March 30, 2014

Dinner offers worldwide food and culture

March 30, 2014 Stuart Taylor The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University’s International Dinner started decades ago as a small get-together at a local church or someone’s home, but in recent years, it has moved into VSU’s Student Union and blossomed into a social event, letting VSU’s international students bring part of their respective cultures to Valdostans.

At the 38th Annual International Dinner Saturday night, guests were treated to the foods and culture of 40 different countries, feasting on Moroccan chicken, Brazilian chocolate, Turkish pastries and Turkmenistan meat pies, among other dishes, and taking in dances and musical performances from traditional Arabic dances to popular Filipino songs.

While it lasted only an evening, the night involved months of planning.

“Initial planning starts months in advance, with officers meeting to plan a theme,” said Lauren Braun, international student coordinator with VSU’s Center for International Programs.

After establishing the theme for the night, it’s months of planning, choosing the evening’s dishes and performances.

By and large, the students must handle the brunt of the work.

“They’re the ones doing the work, along with volunteers and student organizations on campus.”

The international students advertise, sell tickets, work with VSU’s Chartwells team to get the ingredients needed for recipes, rehearse, even donate items from their home countries to be used in a silent auction.

Days before the dinner are equally busy; students check their ingredients and cook on Friday and Saturday.

Though Saturday was the 38th International Dinner, it’s hardly the last. Whatever funds are left from ticket sales after covering expenses — including what has to be an eclectic food bill — goes into an account for next year’s dinner, continuing a decades-old tradition of bringing the world to Valdosta and VSU.

“This is an opportunity for VSU and Valdosta to experience the world through the eyes of our students without having to leave Valdosta. It’s a big production with a lot of moving pieces coming together,” Braun said, “but it pays off in the end.”

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