Welland: A Special Place to Call Home

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If you ask Naomie Cesar how she ended up in Welland, she will tell you it was because she ran out of money. If you ask her why she stayed in Welland, she will tell you it was because of the people. After leaving Haiti Naomie lived in Miami for 7 years.  In 2008, she left a warm Miami and was welcomed by frigid January temperatures when she arrived in Fort Erie. She had finally made it to Canada but she had only $50 dollars in her pocket.  No where near enough money to get to her intended destination, Montreal.  Just enough to get a ride to Welland.  Naomie will also tell you about all the people in Welland who helped her finish her education to finalize her residency requirements. She will tell you about Mary, her Welsh adoptive Mom, who continues to help Naomie strive for new dreams. Naomie can’t stop talking about what a special place Welland is.

Eventually Naomie was able to afford a trip to Montreal but it didn’t take her long to realize that it wasn’t the place she wanted to raise her children. A friend suggested she check out Toronto but by then there was no place like Welland in Naomie’s heart. It was home. The people of Welland had helped her when she needed help desperately and now it was her dream to give back to the community that had given so much to her.

DSCF9422In the past few years, Naomie has helped others who are new to Canada.  Besides being a RPN at the Niagara Falls hospital she volunteers with Niagara Victim Support Services. She also travels to people’s homes to give foot care.  That’s how she started providing  difficult to find hair products her clients are always looking for.  A dream to open a shop offering imported hair & beauty supplies as well as Caribbean foods started to form in her mind.  Welland’s Heritage Council provided training through their Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Programme that helps immigrant women reach their dreams.  That is how I met Naomie when the programme asked me to provide mentorship to her.  Although we serve different ethnic communities, our product lines present  the same challenge of finding and providing hard to source items people are seeking.  Like Naomie, we also started our business from the ground up.  It was a good fit immediately.

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I have been impressed with Naomie’s strong work ethic, her caring heart and her amazing courage.  We are fortunate to have her call Welland home.  Even more we are fortunate that she is helping to revitalize Downtown Welland and contributing to the wonderful diversity that makes Welland the special city it is.

Join her May 13 to celebrate the opening of her dream store:  CaribAfrican Specialty Shop.  You will find it near the Tribune offices at 234 East Main St.

In The Quest For Tea…

sheona     Guest blog by Sheona Della-Fort

If you are from England you will understand our love affair with tea. Though I have adapted somewhat to coffee drinking and Tim Hortons in Canada, I will always love a hot steaming cup of tea.

When I opened the kitchen cupboards the other day and found out that I had run out of my favourite drink, I was really glad that the European Pantry in Welland was open. Jacqui, the owner sells a bewildering array of teas.

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I have enjoyed a number of the teas she carefully selects from a variety of tea blenders from as nearby, as Wainfleet, Ontario and all over the world…definitely the best place to go in Niagara for the best teas. Click here for more information about their tea selection.

As I walked down to The European Pantry, my mind slipped into a reverie and memories of a country I had traveled to which is a major exporter of tea. tea 1Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was called by the British is an island off the coast of India, and its teas are world renowned. Interestingly, it was also a Dutch colony during the 17th century.

During my last visit to Sri Lanka in 2012 I was able to visit a tea plantation. The scenic drive to the tea estate based in Nuwara Eliya was breathtaking with numerous waterfalls, bakers falls near tea estatelush green hills and fields thickly covered with tea plants. The cooler climes of this region make it the ideal place to grow teas such as Orange Pekoe. Tea pluckers in colourful garb were busy picking tender tea leaves and placing them into baskets tied to their backs.

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After arriving at the centre, we were allocated a lady guide who showed us pictures of the history of the factory before we went into the main tea processing plant. Our guide continued her commentary by stating that Orange Pekoe undergoes extensive processing before it gets to the market. Tea leaves must first wither, after which processors roll, heat and ferment them. It is this fermentation process, which is also known as oxidation that distinguishes black teas from white and green teas.

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tea2Later that day, my interest was piqued as I found out about the conditions for tea workers on the island. I had read about human rights violations in the past and hoped to discover what improvements were being implemented. I met with my friend Charlotte who was originally from the UK and now resided in Sri Lanka helping street kids in various parts of tea workersTea image - some of the kids being helped by CHILd Action Lankathe country. She was part of a charity called Child Action Lanka or CAL for short. Because of my concern for women and children who live in poverty, I had volunteered with this charity in the past. Charlotte was able to tell me about the work that they were now doing reaching out to children who live in grinding living conditions. You can read about the charity’s work here.

