UNH students prepare to host International Food Luncheon

By Caitlin Andrews
On November 16, 2012

The students in the Fairchild Hall kitchen look tired. One works at mixing a thick batter, while her hall-mate chops mushrooms next to her. Another grates lemons while discussing whether they're on schedule or not. There's a sense of busyness and exhaustion, but the cooks are determined to power through.

"We've been cooking since last Friday," said Marissa Bazarian, a sophomore and Fairchild resident. "We've been cooking since about noon today. Tomorrow [Thursday] we'll start at 8 a.m."

Such dedication is necessary to put on the International Food Luncheon [IFL], held Friday, Nov. 16 in Huddleston Hall. A banquet featuring 21 dishes representing 20 different countries, it is the delicious finale to another International Education Week. Admission is $5 for students and $8 for non-students.

The menu will feature a variety of foods from all over the globe, including eight items that are either vegetarian or vegan and two that are gluten-free. Students of UNH, as well as Durham residents, will have a chance to try gyoza [dumplings] from Japan, chana masala from India, or baboosa [semolina cake] from Saudi Arabia, to name a few of the dishes being served.

"We tried to make sure there were no duplicate [countries]," Alex MacKinnon, a junior, said.

"Except for Sweden," Bazarian chimed in. "But that's because their desserts are so good!"

MacKinnon, along with co-food managers Charlotte Osborne and Bazarian, was responsible for putting the menu together. Cooking for the event is a group effort; members of the hall contribute when they have time, and the food managers have made sure they stay on schedule, working at least three hours a day since last week.

The decision to include more vegetarian and vegan-friendly foods was easy, according to Bazarian.

"A lot of people from other countries are vegetarian anyway," she said. "Some recipes just came that way."

Charles True, a senior, said he believes the blend of food and culture will be the event's biggest draw.

"It's just an eclectic blend of food on the menu," he said. "Other orgs might have a themed night, like Mexican or Indian or Asian night. We have everything - that's what sets us apart."

The IFL is a long-standing tradition in Fairchild Hall, going back more than 20 years to when Smith Hall was the international dorm. Residents of the hall completely run the event, from advertising to arranging for the use of the Huddleston Ballroom to cooking the food in their own kitchen.

"The students this year have been so passionate - they've done a great job," Nhien Quach, Fairchild hall director, said. "When I got hired in mid-July, the previous hall director gave me a report, and this was one of the big things about Fairchild."

According to Quach, planning for the event has been going on since the third week of school. To make IFL happen, there have been collaborations with Residential Life, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the MUB, and several other organizations.

"It's such a big project, and everyone's put so much commitment, effort, and time into it," Quach said. "It's built a stronger community here."

True has been a Fairchild resident for the past three years. He's been involved in the IFL before, but as one of two general managers, his job has been to oversee and help out with the luncheon.

"With a new hall director and a new crop of residents, I thought it would be good to have someone in charge who had been there before," True said. "And I thought it would be good to get actually involved my senior year."

In contrast, Francesca Bragan, the other general manager, is new to Fairchild and was eager to get involved right away. As a freshman, she feels the difference between her and True has benefited the IFL.

"[He] is a more technical, creative person," Bragan said. "I'm more creative with abstract thinking. We're not afraid to try new things."

As the international dorm, Fairchild is constantly trying to build connections between people. There's hope among the planners that the IFL will do just that.

"I think people will realize the most important thing is that there are other cultures than just the American culture. There's room to grow, and there's fun ways to do that," Bragan said.

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