Food was in abundance at the Community College of Vermont’s 15th annual International Food Festival Wednesday evening.
A sea of community members joined CCV-Winooski students, staff, and faculty gathered at the Winooski academic center to taste dishes from around the globe— sweet, savory, spicy, and delicious.
Three long banquet tables filled the Janice Couture community room and were covered with platters piled high with samosas, overflowing bowls of rice dishes, a generous spread of tortilla chips with homemade salsas, a platter of stuffed grape leaves, Mexican churros, and an enormous pot of aromatic chana masala, just to name a few.
Accompanying each dish on the tables were small cards with the name of the dish, its country of origin, a description of the food and its ingredients.
Richard Witting, a CCV graduate with a passion for cooking attended the event with his catering hat on, manning two tables along with University of Vermont anthropology students who helped him prepare three ethnic dishes for the crowd.
Witting is the owner of Firefly Catering, a company that has been in existence for seven years.
His two tables at the food festival were covered with beautifully-presented Russian pierogies—a dumpling-type dish filled with turnips and topped with herbed sour cream and pickled cabbage—Lablabi, a Tunisian vegetarian stew, and cachapas, a Venezuelan dish consisting of corn cakes topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and tomato.
“It feels so great to share my food with people,” Witting said. “Cooking for this event is especially fun because I can prepare whatever dishes I find interesting— Things I wouldn’t normally make.”
Throughout the evening, a steady stream of students, CCV staff,and community members tasted, talked, and mingled with one another, enjoying the bonhomie and diversity that have come to typify the annual event .
For first-year CCV student Naima Mohamed, originally from Somalia, the sense of community at the event was her favorite aspect, along with the food, of course.
“It’s so beautiful how people come together here to learn about different cultures,” she said. “I think that is very important.”
Her favorite dish? The Chinese rice.
Along with the abundance of food at the festival, there were also activities for guests to enjoy, including arts and crafts offerings and a henna tattoo station. Winooski resident David Larson also held salsa dancing lessons for those so inclined.
“Music and dance is a lot like food in that it bridges all cultures,” Larson said. “It creates a bond between people. You don’t have to speak the same language as someone else to enjoy dancing.”
Academic Coordinator Tuipate Mubiay shared similar sentiments about food.
“Food is a big element in getting people together,” he said. “When people eat together, they tend to share the same ideas. Having this event every year helps unite the community—and we are a college for the community.”
Amy Stuart, also an academic coordinator at CCV-Winooski, has been the head organizer of the food festival since its inception in 2000.
She spoke to the importance of holding this event each year.
“Community is built around people interacting together at the table,” she said. “It gives an opportunity for our students to do something that is familiar to them— to prepare a dish that they are familiar with and take pride in preparing and sharing. It also creates a sense of belonging for our students.”
This year’s festival drew the largest crowd ever with more than 200 people in attendance, she said.
“I hope next year we are just as successful,” Stuart said.