Taste of Home, the 12th documentary in NPT’s award-winning Next Door Neighbors series, premieres Thursday, April 25, at 8 p.m. The documentary will also be broadcast on Wednesday, May 29, at 1 a.m. and will be available for online viewing at ndn.wnpt.org/documentaries.
This edition of Next Door Neighbors highlights members of Middle Tennessee’s Ethiopian, Palestinian and Venezuelan communities. But this is a different kind of Next Door Neighbors production; this is a story of the role food plays in keeping people connected to their home countries, while also helping them form bonds in their new locations.
Producer Shawn Anfinson said the idea to use food as an entrée (so to speak) to exploring cultures came up in a conversation of possible documentary topics. “Food is always there. Wherever we’d go to meet someone or attend an event, they’d be eager to feed us,” Anfinson said. “That gave us an opportunity to show gratitude, not just for their hospitality, but also for their stories.” Anfinson’s previous Next Door Neighbors documentary was 2018’s Between Two Worlds, about Middle Tennessee’s Indian, Chinese and Filipino communities.
“The aroma of the kitchen, this is something that brings home to you,” Venezuelan native Ramón Cisneros says in Taste of Home. It is something that you probably want to put in your suitcase when you leave your country and you can’t.”
Fidel Vasquez and Ivon Reyes, owners of Caracasville at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, are among the Venezuelan natives featured in Taste of Home. As they and Cisneros they tell their stories, viewers see them prepare such traditional Venezuelan dishes as pabellón criollo and arepas (sandwiches made with a warm, chewy cornbread).
In a segment of Taste of Home featuring the Ethiopian Community Association, the traditional coffee ceremony is transformed into a cross-cultural event. “One of the reasons I love [the] United States is because anything is possible,” Hillina Feleke, ECAN’s director of communications and public relations, says in the documentary. “However, I still hold on to my Ethiopian roots because I feel like that helped build me into who I am today.”
Nashville’s Faith and Culture Center, also uses food to foster connections between disparate communities through its A Seat at the Table programs. FCC was founded by Daoud Abudiab, a Palestinian American who grew up in Jerusalem, and his late friend Bernard Werthan, a member of Nashville’s Jewish community. “It’s about building a community where everyone is welcome, heard, seen,” Abudiab says in Taste of Home. “Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Christians and Arabs, it’s the same dream, is to be at peace with one another, to respect our differences, to love others, maybe even before we understand them.”
“We can bring people around the table from different backgrounds and we all can agree, you know, on the same values we share here, being neighbors, living in the same community,” says Nadia Owaida Crank, FCC’s program coordinator, near the end of Taste of Home.
NPT’s Next Door Neighbors: Taste of Home is made possible by the generous support of The Nissan Foundation.
NPT’s Next Door Neighbors series looks at Nashville’s status as a destination city for refugees and immigrants and explores the rich diversity of people now calling Nashville home. Through documentaries, extensive outreach and continued relationships with Nashville’s immigrant and refugee communities the Next Door Neighbors project aims to increase understanding of unfamiliar cultures, highlight the experiences and successes of Nashville’s immigrants, and mediate a community-wide conversation about who we are as Nashvillians.