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Variety of edibles entice palates during ‘Culture Block Party'

April 07, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Though the Styrofoam container and plastic fork seem typical enough, the food Kim Hamby is about to eat is something she, like many in the Imperial Valley, has never had before.

One taste, however, and Hamby knew the Lebanese meal was a good choice.

When asked why Hamby selected Lebanese food from the wide-sweeping variety of edibles available at Friday evening's "Taste of Culture Block Party" here, her response was simple.

"I like garbanzo beans," Hamby, of Westmorland, said of the main ingredient of humus, one of the items on her plate.

The 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street were closed to vehicular traffic as families, friends and couples strolled along the road, stopping at crafts booths and listening to live music by local elementary students at one end of the street and a rock band toward the other end.

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And there was the food.

When the Brawley Chamber of Commerce contacted Sonia Castaneda about selling jewelry at the block party, she decided to go a step further and set up a food booth for Westmorland Police Athletic League.

Castaneda, a volunteer with the PAL, thought Hawaiian-themed food would be fun, she said.

"The colors, the fish: it attracts a lot of people," Castaneda said of the reasons why Hawaiian food was a good choice.

"I saw an opportunity," Castaneda said. "If I can make some money for our program, why not?"

With her husband manning the food booth ("He knows how to cook," she said) and their three sons helping out, Castaneda had a steady stream of customers for chicken teriyaki bowls, tropical-flavored snow cones and fresh pineapple slices.

Back at the opposite end of the street, past French, Mexican and Cajun food booths, Gina Christian explained why Lebanese food is catching on in California.

"I think they like it because it has a lot of flavors," Christian said.

People are attracted to the food's healthy nature, too, Christian said.

Lebanese food is low in fat, relying mainly on grilling or baking instead of frying. Vegetables and bulgur wheat are popular ingredients, Christian said.

Christian, of the Montebello catering business Catering by Georgia, came to the "Taste of Culture" event at her uncle Mitch Ellis' request.

Christian and Ellis, owner of Ellis's on Main Street, are of Lebanese decent.

But you don't have to be familiar with a culture to enjoy its food, Friday night proved.

"This is really sweet," Paul Hamby, Kim's husband, said of the baklava in his hand.

"I like it," he concluded.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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