 

Volunteering abroad has made me realize how fortunate I am to live in a western country where access to basic necessities and education is available to all. It stops me taking things for granted and to live with an attitude of gratitude. Helping in a small way through personal volunteering or making a financial contribution seems like a drop in the ocean compared to the need, but it is necessary to keep me grounded.

My walk was over so time for my reverie to end and decide which of the teas here at The European Pantry I will enjoy this time. I reached for a packet of herbal tea…

 

Memories of Hungary

European Pantry in Welland brings back memories of historic Hungary

 Guest Blog by Sheona Della-Fort

The lure of breathtaking scenery, a chance to experience another culture and the warmth of the friendly Canucks were the reasons that drew me to leave England to study in Canada. Settling into Welland, located in the Niagara Peninsula was not particularly difficult and I adjusted well to the wintry conditions.

It was on one of those frosty mornings that I discovered by chance the European Pantry. I first thought it was a quaint house,DSCF9274 but on entering the store discovered it to hold a bewildering array of cheeses, smoked meats, chocolates and spices.  Remember the time you walked into Grandma’s house and she had spent the day baking and preparing treats for you? The warmth of the store enveloped me and the colourful array of goods begged me to touch, taste and smell.

I spied some Hungarian paprika on a shelf and immediately a flood of memories came back to me of when I last visited Budapest.  I remember visiting Szentendre, a DSCF9304charming town near to Budapest and seeing shops selling paprika in its various forms. I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing like authentic Hungarian paprika in your Goulash with lashings of soured cream.

Another memory of handcrafted table linen slipped into my mind.  Handcrafted linen is a dying art these days in our technology focused world. I remember one Hungarian lady displaying her wares. There was something so sweet in her stature. Though she had hands gnarled with years of59124_1616205210915_7658038_n hard work, she proudly displayed a tablecloth with an intricate pattern of flowers.  A truly beautiful lady.

Anna and Richard, my Hungarian friends also introduced me to Langos – a dreamy dish of fried dough topped with cheese.  Highly calorific but well worth it. They handed me a shot of Palinka or firewater to wash it down; a fruit based brandy to add to my Hungarian experience.

Walking along the Danube River at night is an experience not to be missed; the skyline is dotted with landmarks of historic buildings and is an impressive sight to behold.  The sounds of busking musicians and the bustle of restaurants getting ready for the nightly trade filled my senses.  A moment in my life when time stood still.

Back to the real world. Jacqui the owner of The European Pantry breaks into my DSCF9279reverie and offers me a sampling of cheese and introduces me to the delights of marzipan chocolate.  Will I be coming back? Yes, of course when I need my European fix!

 

 

 

Coffee Time!

IMG_4751There’s a chill wind blowing outside. Time to pull out a mug and fill it with your favourite coffee! I am a latte girl myself so dipping biscotti might be a bit of sweet over kill…but I love the scene in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” where Judi Dench explains the perfect technique of dunking one’s biscuit in a hot drink. You need to dip just long enough to soften your cookie but not so long that the cookie falls into the drink. My good friend Jane in Somerset told me of the morning she didn’t pull her digestive out of her coffee quick enough and it sank as a sodden lump to the bottom of her cup.  Her husband offered to switch cups….That’s love!

But I am enjoying my favourite joe in a new birthday mug and theseIMG_4746 great biscotti are a perfect bit of sweet to dip in and out in just that perfect “Exotic Marigold” way. Did The European Pantry really need to add another cookie to our current selection of over 30? Yes, Tuscan biscotti are too good to pass up. These Cantuccini Almond cookies made by Dolciaria Gadeschi in Corte De’ Frati near Milan, Italy are perfect dunkers.IMG_4747 Loaded with almonds and just the right about of sweetness to dip in your espresso IMG_4755and pull out at that right moment to enjoy. Thankfully we don’t have to go to Italy to get them…they are here for us to enjoy in Welland!

