organised chaos, friends running into old mates, people waving at acquaintances through the crowd. Occasionally the music goes up, and half of those waiting and eating start singing along. I have no idea what they were singing. Their passion and nostalgia was clear though- it was obvious to me that for many, this song reminded them of their history. If you have to wait in a really long line, this is the kind of line that you want to wait in.

The best way to enjoy an evening- with awesome people!
The best way to enjoy an evening- with awesome people!

After an hour of waiting, my three year old was thirsty. And he needed to pee. And he was bored. And he was hungry. So I took him around the corner for a walk, a toilet, and a bottle of water. When I returned, pizza-style boxes full of little cardboard bowls awaited. My friends looked at me with half-eaten sweets and anticipatory smiles. “Wait!” cried Ossama, “we have to take a photo of THE MOMENT!” Photo taken, I grab my spoon and dig in.

The dessert that's worth the wait
The dessert that’s worth the wait

Oh……My……Deliciousness…… The top is crunchy, and covered with a sweet rosewater syrup. Below this crunch is a heavy, stringy, slightly sweet custard. Not quite custard though….. I look at my friends questioningly. “It’s cheese!” they tell me. Cheese! Of course! It’s incredibly rich and warming. It is comfort food, like pumpkin soup and apple crumble. Before I am even aware that I have done it, I’ve devoured a whole serve. Encouraged by my friends, I start on another. It’s trendy, it’s gimmicky, it’s freaking fantastic. Deserving of thousands of filtered photos with hashtags.

Another photo of the crazies- because I can.
Another photo of the crazies- because I can.

Ossama tells me that while it’s good, the recipe she has is better. This assertion is confirmed by everyone around me. You can make something this good better? THAT is something to look forward to!

With my one year old sound asleep, and my older two fast approaching the point of tired where grumpiness is inevitable, hubby and I agree that it is time to call it a night. I am so full that my jeans feel tight, and I can’t stop my enthusiastic chatter. Knafeh is not just a really fashionable food, it’s a unique event. Worth the queue, worth the cold, worth the shielding of my son while he relieves himself on a tree. The Bearded Bakers are definitely onto something.

Overthinking

I started this blog in a fit of indignation, with an awesome name, and a lot of enthusiasm. I was angry with the hateful things I was seeing posted on social media. Angry with the way minority groups were portrayed by commercial news outlets. I still am.

I have always been the person who dreams big, and I have often been the person who hits the ground hard when they fall back to earth. And in true Rissa-style, I had grandiose dreams, which were very specific, and in hindsight possibly not easily delivered. With three kids, a full-time job and a crazy life, finding the hours to regularly, physically, eat with people on a basis frequent enough for it to be the primary focus of one blog is probably not possible.

So I decided to change. I may not have time, but dammit, I have a lot to say. I’m opinionated. I’m passionate. I’m wordy.

I still want to eat with you. But I also want to talk to you. I want you to send me your favourite recipes, so that I can share them with my family. I want to try new things, and write about things I care about, and share food with people that I love. I will still take every opportunity to share meals with those who are prepared to open up to me. And I would love to know about cultural events that represent you and the people that are important to you. But don’t be surprised to find the odd post about the issues that I care about and the random crap that I think about on here too.

I say random things fun fact: my heart thinks unicorns are real
I say random things fun fact: my heart thinks unicorns are real

Expect more posts in the near future. If you want to eat with me, share a recipe or story with me, find I’ll Eat With You on Facebook and drop me a line. I appreciate any input that you provide.