At one table, Paulette Yohan, parent of a Stony Creek Middle School student, sets up her “sauce arachide,” a dish from the Ivory Coast. This dish, something she had every day when she was young, is a peanut butter soup.
It’s served with rice and “fufu” — made from yam flour and similar to mashed potatoes, but much thicker, Yohan said.
At another table nearby, eighth grader Angelina Alexandrou showcases the dishes her family brought in — all traditional Greek dishes from Cyprus. There’s a honey-and-nut pastry called baklava, tomatoes and haloumi cheese, and pita chips served with what she calls “zanziki” but is similar to tzatziki — a yogurt and cucumber a dip served in Greek restaurants.
All these are common enough in Greece, but not very well known here. She got excited when she heard about the multicultural lunch.
“I was like, ‘I’m gonna have to bring Greek food,” she said.
Alexandrou also had her own opinion about the fufu.
“It’s like really chewy mashed potatoes,” she told her friends.
Friday was the first-ever multicultural lunch at the school. Students and their parents were invited to bring in dishes from around the world, and over the lunch period, people tried out a small sample of what the world had to offer.
That “small” sample was too big for one room. Students had to cycle through two classrooms to try everything.
Other goodies included beignets (French donuts), Finnish pulla bread, tamales and haroset — a traditional Jewish dip made of apples, walnuts, grape juice and cinnamon.
Samantha Collupy, a paraprofessional at the school and parent of two students there, scooped out ratatouille prepared by sixth grader Cameron Lemere.
“It’s multiple cultures that have brought in different things from different places. I know the kids are excited,” she said. “When I heard about it, I thought it would be very good for the kids, because there’s such a diversity of people here.”
Collupy herself brought in a dish that she said is known only in Colorado.
“It’s called green chile. Nobody’s ever heard of it,” she said.
Teacher Cynthia Pettijohn said the day was a chance to explore the kids’ various cultures through food and games.
“We got a lot of parents; a lot of food,” she said. “We have a lot of different countries represented,” she said.
Pettijohn thanked the kids for getting their parents involved, and thanked the parents for cooking, which she said is a lot of work.
“I know, because I spent 2½ hours making tortilla soup. It takes a little bit of a time commitment,” she said.
Sixth grader Clark Thurgood, holding a small cup of that very tortilla soup, jumped into the conversation.
“This tastes amazing,” he said.
Steve Guglich, principal at Stony Creek, contributed root beer floats, from the far-off land of Philadelphia.
He predicted that next year, the event would be even bigger. That’s because the new Missouri Ridge School will replace Stony Creek. Guglich imagined an event large enough to fill the gym.
The multicultural lunch was part of the school’s “greenbacks” program, which rewards students with an a monthly event. Last year, the school has a Polynesian themed “arctic luau.”
“This year, we decided to kick it up notch and go all multicultural. Because we have such a diverse population here at Stony Creek. We thought it would be cool to really enjoy that, to celebrate the diversity we have out here,” he said.