World at Your Table – Monthly International Cuisine Featured at KU Dining in Collaboration with the AAP
It started as a featured event during International Education week but quickly turned into a permanent monthly dinner feature in all of the KU dining halls thanks to its popularity.
The KU dining executive team wanted to have students involved because they wanted the meals to be as authentic as possible since recipes can be googled but to have dishes from that culture and to have the students be able to taste the food and tell you what is most typical, what a typical family would eat, that makes it a lot more of an authentic experience.
The Academic Accelerator Program staff asked its students who would be interested in helping the KU dining chefs plan its featured meal. Once they had a number of students from four or five countries, one per month for a semester, the AAP, the students helping plan the featured meal, and the Dining team would schedule a meeting to create and determine the three meals that would be available to all KU students at dinner one evening that month.
Students prepared for the meetings in different ways, some students would come to the meetings with ideas for the meals and the chefs would look for recipes on the internet, others would prepare PowerPoint presentations with recipes and the basics needed to make the dishes, while a couple would provide YouTube links to show the chefs how to prepare it.
In order to find the specific food or spices, KU dining will shop at smaller markets or buy from world grocers found in Lawrence or nearby cities. The dishes selected have to be scalable since they have to feed up to a couple of thousand students in one night, sometimes the chefs had to find workarounds to simulate the spices, but authenticity is what they are most concerned about so if it was going to be too different, they would ask the students to propose a different dish.
Food is important in cultures, so starting with that, a person can tell a lot about a culture. In 2018, the World at Your Table featuring Iran fell during Persian New Year so some of the dishes were traditional to eat during the holiday and typical of that time of year. The Iranian students brought in a display of some things that every family would have in their home. There were seven items starting with the letter “S” in Persian, for example, there was garlic and grass, etc., so it provided the students an opportunity to learn more about the holiday too.
World at Your Table is popular not just to the students from countries of the featured cuisine, but for domestic students as well with the dining line wrapped around the corner of students wanting to try it.
“I think what has surprised our students [in the Academic Accelerator Program] is the appetite that people here in Lawrence or in the U.S. have for world cuisine, for new foods, from the other side of the world. It’s a cool thing to be able to expose first-year students from a small town in Kansas or for the wider KU community to experience a little bit of the culture of people who may never go to Nigeria, for example, and likely they have never tried Nigerian food before that night.” states, Harry Swartz, student services advisor for the Academic Accelerator Program.
World at Your Table kicks off again in the Spring 2019 semester.