Food Bazaar an International Celebration of Taste
It's nearly 5:30 on a Sunday evening, and the Harris Center is filled with the smell of Ecuadorian patacones, Ghanaian waaky, and Malaysian sambal tumis udang mingling with those of dishes from a slew of other countries. Students put the finishing touches on their creations while ‘celebrity heat meters’ roam the room, rating the relative spiciness of the dishes. When all is ready, the doors open and the crowd rushes in to enjoy the International Student Organization (ISO) food bazaar.
Students from around the world host the feast — a decades-old tradition — sharing traditional recipes from their homes or travels. With nearly 50 different dishes from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa, the event has something for nearly any taste. The menu includes vegetarian and vegan dishes, as well as those with various meats, poultry, and seafood.
Student organizers begin planning months earlier, assisted by staff from International Student Affairs. The staff helps students with logistics, travel, and food safety, but students are responsible for the bulk of the work — recruiting cooks, gathering recipes, shopping, and repacking and distributing the ingredients. Cooks prepare the dishes in kitchens across Grinnell — in residence halls, the Rosenfield Center's multicultural kitchen, host family and friends' houses and, for a lucky few, in their own apartments. Everything comes together in the Harris Center, where about 300 diners enjoy the results.
Cooks choose what they want to prepare, so each year's bazaar reflects the personal experiences of the participants. Many share a taste of home, often recruiting friends to help. For example, when Nikeisha Sewell ’12 encouraged her fellow Jamaicans to turn out in force, the small island nation was represented by an amazing selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts: cocktail patties, frittes, curried goat, rice and peas, pumpkin rice, orange and ginger chicken, jerked pork, and plantain tarts.
Other students, like Anuraag Bhadana ’11 and Shirlie Yang ’13, shared foods from regions they have traveled. Bhandana, an Indian who studied abroad in Nantes, made French crepes. Yang, a Chinese student who studied in Denmark before coming to Grinnell, joined Karen Edwards serving Danish aebleskiver.
The ISO, true to its name, is open to all students, so it's perhaps no surprise that the menu often includes a few traditional American favorites, like home-made macaroni and cheese.
Cooking can be a challenge when students find themselves without the tools or pans they are used to, and ingredients common elsewhere, such as goat meat, may require trips to specialty groceries in Des Moines or Iowa City. But the cooks overcome these challenges and try to ensure all participants enjoy the meal. For example, Ami Shrestha ’13 and Prashana Tiwaree ’14, who have served Nepalese momos, are among several chefs who provided both vegetarian and meat versions of their dishes.
All the hard work pays off in the end, with many satisfied diners. And those who missed the bazaar — the event always sells out — can try again next fall.