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Sarah Haley. Photo: Ming Wu.

Fringe Review: Olive: A Culinary Landscape

By Colin Noden on June 20, 2019

Olive: A Culinary Landscape
by Sarah Haley
60min / G / Solo / Storytelling

Olive was at capacity the night we went. I’d advise getting your tickets to this touching experience ASAP.

You’ll see four recipes made and be given the opportunity to sample them as you talk to Sarah at the end. It will be a chance to add to the conversation she starts in the first half hour.

Sarah made it clear at the beginning that this was not a performance, but an invitation to learn her story through food. It’s a quest to answer a growing question for many people.

How much of your cultural heritage should you use to guide your life?

I’ve heard stories of similar struggles from other friends. I mention this because Sarah looked and sounded very alone up there. Maybe you’re going through some degree of it as well.

Photo: Ming Wu

The loud laughter after Sarah confessed to little cheats she used for the recipes at home, showed the audience could relate. But further down the scale it gets more serious than having nightmares of your grandma throwing your dish out the window.

Asian friends have been called “bananas”. African Americans called “not black enough.” Off-Reservation Native Americans called frauds. When they start to refute those insults, they feel the guilt of self recrimination. How much of their inherited culture are they entitled to hold? How much of it are they obligated to uphold?

This gets even harder when their families come from an area of conflict. What actions are valid and authentic for them?

This is heavy thinking. It’s also Sarah’s life story. And she thinks she found the answer through food. The olive is central to Sarah’s family story. The olive branch is also the symbol of peace. Food is a great door opener to the heart’s answers. It’s an easy bridge to greater cultural understanding and involvement.

Sarah paused with each recipe ingredient, she would give instructions, then a story as to why this was important to her family and culture.

As the stories grew more serious, the scent of the food began to work its way across the room. She had our attention. And when the smell of the coffee hit us, people were anxious to come up for a chat.

Sharing food opens hearts. It may be one of the most important cultural cornerstones in your life. It’s a good start as you figure the rest out. And your grandma will be proud of you.


Olive: A Culinary Landscape by Sarah Haley is playing at Studio 2201 (10 Daly Ave) until Saturday June 22, 2019. Tickets cost $12 online (plus a $2 processing fee) and at the door. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe.


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