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RU’s International Food Festival offers gastronomic globetrotting

04/05/2017 4:59 pm

International Food FairAmerica is a nation of immigrants with a diversity of backgrounds, but one thing is universal across cultures—everybody eats.

 

“There’s something so basic about sharing your food,” said Maria Diemer, assistant director of Global Affairs at Rockford University. “And every culture can relate to that beautiful memory of sharing a meal together.”

You can sample your way around the world at Rockford University’s annual International Food Festival from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 22. The Office of Global Affairs and Multicultural Club are hosting a taste of what’s in store with a free precursor to the festival, “Around the World in 50 Minutes,” at noon Wednesday, April 12. Both events will be in Regents Hall, located on the second floor of the Burpee Student Center.

IFF has gotten bigger along with Rockford University’s international student population, which itself has grown about five times over in as many years. Today, roughly a tenth of the campus hails from outside the United States, with 114 international students representing 26 countries.

“It brings students together with such a camaraderie, and you have students from different continents, cultures and religions working together seamlessly and enjoying themselves tremendously – and so proud to share their heritage with other students, community members, faculty, staff,” Diemer said of the festival. “It’s just one of the most beautiful things that I wish everyone in the world could see.”

Shammeran Benjamin, a Global Affairs graduate assistant from Sweden, adds that IFF is both a source of pride and welcome distraction to students far from home.

“It feels like we have something to say, and we can share where we come from,” she said. “And it keeps us busy as well, so we have less to think about.”

Students in the Multicultural Club will prepare favorite recipes from home, present a flag ceremony and model clothing from their home countries in a fashion show. Festivalgoers can try their hand at calligraphy, get a henna tattoo, jump in a photo booth with friends, enjoy song and dance performances, and nosh on authentic dishes from countries like Sweden, Germany, the Philippines, Japan, China, Turkey, Syria, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Mexico and Bosnia.

Andrei Egorov, a senior from Kyrgyzstan who works in Global Affairs, says students put in long hours but find pride in preparing for the event, painstakingly sourcing ingredients and expanding favorite recipes they may usually make for just a few people to 125 servings.

“Often times, the student comes and says, ‘Hey, there’s this ingredient for my recipe,’ and we do our best to find it anywhere – we’ll go to Amazon.com, we’ll go to Chicago to buy certain ingredients,” he said. “We bring them all here, and the student tries to become a chef and make this delicious masterpiece.”

Tickets for the festival on April 22 are $10 in advance or $12 at the event, with children’s tickets $5 in advance or $6 at the event. Doors open at 4:30 to whisk you around the world without leaving RU’s campus at 5050 E. State St., Rockford. For more information, contact 815-394-5112 or globalaffairs@rockford.edu.

“Being toward the end of the year, I think it’s a great culmination and a feeling of success,” Diemer added. “You know, they’ve made it in this different country for a year, and now they’re so proud to share with these new friends and new people that they’ve met.”