Goodbye Dear Family

My friend, Vicky, and I were chatting about the immigrant experiences of our parents. Many were funny; others were poignant. Vicky told me that when her mother wrote home about her life here in Canada, her father took his daughter’s stories and published them in a Dutch newspaper column. However, many immigrants’ stories have never been published let alone recorded. Their stories are wonderful testaments to human resiliency, perseverance, ingenuity, community and faith. We need to share their stories before they are forgotten because many of our parents and grandparents are no longer with us. .

Welland is a city built by immigrants from many different countries. In keeping with “Throw Back Thursday” I would like to give people the opportunity to share their stories and those of their parents and grandparents. If you have a picture and story to share, please send it to us and we will try to share one each week. Here is our first installment:

Goodbye Dear Family

In today’s world of internet: Facebook, facetime; Skype, emails, it is hard to imagine the great chasm immigration created between immigrants and their families back home. Alkema family 1954This picture is of my mother-in-law, Tjitske with her family in 1954. She was already engaged to my father-in-law, Jan but wouldn’t join him in Canada for another 3 years. In the meantime, they carried on a courtship by correspondence. She is the young woman on the left looking very poised at less than 21 years of age…younger than each of my Alkema Jaap&Geertjechildren already. In those days when people immigrated they did so knowing that they might never see their loved ones again. Special events like weddings would probably be missed. In fact, when Tjitske and Jan married in 1958 here in Canada, only Jan’s sister Gerda and her husband were present.  Photos became very important leaving a record of the significant events that Tjitske missed back home: Like her brother Jaap’s wedding above and the funerals of her father and grandfather. Alkema, Pake Bergsma graveAlkema, Pake gravestoneBut she never focused on what she missed but rather on all she gained by coming to Canada.

Canada was indeed very much the land of new horizons. After my mother and her sister immigrated as teenagers, they decided that their weddings would be done the Canadian way: diamond engagement rings; beautiful white wedding dresses; bridesmaids, a large wedding celebration with a wedding cake. You can see in this picture that my mother did get her wish.Corry & Simon wedding group pic Her aunt, a skilled seamstress sewed her classic wedding dress. I hate to think what the cost meant for these cash strapped immigrants! For my grandparents this was all a bit foreign and complexing… what exactly was a “Canadees” wedding? My grandfather finally thought he had answered this question after both these sisters were married. At my parents’ wedding during the double ring ceremony one of the rings was dropped and had to be retrieved. A year later on my Aunt Willie’s big day, another wedding ring went rolling. Opa leaned over to my grandmother and said, “So this is what makes a wedding Canadian?”

Bike Trips

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We have had this towel for a long time.  I am not sure if it was a gift or if we “inherited” it from family. Friesche Elfsteden refers to a “tocht” which translates into English as a journey or trip. In this case it is a 235 kilometer journey through eleven cities in Friesland, The Netherlands. The “Elfsteden Tocht” can be completed by bike, car, ice skates or by boat. This morning my eye fell on the bicycle pictured on the towel.  It got me thinking about Niagara’s Circle Route. Visitors completing the route won’t be taking home a towel like this. Perhaps bottles of Niagara wine? What else can they bring home that will remind them of their trip years from now?

The Elfsteden Tocht has been challenging people for over 100 years. Our Niagara Circle Route is a babe in arms compared to that. However, we obviously are part of an old tradition. Let’s make our visitors welcome so they go home with many special memories and hopefully some of momentos made right here in Niagara.

Do you produce something special here in Niagara? This is a call out to you or anyone who can suggest products that visitors can take home with them. Message us and we will post as many as we can here!

For more about the Elfsteden tocht  click here

Peddle in for lunch & we will give you a free linen lunch bag!

IMG_3737The European Pantry is part of the Niagara Bike Friendly Business Network. To encourage you to hop on your your bike we are still handing out free lunch bags to cyclists who peddle in to enjoy our lunch options here at The European Pantry. Rachel was the first person to receive of our handcrafted linen bags styled to hang from your bicycle handle bars.IMG_3706IMG_4110

Choose from our wide selection of individual sized pieces of cheese and meats, olives, foccacia buns and more.IMG_3735

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Niagara Bike Friendly Business Network is sponsored by Healthy Living Niagara     Click here for more information about Active Transportation.         BUT HURRY IN! Before these lunch bags with iconic vintage cycle images are gone.IMG_3736