No harm giving Vashon’s international flavors a try

  • Wednesday, February 26, 2020 10:36am
  • Opinion

It’s safe to say there are likely more than a few islanders whose mothers called them picky eaters growing up — and The Beachcomber’s editor is no exception.

All kidding aside, there are more than a few reasons why it’s important for everyone to expand their taste palettes and try some new food on Vashon-Maury Island.

Mustafa Almustafa and Jamila Aldahir are serving up Syrian cuisine in a new food truck, Mustafa Syrian Kitchen, which is featured on the front page of this edition of The Beachcomber.

The family is not the first to serve up cuisine from the Middle East on the island. Islanders Safa Jneidi and Iyad Alati, who immigrated from the United States to Syria, have a food cart across from The Beachcomber and the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce Monday through Thursday. And, like Mustafa and Jamila, they’re aiming for their own food truck at some point.

The two middle eastern families serve as examples of how Vashon is diversifying its food options — and more than a few islanders seem to approve.

“The best English phrase would be an understatement; maybe Arabic has words elegant enough to describe the experience of eating this baklava,” wrote Christopher Birdz Van Putten in a Facebook post on Iyad’s Syrian Grill’s page.

The business responded with a thank you, adding, “We are working to satisfy our customers and delight them of our Middle East food.”

This exchange is something of which we can all be proud. It’s a full embrace of international culture. Sure, this is a community that is only accessible by ferry and is away from many other well-known fast-food dining options, such as McDonald’s or Shake Shack. But can we really hold our noses when an island family is offering something many of us have never tried before?

The answer should be no. Trying something new from another country can do more than getting islanders thinking about what they could add to their home dining options. It can help us all embrace our island community members, some of whom are not even natives of the U.S. — and that is a step forward in our understanding of one another on an island that is less culturally diverse than other parts of the Evergreen State.

The Syrian families serving up their native flavors on Vashon-Maury Island comes after the area has seen an uptick in eateries since last year. O Sole Mio Pizza, The Ruby Brink and Camp Colvos are just a few places from which islanders can now choose. Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce executive director Jim Marsh attributed it to people “not freaking out about their sub-prime loans” like they might have during the Great Recession a decade ago.

Now that the economy is in better shape, there may be a few island families who are thinking about international travel. But before you think about traveling afar just for some meat kababs, saffron rice or baba ganoush, try some of the options just down the road.

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