A Taste of Culture

Exploring food at the 38th Annual Multicultural Festival

686
Photo by Cal Tobias.
Photo by Cal Tobias.

As festivalgoers walk across the lawn, one thought consumed everyone’s mind: “what do I eat?”

With numerous tents with delicious food from different cuisines, the choice was almost impossible to make. The 38th Annual Multicultural Festival (MCF) last Saturday celebrated culture not only through food, but also with musical and dance performances. Students and locals came out to enjoy the food and watch student performances as well as two headliners, bands AstraLogik and La Chamba Chicha.

Alongside the cultural performances, the 16 organizations that helped put on the festival sold a variety of food and drinks to celebrate their cultures and raise funds for their organizations.

White tents lined Oakes Lower Lawn, each with a different organization that was assembling — or in some cases even grilling — its food on the spot.

“Within food there are no language barriers and it is something everyone enjoys,” said MCF food coordinator Ashley De La Rosa. “A lot of cultures pride themselves on one dish and it’s a good chance to see each organization showcase that.”

The preparation of the festival food started a month prior, when the organizations signed up and proposed their main dishes to sell. The majority of organizations bought their food from local restaurants but some cooked their own. Members of the organizations reserved the campus dining hall kitchens to make the food.

“It’s nice to see each organization come together within themselves and help each other out,” De La Rosa said. “They come out and take the time to make their food and [are] really dedicated. It was a cooperative process and collaborative effort.”

The menu featured drinks like boba and mangonadas, food including tamales, lumpia, samosas and pupusas and desserts like paletas and fresas con crema.

Bánh Mì: Alpha Kappa Delta Phi

Alpha Kappa Delta Phi (aKDPhi) is one of the largest Asian American-interest sororities internationally and has a chapter at UC Santa Cruz. To celebrate their group, which encompasses many different countries and traditions, members chose to serve bánh mì. They chose the Vietnamese sandwich because of its popularity. The sandwiches were bought from San Jose restaurant Phat Tri for the event. Bánh mì emerged as a product of French colonialism, combining inspiration from both French and Vietnamese cuisines. The sandwiches are traditionally made from pickled vegetables, meat — usually pork — and a soft baguette.

“We wanted something that could symbolize our organization and for Asian awareness,” aKDPhi member Serena Leung said. “A lot of us come from different parts of the world — you don’t really know what else is out there. It’s a taste of other people’s experiences.”

Tacos: Sabrosura

First-year student Jailyne Olvera holds a taco that was for sale. Student cultural organizations at the event sold bánh mì sandwiches, lumpia, fry bread and more. Photo by Cal Tobias.
First-year student Jailyne Olvera holds a taco that was for sale. Student cultural organizations at the event sold bánh mì sandwiches, lumpia, fry bread and more. Photo by Cal Tobias.

Sabrosura, a Latin dance troupe, performed a variety of Latin American and Caribbean dances and sold its homemade tacos. For the past month, members have been filling out purchase orders and scheduling prep times to put together the ingredients. They bought ingredients for 300 dishes in anticipation of the event. In addition to acquiring all of the ingredients and preassembling them, the group also applied and received a permit to grill its food in the tent. On the day of the festival, members grilled the tacos to order.

“We are not just Mexican, but [are] any Latin American or Caribbean country,” said banquet coordinator Natasha Lachica. “We voted on our top three choices and picked tacos because they are traditional and it’s more fun that we do it and prep it ourselves.”

First-year student and member of the Chinese Student Association Vicky Feng holds a tray of dumplings at the Multicultural Festival on Saturday. Photo by Cal Tobias.
First-year student and member of the Chinese Student Association Vicky Feng holds a tray of dumplings at the Multicultural Festival on Saturday. Photo by Cal Tobias.

Boba and Dumplings: Chinese Student Association

The Chinese Student Association (CSA) presented its traditional Chinese dumplings and Taiwanese boba — a tea-based drink with tiny tapioca balls. By booking a prep time in campus kitchens, CSA members worked in fivehour shifts to make their dumplings before the festival. CSA banquet coordinator Emily Hong said the dumplings, often eaten on Chinese New Year, are a big staple in traditionally Chinese diets and symbolize wealth because they look like old-fashioned coin bags.

“A lot of Chinese culture revolves around food,” Hong said. “Every culture has their own form of dumplings or pocket food and it’s pretty cool how you have a universal type of food but every culture makes it its own. Food is a staple, but it’s something to bring people together.”

Red and Green Tamales: Hermanos Unidos

Hermanos Unidos sold 200 red and green tamales, which were preordered from local Santa Cruz Mexican bakery El Rosal and picked up the day of the festival. Hermanos Unidos is a Latino-based “familia” dedicated to Latino retention on campus, providing academic support and organizing community service events. The money raised at MCF is reserved for quarterly retreats and sashes for graduating seniors, co-chair Vladimir Felix said.

“We chose tamales because they are a really popular food in Mexico,” Felix said. “It’s really huge [during] the holidays and they are really good. I just remember back in the days eating like 20 during Christmas and we just want to bring that kind of feeling to MCF.”