Benefit Street transformed into a culinary adventure around the world Sunday, representing a range of countries, dishes and customs. Snippets from Haiti to Iran and Japan to Greece lined the street, all 19 booths boasting freshly made dishes in celebration of the Rhode Island School of Design’s Global Initiative’s third annual Eat the World event.
Global Initiative, a student organization that focuses on highlighting the many cultures at RISD, created Eat the World as a way to “promote diversity on campus,” said RISD junior Jeffrey Hsueh, one of the event’s organizers. The event featured booths run by RISD students of that country’s origin or descent who served homemade, traditional dishes.
“What better way of connecting everyone than food from all over the world?” Hsueh said.
The students made the food themselves with ingredients from RISD’s kitchens, Hseuh said. All of the students at the booths volunteered, eager to share their traditional foods with their peers.
RISD sophomore Alyssa Colon, one of the students behind the Puerto Rico booth, said, “the fact that my school is open to celebrating so many cultures” drew her to volunteering. The Puerto Rico booth served pastelitos con carne (seasoned meat fried in a dough pocket) and tostones y maduros (fried plantains).
At the Jordanian booth, RISD senior Nadine Zaza, a member of Global Initiative, served falafel with hummus and pita as a way of supporting the organization, which provides a way for students to spend their little free time. “RISD tends to focus us on our work,” Zaza said, adding, “This is a good way to incorporate a more global aspect into our college experience.”
Likewise at the India booth, RISD junior Mitra Krishna said she participated in the event because she “loves Indian food and wants to share Indian food with the rest of the world.” Krishna, RISD sophomore Paridhi Mundia and RISD graduate students Aakanksha Sirothia and Sneha Subbaroyan worked together to make a vegetable curry, one of the most popular dishes of the afternoon.
At the U.S. booth, a Miami native and a Salt Lake City native collaborated to make alligator fritters dipped in fry sauce, served with a hefty dose of national pride.
Over at the Bulgaria booth, traditional sweet pancakes were served while classic Bulgarian music played. Heavy wool socks hung from the sides of the stand, just one unique decoration among many lining the booths. And at the Kazakhstan booth, two RISD students represented two-thirds of the RISD-Kazakh population, sharing samsy, a traditional puff pastry filled with meats and vegetables.
A twisting line formed as two students chopped up fresh meat for Chinese hamburgers at the China stand. These hungry students mirrored the lines snaking up College and Waterman Streets as students waited to buy tickets for the event.
RISD freshman Jordan Tager said she was “impressed with the diversity of the booths” and enjoyed the food she tried.
RISD juniors Jamal Osterholm and Erica Kim agreed that the event was a good break from the long hours in the studio. They said they had just come from work, pointing to their paint-covered jeans, and were happy for the diversion. “And the Korean burger was poppin’,” Osterhold added.
Another plus was the diversity of performance groups featured at the event. From the music of Brown’s Alef Beats to belly-dancing to a K-Pop group dance, there was no shortage of entertainment for the hungry crowd. The performances were part of what drew the huge crowd. Many attendees said they came to support their friends behind the booths or on the stage.
Gendo Taiko, a Brown-RISD Japanese drumming group, has performed at Eat the World for all three years of the event.
“It’s been kind of a tradition,” said Tyler Dae Devlin ’17. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Compensated for their performance with food tickets, the drumming group got to partake in the edible diversity after giving a riveting drumming performance to an encouraging crowd.
RISD’s Eat the World event is the school’s “most famous event of the year,” Zaza said. The lure of diverse food drew people in, but the authentic experience doled out by smiling, genuine faces is what made them linger at the stalls, bracing the brisk autumn air to come back for seconds.