Ouachita Baptist University’s International Club and the Daniel and Betty Jo Grant Center for International Education will host the 2014 International Food Festival on Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. in the Walker Conference Center. Tickets are $5 each and may be purchased at the door.
Sharon Cosh, a staff coordinator of the event and the coordinator of OBU’s English as a Second Language program, explained that the event helps make the international students feel “united and validated” and is a way for them to “represent their own country and cook some of their food.”
“We want to create an awareness of internationals on our campus. This gives them a chance to be identified and lets them have a day when they can celebrate things that are dear to them,” said Cosh. “Our theme this year is ‘Taste Our World,’ because it’s literally just a taste of each other’s food from around the world. If each one of the students prepares a dish that represents something from their culture and we all share together, suddenly it’s communal.”
Ian Cosh, OBU’s vice president for community and international engagement, said that the event is a great way for students to learn about other cultures through the experience of eating food.
“Food is a deep part of our humanity. It is a symbol of life and of the differences of taste and preference,” he said. “The nice thing about food is it pushes people to the boundary of their own preferences. Some things that we love, we once disliked, but it took a little time to get there and that’s a big lesson about culture. You have to be patient with yourself and with others because it’s a long journey to understanding and appreciation.”
“I just want to raise international awareness,” said Jacob Moreno, a sophomore dietetics major from Mexico City, who is a member of the International Food Fest Planning Committee. “Sometimes people really don’t know what my food is like. For me, they think I eat tacos every day. It’s nice to have the chance to showcase what I eat back home. I feel like something this big, where there are 500 people every year that come and get to try new food really raises awareness around campus.”
Ben Lange-Smith, a sophomore psychology major from Harare, Zimbabwe, also serves on the committee. “This is the time when we can come and be ourselves,” he said. “It’s our day to shine and to show the world and all the other cultures what we have to offer.”
The entertainment portion of the evening will feature music from several different cultures. Several international and MK students will perform songs in their native languages and the Tiger Steel Drum Ensemble, directed by Dr. Ryan Lewis, will perform Caribbean music. Dr. Rob Rucker, a veterinarian from the community, also will perform Cajun music.
The winners of an international photography competition will be displayed at the festival and the Woman’s Missionary Union will also have a fair trade world market set up with products for sale “in order to help those who are gainfully employed in poor countries to be raised to a better life by earning extra capital for themselves,” Sharon Cosh explained.
For more information about the food festival, contact Tanya Jackson, administrative assistant in the Grant Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 870-245-5197.
By Bethany Peevy