The fair, which was free for any Williams community member, featured dishes from more than fifteen countries, representing many of the various nationalities present in the student body at Williams. Recipes ranged from Mexican tostadas to Korean ddeokggochis (a spicy rice cake), from Cameroonian beans and fried plaintains to Greek spanakopita. Dining Hall staff and International Club [IC] representatives worked together for hours on Tuesday afternoon to prepare these dishes.
This was IC’s first-ever International Street Food Fair, although the club has hosted international dinners in the past, especially during International Week. Laura McKeon, dean of international students, first came up with the idea, but members of the International Club were enthusiastic about the event and quickly began organizing for it. “We wanted to give [international students] the chance to share food from home with the rest of the Williams community,” says Nai Chien Yeat ’13, president of IC and one of the main organizers of the event. “It was supposed to be a cultural and educational experience for students,” adds Yoonsang Bae ’15, freshman representative to IC. “The Homecoming football game last weekend was an opportunity for students and alumni to get together to celebrate Williams. Similarly, this was an opportunity for international students to get together to celebrate the international student body at Williams.”
Funding for the event came from MinCo, the campus minority club, and College Council. “There was a lot of work that went into it that wasn’t shown at the fair,” says Bae. Besides finding money to hold the event, IC also had to find people willing to spend an entire Tuesday cooking, organizing, and setting up the fair. “We are very pleased with the number of people who volunteered to cook [for the event],” says Yeat. “We had 15 groups of volunteers, including foreign language TAs Elena Renedo from Spain and Ana Cad from Argentina.” However, much of the work fell to Yeat and Shell Tu ’13, who acted as liaison to Dining Services as IC prepared for the event.
Most dishes at the event could easily be found anywhere in their country of origin; for example, the Spanish Omelet featured at the Spanish table is a trademark dish on the Iberian peninsula. Others, however, were more regional dishes. “My mother inherited this recipe from her mother and the mother of her mother before her,” says Bulgarian student Ivan Badinski ’14, describing futch, a dessert from a southeastern region of Bulgaria called Macedonia. “It’s a quick, really easy recipe that my mother uses for afternoon social gatherings.”
Student and faculty reception of the event was overwhelmingly positive; more than 200 students and faculty members attended, despite that the fair was held on a school night. “We printed out about 150 tickets and handed them out at the door, but we ran out after half an hour,” says Yeat. Because of the fair’s popularity, they will most likely hold it again next year.
Most of all, says Yeat, “We would like to thank the Dean’s office and Dining Services for their support in organizing this event. This event would not have been possible without them.”