Cooking up something new

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By Kirsten Laskey

Los Alamos is cooking up something completely different Saturday. It is spiced with flavors from around the world and served with the noblest of intentions.

Taste of Los Alamos, an international food festival, will be held from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Fuller Lodge. The event is a fundraiser for this year’s  local Relay for Life.

While several Los Alamos residents with nationalities outside of the U.S. are participating in the event, the program   is partnering with English as a Second Language Professor Cindy Eaton’s students at UNM-LA.  

Since April, eight of her students have heated up the stoves and sharpened knives to prepare meals from their home countries.

Sixteen nations will be represented at the festival. They include Portugal, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, China, Korea, Japan, Belgium, Costa Rica, Poland, India, Turkey, Haiti, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Mediterranean region.

The students have contributed more than just food. They have created a logo to be used on flyers and aprons, which will be sold during the festival. Additionally, they have helped create a cookbook filled with recipes for the foods that will be featured in the event.

A painting by ESL student Sergio Astorga will also be raffled.

Besides food, participants will be treated to several live performances. The event will include dances by LA Scottish Dancers at 2:30 p.m. Tristan Goodwin of Albuquerque and Four Corners Pipes and Drums will play the bagpipes at 3 p.m. The East Indian Dance Group will perform at 4 p.m. Additionally, the local band Peace Meal will perform throughout the event.

Eaton’s students have recorded music from their home countries, which will be played during the festival.

The ESL students are not the only ones who will be present at the event. Several members of the local community have accepted the invitation to participate in the festival. They’ve even offered to dress in their countries’ traditional clothes and to bring items from their home countries.

“Our event will have a real international flavor,” Eaton said.

Others have also jumped on board. Eaton said they have had a wonderful response from sponsors in and out of Los Alamos. The sponsors include The Spanish Table in Santa Fe, the Best Western Hilltop House, the Pyramid Café, Origami, the Coffee Booth and CB Fox in Los Alamos.

Smith’s Food and Drug has also offered discounts on ingredients.

Eaton said the event is patterned after the Taste of Chicago, which one of her students had attended. Participants will pick up a plate and go to different tables representing different countries to sample appetizer-size cuisine.

“It’s just a taste,” Eaton said.

The whole idea of an international food festival was created from a combination of three factors, she said.  It was a result of Eaton teaching the ESL class at UNM-LA and serving as co-chair for this year’s Relay for Life along with Alan Wadlinger. She explained typically on a local level, dinner dances and silent auctions are used to raise funds for Relay for Life but she was looking for something different.

The light bulb came on while taking a Leadership Los Alamos class. A peer in the class leaned over and recommended she put on an international festival.

“The whole concept, the whole idea came together,” Eaton said.

She added the festival is a totally new event.  “The Taste of Los Alamos is a first event of this type for our community,” Eaton said. “We’ve never had an event of this type in Los Alamos.”

Although there is no fundraising goal the festival will strive to meet, the overall fundraising goal for the relay is $50,000. The relay starts at 6 p.m. June 26 at Ashley Pond and runs through June 27.  This is Eaton’s first time chairing the relay, however, she did co-chair last year’s Survivor’s Reception.

The benefits of this event go beyond raising funds for the Relay for Life. Eaton said it presents a win-win situation for both the ESL students and the community.

“One last benefit of this festival is the exposure this event has for our local international community,” she added. “It is difficult to come to a foreign country and try to assimilate into a strange culture.  Many speak English only as beginners. This is a wonderful event that not only benefits our local and regional communities, but the participants are able to introduce themselves and their countries to us in a most appealing and personal way.”

Even though the international community is significant in Los Alamos because of Los Alamos National Laboratory, it is not always visible, Eaton said.

The festival, however, “is such an incredible opportunity for us to learn about their country,” Eaton said.

Also, “I’m really excited to introduce them to the community. This is a win-win situation for both groups. For Los Alamos to experience the wealth of international flavor here is exciting,” she said. “For the students, it’s an opportunity to let the community meet them and understand a little more about their countries.”

Eaton added, “My students have a lot to offer this community in a lot of different ways.”

Tickets for the event cost $15 for adults and $5 for children age 6-11. For those who are 5 years old or younger, admission will be free.

Tickets can be purchased at CB Fox or by calling Eaton at 662-7073 and 470-1675 or e-mailing her at cindy.eaton@att.net.