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Students celebrate culture at World Food Fair

Photo by Grant Alphenaar.
Photo by Grant Alphenaar.

Students celebrated culture while tickling their taste buds at the World Food Fair this Friday.

Held on the east end of commons lawn, the final event of UnLearn Week was set up carnival-style, featuring a table from each country, colorful flags from all over the world and upbeat music. Students could purchase four tickets for $1, 10 tickets for $2 or all-you-can-eat for $3. The tickets were then exchanged for servings of food at the various tables.

Calvin’s international students enjoyed sharing their culture’s unique food in a fun environment.

Many students prepared dishes that are considered common, or basic, in their country. The Indian table handed out chai tea and portions of chicken curry on naan bread. According to sophomore Michael David, there are numerous regional variations of curry, but he chose chicken curry because it is an across-the-board standard that represents the whole nation.

David went on to state why he believed the food fair was an important contribution to UnLearn Week.

“Food says a lot about a country,” he explained. In India, people eat spicy foods because the climate is so warm. Though it seems counterintuitive to northerners, the heat of the spicy food actually cools off the body by making you sweat. “And we just like the effect of spicy food on the tongue,” he added with a laugh.

Another student chef emphasized the importance of breaking down stereotypes and educating people about cultural differences.

“Lots of people think, ‘Oh, you’re African, you eat this, you’re like this,’ but there are so many diverse countries in Africa,” said Grace Thuo, a Kenya native. She hoped that this event would help to take away people’s assumptions about her country and give them just one small taste of the rich culture that makes her country unique.

The fair offered a huge variety of dishes to choose from. Student favorites included plantains from Ghana, doughnuts from Ethiopia and myodovik, a Russian cake consisting of golden-brown layers with cream spread in between.

For senior Lauren Cremean, not all the dishes were unfamiliar. “One of the Korean dishes reminded me of my grandmother. She used to make it for us.” Cremean’s memory demonstrates the power of food in connecting us with our home and our family.

For students who didn’t recognize a single morsel, the connection isn’t any less strong. American students were able to see their friends and classmates in a new light; their pride for their country put them in context in a way, and allowed for greater understanding of where people come from.

Many Calvin students reported feeling blessed to be in a community made up of people from all over the world. This event helped to put that community on display; in the words of freshman Maaike Mudde, “Our plates are like a map of the world.”

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