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Black-owned restaurant brings rich Ethiopian flavors to FoCo

A picture of a building
A picture of the outside of Raska International Cuisine & Sauce located on 128 Laurel St. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian).

Black History Month presents itself as an opportunity to reflect on history and celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans. Within this annual event, there is an opportunity to embrace global Black culture.

Colorado State University students here in Fort Collins are uniquely poised to celebrate these contributions while also supporting a local Black-owned business by enjoying a rich, savory meal rooted in Ethiopian culture at Raska International Cuisine & Sauce.

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Raska, located at the intersection of Mason Street and Laurel Street, was started by Hanna Selassie. Selassie, originally from Gondar, Ethiopia — one of the country’s oldest cities — immigrated to the United States to become a student at CSU and worked full time to support her two kids. 

Selassie’s restaurant started in 2003 as a store to sell her unique sauces, which grew into the thriving kitchen she maintains today. Selassie said that her food was inspired by her leaving home when she was very young and wanting to take her heritage with her.

“When I miss my family, food is one of the things I hold on dearly to remember them,” Selassie said. “(Food is) sacred to Ethiopians, (it’s) how (we) express our love to one another.”

The stout, orange building on Laurel Street catches the eye and offers a chance to try Ethiopian food, a cuisine some CSU students may not have experienced before.

I was pleasantly surprised by the intense flavor that my dish, Tedla’s delight, had. Some people are accustomed to saying that when a dish is “spicy,” it contains heat — an attribute they may shy away from. When it comes to Selassie’s own in-house Raska sauce, “spicy” actually means absolutely jam-packed with flavor and spices. That’s not something to be afraid of. 

Selassie’s motto for her life is very clear. She declares it proudly on the landing page for her business at raskasauce.com: “Health is happiness, and food is an important way to obtain that happiness.” Selassie said that our foods now are often artificially modified and sterilized, and she works to incorporate more natural and authentic cooking in her dishes. 

“Having an indigenous way of cooking helps our health,” Selassie said. “We are what we eat; it is very important for me to remember that.”

Black History Month gives Selassie an opportunity to look back on her own community, her skin color and her culture. It also provides a meditation on not only Black culture in America but also on her home country of Ethiopia and the global Black community.

“American history is full of tears and blood; it is dynamic and self-reflecting,” Selassie said. “African Americans are survivors, and I feel guilty for reaping the pleasures of their sacrifice. I have nothing to complain (about).” 

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Selassie also said that, as human beings, we have a tendency to compare and contrast ourselves and judge others as inferior without recognizing the importance of what they offer to society.  

“This is a time we have to be mindful and grateful for the participants and listeners of these fragile communities,” she said. “We can appreciate and treasure other cultures and other ways of communities through our food at least.”

This February, it is important to reflect on American and African American history. We are one national community and our histories are deeply intertwined, so instead of looking at what divides us, we can reach connection in simple pleasures, like in the way Selassie creates her food. Consider supporting a local Black-owned business or restaurant like Raska if you can this month and continue creating these deeply important connections.

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Alexandra MacDonald can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @alexandramacc.

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