A Mother’s Kitchen: Azla Vegan Brings Ethiopia To South Los Angeles

Nesanet and Azla, owners of Azla Vegan || Photo by: Alicia Cho
Nesanet and Azla, owners of Azla Vegan || Photo by: Alicia Cho

In Ethiopian cuisine, love is intrinsically linked to food; it’s an ingredient included and shown whether through cooking, family or prayer. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles commune around a dinner table, eager for the meal prepared before them. There will be the passing of plates, the ripping of bread, the scooping of food, and even the feeding of one another. The name for this act of familiarity is gursha. Shown by tearing a strip of injera, filling it with wot, and placing it into a friend or family member’s mouth, this gesture is symbolic of your bond. You are nourishing the other, through food and action.

Located in the Mercado la Paloma—an incubator for first-time business and non-profit owners run by Esperanza Community Housing—on South Grand Avenue, Azla Vegan is symbolic of its matriarchal namesake’s love for and devotion to her family. It’s symbolic of her youngest daughter’s, Nesanet’s, passion for integrating community, health and culture together. Before opening in 2013, “My mom was actually retired in Ethiopia,” Nesanet tells me. You see, Azla immigrated to the United States—twice. Once to raise a family, and then to return to family.

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