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How to Pack Like Black Foodie’s Eden Hagos

The founder of Black Foodie on the best African and Caribbean restaurants and her love of plantain.

Eden Hagos

Eden Hagos has an insatiable appetite — for food, yes, but also for exploring the culinary world through a black lens. She’s the founder of Black Foodie, a website she launched in 2015, combining her passion for food with her sociology background. When she’s not reviewing the latest Caribbean restaurant or sharing soul food recipes, she’s organizing events in Toronto, like the Jollof Wars, a West African rice dish competition. We caught up with her before a trip to Montreal for the A Taste of the Caribbean festival.

Scrunch, roll, fold or stuff?
I’m a stuffer with a system: I pack shoes and clothes on opposite sides of my carry-on and keep my laptop accessible.

Where does your passion for food come from?
My mother’s family owned a spice market in Eritrea, and my father’s side ran a café. When they moved to Canada, my parents opened an Ethiopian restaurant in Windsor, Ontario. I grew up around African food, like misir wot, a spicy mix of lentils and rice.

What are some of your favourite African and Caribbean restaurants?
In Toronto, I go to Simone’s on the Danforth for Jamaican brown stew chicken, and Mofer Coffee for the best Ethiopian cup – coffee is a big deal to the culture. Akwaba in Montreal mixes Greek and West African styles, a combo I’ve never seen anywhere else. The Ivory Coast-born owners moved to Greece before coming to Canada, so they serve dishes like moussaka made with sweet potato and manioc.

You’re vocal about loving plantain. What’s so special about the fruit?
I’ve tried it so many different ways since starting Black Foodie. Nigerians chop it up into small pieces and fry it, Gambians add pepper and ginger, and Haitians fry it twice so it’s extra-crispy. Being East African, I hadn’t tried it until moving to Toronto, and then I was hooked.

What's in the bag of Eden Hagos

01 BAG
This was a gift from a friend who imports leather goods from Addis Ababa. The brand, Liyu, supports Ethiopian designers.

I might not have hot sauce in my bag, but I carry a berbere blend with me, which combines paprika, chili peppers, nutmeg and corrorima [similar to cardamom]. My family is in the Ethiopian spice business, so I bring it to friends or sprinkle it into ketchup for some kick.

Airports and lines are great places to network, so I keep my cards on hand, in my col­ourful Papaya & Co. case.

My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris is excellent. She talks about travelling throughout Africa and writing cookbooks. This was in the 1970s when many African-Americans were just starting to connect with their roots, so I see her as a trailblazer.

I listen to podcasts while travelling, like Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, which explores historical events from a different angle. I also like The Serve – it’s about Canadian entrepreneurs and is made by a group of young Toronto-based black women.

No matter the airport I’m in, travellers nod at me in agreement when I wear this Black Foodie top. The plantain love is strong!

I have a major sweet tooth, so I pack chin chin, a crunchy African treat that I buy from an online Nigerian pastry snack shop called Feldos.

Toronto-based L’Orcam makes a super-moisturizing butter that’s solid and doesn’t leak in my bag.