Goodies Galore: International Food Festival celebrates culture


Harper Rosenberg, Staff Writer

“Being open to food can help you be open to people. Be open to difference and get the collage that we are,”  co-chair of the Black Parents Union (BPU) Daniel Nartey P’24 ’30 said. The Upper Division’s (UD) annual International Food Festival took place for the first time since 2019 on Monday. Parents worked together to bring a variety of dishes from their cultures into Olshan Lobby and Lutnick Hall to share with the community. 

To get ready for the event, the co-chairs organized parents to bring in food by sending emails to the community, Marisa Rosenthal P’21 ‘24 said. “It’s just one of the most fun events for parents to volunteer at, we all love being here and seeing all the kids enjoying all our food,” Rosenthal said.

“To prepare for this event we had a number of Zoom meetings and then we had to create a sign-up link to reach out to Black parents to see who wanted to participate and volunteer,” Nartey said. The BPU brought all types of Caribbean and African food such as jerk chicken, collard greens, saltfish fritter, curry chicken, representing the African diaspora, Nartey said. “This event is an opportunity to share our culture with the school and bring our home cooked meals and the things that make us who we are to share with the community — so not just for our kids to see it on campus and know that they belong and that we belong, but that the community can see it as well and know that it’s a staple to the school.” 

Rosenthal hopes the students get to see what a diverse background our beautiful community comes from and explore new cultures, she said. Rosenthal brought bagels with cream cheese and lox to represent her Ashkenazi, Eastern European, Jewish culture.

Because bagels are also a large part of the culture of New York City, they are a testament to the impact of Jewish on the city, Rosenthal said. “Part of it is a connection to New York too because everyone thinks of bagels as a New York based food but it was really brought here by people of Eastern European Jewish descent and it shows our impact on our community,” she said. Bagels are especially common at breakfasts after religious services when there is a Kiddush.

Geeta Kumar P’23 hopes students learn that just because food has a lot of flavor and different herbs that they don’t usually have, like cumin, cilantro, or coriander, it can be delicious and open up their palates, she said. “We brought South Asian food and the dishes that we brought were samosas, chicken tikka masala, rice and naan — the hit was the mango lassi,” Kumar said. 

At the event, students get to try a variety of food get the opportunity to learn about different cuisines, Nupur Gupta P’25 said. “It’s a great event that builds community,” she said.

Alex Pustilnik P’22, ‘24, brought chilaquiles verdes de pollo which is a dish made with tortillas, chicken, tomatillos, onion and cilantro, he said. “[This dish] is something I used to eat very often in Mexico when I was growing up and a dish that my kids really like, so I thought it would be perfect for the event,” Pustilnik said.

He hopes students were able to learn about the wide variety of cultural heritages at the school by sampling a little bit of many cultures, Pustilnik said. “Food is sometimes a very easy gateway to a culture,” he said. The festival is a way to showcase a little bit of his family heritage and is a fun way to connect with the school.

Students should not be afraid to try different foods, Riya Daga (11) said. She loves trying new foods at the event even though she’s a picky eater. “I tried a Brazilian passionfruit mousse that tasted like a piña-colada,” she said. Daga also tried Vietnamese coffee for the first time. 

Alara Yilmaz (10) enjoyed a variety of foods such as Korean fried chicken, glass noodles, brigadeiro, a brazilian chocolate dessert, and passionfruit mousse, she said. “One dish that I really remember was the saffron rice, it was really similar to Turkish food,” said Yilmaz, who is Turkish. Her favorite thing to try at the event was the Vietnamese coffee, she said.Yilmaz was excited for this year after attending the event in 2018 and 2019 when she was in the Middle Division.

James Ho (10) was excited to eat foods he does not usually get to try, he said. “I’ve had many of these foods before, but they don’t always have them at school so it was nice to have them during the school day,” Ho said.

UD Science teacher Lisa Scott tried a variety of foods, such as basmati rice, daal, a samosa with tamarind chutney, and roti, she said.“I love to eat so I’ll try almost anything,” Scott said. “Chances are I’ll find a new food that I like,” she said.