As Peter and I rode the crowded streetcar towards the Taste of Little Italy festival last weekend, we stood beside some older Italian ladies. Peter recognized their Italian dialect from his own province in Italy, and he started chatting with them. The ladies admitted that they had come a long way from a different neighbourhood to attend the festival. With my English ancestry, I thought I was going to be outnumbered.

After we got off the streetcar the first activity that attracted our attention was the Main Stage band. We moved in closer to listen, and we heard the Elton John song, “Crocodile Rock.” The arrangement was lively and Peter had a chance to practise his dance moves. But we kept wondering; how about “O Solé Mio”? Or “Nessun Dorma”? Or even an Italian wedding tarantella? As we ambled along the pedestrian street, we began searching for other things Italian among the street vendors. We didn’t find much.

What we did find, instead, were signs of our city’s diversity. Many cultures were represented in some way. Booths selling clothing items featured Japanese kimonos, East Indian saris, Turkish crystals used in jewellery, American-style beach wear, and motorcycle shirts. Activities for families were pretty generic: basketball hoop games, a kids’ midway with Disney-type rides, mortgage vendors, drag queens – wait a minute! I’m not sure how that show belonged at a family festival. At least there was a large crown of men gathered around, so any children passing by wouldn’t be able to see the barely-covered transvestites.

The food selection showed diversity the best. Visitors were eating Mexican fajitas, French poutine, Korean BBQ, East Asian edemame peas, Japanese ramen noodles, Arabic falafel. In fact, there were some foods that were definitely Not Italian, for example corn on the cob. Nobody in Italy would be caught dead eating corn off a cob. That barn food is fed to cows and pigs. We also imagined Italians would be horrified if they noticed the booth selling chicken-flavoured ice cream for dogs, with no gelato anywhere in sight. And Beer, the drink of choice at this festival, would be passed over in favour of Wine: Chianti, Amarone, or maybe a white Moscato.

Eventually, at the end of the street, we found a small Italian band, outfitted in Italian colours of red, white and green. The men were playing accordions, the women singing, dancing and balancing congé de ramo (metal water jugs) on their heads. Peter recognized their music from his own province of Lazio. Right beside the band was an Italian restaurant. With empty tables! While we waited for our meals of vitello parmesan and linguine al maré, we caved in and ordered craft beer from Ontario. But on the way out we bought the band’s CD. Peter’s Italian heritage was secured.

Our city is resplendent with festivals. Almost everyone has visited the Greek festival on the Danforth in August and tasted the traditional souvlaki or that delicious honey and nut pastry, baklava. The Polish festival is held in Roncesvalles in September. Now if you want polka music, that is the place to visit! The Caribbean festival, Caribana, takes over downtown Toronto in the summer. The highlight is the boundless parade featuring costumes of unparalleled splendor. There’s a little skin showing there too.

The Filipino festival, Taste of Manila, takes place on Bathurst Street in August, but we don’t need to go there. Having two daughters-in-law from the Philippines, we are well-acquainted with chicken adobo, anything made using mango, and many cultural traditions. Diversity is at home n our family. We have a daughter-in-law from China too so we don’t need to take in the Chinese celebrations to learn about the culture. But last winter we decided to celebrate Chinese New Year at a dinner in Chinatown where we ate nine courses and then waddled home. We felt we had truly celebrated the Year of the Pig.

If you have a favourite festival to promote, post a comment below.


4 thoughts on “Diverse-city

  1. Hie Sue, there is an Iranian biennial festival called Tirgan. It will be July 25-28. I have copied part of the information from their website: “Tirgan family is excited to announce the arrival of its much anticipated biennial Tirgan Festival, July 25-28, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. Tirgan refers to an ancient Persian/Iranian festival traditionally held in the month of July, inspiring what is currently the world’s largest celebration of Iranian arts and culture, taking place in Downtown Toronto. Through music, dance, theatre, cinema, literature, visual arts, food and crafts, Tirgan Festival highlights the richness of the contemporary and traditional art and culture of Iran. This year’s theme is “UNITY”; honoring our historical commitment to the celebration of diversity, talent, freedom, and equality. Tirgan Festival 2019 is brought to you by a commendable group of volunteers at some of Toronto’s most iconic performance venues including Harbourfront Centre, St Lawrence Centre for the Arts, and The Distillery Historic District.”

    For more information here is their website: https://tirgan.ca/tirgan2019


  2. I do love this vicarious living as I’ve never been to any of these events. Nice to know what I’m missing. I can almost taste the yummy food.


  3. Hi Susan….such fun and great update for John and I….your blogs are getting longer but I love them….Ruth


  4. You two are truly living life with a zest for adventure! You are truly embracing life in the city. Looking forward to our next read!


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