UND's Feast of Nations organizers take pride in making international cuisine just right; 52nd annual event set for Saturday, Feb. 15
Posted on 2/6/2014
Srijan Konwar has been to a couple Feast of Nations celebrations in the past as a guest, but this year the pressure's on for the University of North Dakota psychology major and native of India.
Konwar is one of the organizers for this year's Feast of Nations, which gets underway at 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Alerus Center.
The first order of business for Konwar has been to make sure the food that is served this time around is as authentic as possible and, of course, tasty. He said that getting it just right has been a challenge in the past.
In recent years, feast organizers have gotten together with Alerus Center chefs, who, naturally, are more accustomed to American style fare, for a practice run - a taste test, if you will - to make sure that the cultural integrity of the cuisine is intact and so taste buds pop on event night.
That's what happened again, this year, on Jan. 15, a full month before this year's actual feast. Konwar and fellow organizers, representing four countries and decked in traditional cultural garb, met with the Alerus Center catering staff members for their first taste of the foods that will comprise the Feast of Nations' five-course menu.
Konwar and his crew offered suggestions for more authentic ingredients and tips on food choices to make the feast more enjoyable for those of varying international customs.
"When we went there for the taste testing, we were able to rectify a lot of the problems before they happened," Konwar said. "We got pretty close this year - as close as it could possibly get to authentic. I think, this time, everyone will say that the food is out of this world."
They also suggested adding more vegetarian options to the menu and using flavored yellow rice instead of white rice in one of the traditional dishes.
The international taste testers also ensured Alerus chefs understood not to use pork broth for the soup lest it be unsuitable for Muslims and people of other cultures to consume, according to Konwar, who, despite being born in India, spent much of his life in Oman, the U.S. and a few years in the United Arab Emirates.
"The Alerus Center does a good job accommodating our requests," said Eller Bonifacio, a UND alumnus from Angeles City, Philippines, who is the creative director for marketing for the Feast of Nations. "It can be challenging to produce international meals of such mass but they are always there to deliver every year."
Tickets are still available for this year's Feast of Nations, the 52nd annual running of international celebration of multiculturalism at UND.
Tickets are $20 for students, $30 for nonstudents and can be purchased at the Alerus Center or Chester Frits Auditorium box offices, or through Ticketmaster.com (convenience fees may apply). Table reservations for 10 people can be made by contacting Andrew Keller at 701.777.2731, or at andrew.keller2@UND.edu.
Some of the food highlights for this this year's event include Russian pierogies (beef and vegetarian), Tuscan white bean soup, Tunisian slata mechouia salad, Nepali matar paneer with plain rice, Indian butter chicken, and a Scottish banoffee pie for desert.
"We try to mix up the food choices every year so that it isn't always the same thing," Konwar said.
He added that each dish will be labeled and menus will provide guests a short description of the foods so that they know what they're eating and how they might prepare the same thing at home.
"That is definitely something that people will be able to take away from the Feast of Nations," he said.
The list of entertainers that will complement this year's feast include Sol de Espana, a club of Spanish folk dancers; the Manitoba Korean Dance Troupe; and Victor Lopez & Son; and UND student performances.
"I always look forward to meeting different people from around the world and seeing the performances on stage," Bonifacio said.
Bonifacio added that he is eager to see even grander presentations this year because of a new stage design that was developed by the UND International Organization and HB Sound & Light of Grand Forks, both event sponsors.
Other highlights of the night will be a celebrity style social with red carpet and sponsorship wall, where people can take photos of each other. This year also will see the debut of the "Mani Cam," where participants of the social can show off their manicures and hand accessories.
"It's going to be the place to be," Konwar said. "It's really a great event every year for people to enjoy different foods and entertainment from different countries."
Contact: David L. Dodds Writer/Editor Media Relations Coordinator Public Relations Group Division of University and Public Affairs 264 Centennial Drive Stop 7144 Grand Forks, ND 58202-7144 701.777.4317 | 701.777.4616 fax david.dodds@UND.edu UND.edu