A Foreign Taste

At a school where the attendance at an event can be predicted by the type of food advertised, the repeated success of the International Food Festival year after year is inevitable. Judging by the amount of food left after students came, ate, and left with painfully full stomachs, this assumption was confirmed. Sixteen countries from five continents were represented. The aim of the event was, according to International Club President Stefanos Kasselakis ’05, is “to show diversity in eating, expand eating preferences, and also to give profit to the club.” Event organizer Mia Kanak ’06 estimated that some clubs made as much as three hundred dollars. Nearly every booth sold out, and at the end of the night the only intact food item remaining in Underwood was a single pumpkin pie. Gracia Angulo ’06, a new student from Jamaica, agreed: “It was really fun to get involved with activities and I did get to meet a lot of people.” She and Silke Cummings ’07 cooked one of the most popular dishes of the festival: a Honduran sponge cake soaked in a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream. Anna Ho ’06 sold a similarly sticky confection; Nanaimo bars from Canada. In past years she has represented the Philippines and China, but this year she decided to make Canadian food because she wanted to try something different. “The International Food Festival is one of the few times that people get to try things they wouldn’t usually eat… I’ve only had Nanaimo bars about five times.” Their name comes from a tribe in British Columbia, and although these brownie-like sweets are not an indigenous tribal food, they are distinctly local fare. The Chinese-Taiwanese Student Association, or CTSA, brought exotic but more familiar items to the Festival, which included the ever-popular bubble tea and scallion pancakes. Although the drink is a new fashion in the United States, bubble tea was invented in the early 1980s in Taiwan. The “bubbles” are actually made of combinations of tapioca, sweet potato, cassava root, caramel, or starch. Arguably, food is the most ingrained part of all world cultures. The last piece of heritage that immigrants and their descendants lose is always traditional cooking. The study of food can reveal much about the society where it originates: geography, customs, and values to name a few. Although students won’t learn everything they ever need to know about Bulgaria by eating stuffed apples, they can share in a visceral experience of something inherent to a culture, food.