Food is one of the basic needs of survival. Through time, that basic need of eating “what’s available” has turned into an art form of its own, with each country and culture having their own unique twist. While many love to taste and eat food, not many like to cook. It was a pleasant surprise when the 2021-2022 M.S. in Global Commerce cohort immediately bonded over food and cooking. A fellow cohort member and McIntire Ambassador for the class, Andreas Lorenz, proposed the International Dinner idea. With the help of others, they scheduled and organized everyone into teams. The schedule was as follows:
France, Spain, Portugal: Sept. 10
China, Vietnam: Sept. 17
Armenia, Cyprus, Israel: Sept. 24
German, Austria, Hungary: Oct. 19
Italy: Oct. 22
United States: Nov. 20
Once the schedule was sent, the excitement kicked in. Everyone was eager to see what each group was going to prepare. I was in the first group, cooking for France. Initially, everyone in the cohort had spoken about preparing snack foods. The more France, Spain, and Portugal discussed the menu, the more we wanted to cook a full-course meal. We decided on two appetizers, two main dishes, two desserts, and homemade drinks. This meal set the tone for the rest of the dinners, and the other countries did not disappoint.
France, Spain, Portugal: Gazpacho, pan con tomate, quiche, tomate farcie, mousse au chocolat, pastel de nata, and sangria
China, Vietnam: Cucumber salad with black fungus, cold-dressed shredded chicken, steamed garlic noodles, Vietnamese summer rolls, sweet and sour pork, brisket, pickled cabbage, pork and cabbage dumplings, egg-fried rice, boba tea, fungus and goji berry soup, and melon punch
Armenia, Cyprus, Israel: Challah and pita bread with tzatziki and hummus, baba ganoush, Armenian/Cypriot salad, tabbouleh, dolma, spanakopita, makaronia tou fournou, BBQ (pork, chicken, vegetables), halva, bougatsa, and Napoleon
Germany, Austria, Hungary: Kurbiscremesuppe, brezel, kasespatzle, porkolt cipoban, currywurst mit pommes, schnitzel mit kartoffelsalat, apfelstrudel, kaiserschmarrn, kuchen, torten, and German beer
Italy: Bruschetta, panzerotti, verdure fritte di stagione, lasagne bolognese, lasagne vegeteriana, parmigiana, polpette della nonna, caponata siciliana, tiramisu, and crema catalana
United States: Deviled eggs, pulled-pork sliders, buffalo chicken wings, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, fried okra, cream corn casserole, apple pie and ice cream, peach cobbler, American flag cake, and homemade chocolate chip cookies
Feeding 49 people is no easy feat. Most groups spent a whole day preparing for these meals; the Italian team even took two! People from other countries came to the rescue and lent a helping hand. Every dinner was representative of the country and introduced with an explanation of the dish and its significance. Each of these nights held great food, lively music, memorable conversations, and new experiences.
After asking around, favorite dishes ranged from the desserts to the main dishes to the drinks. The first dinner had amazing flavors, but the quiche fromage is what stole the cohort’s heart and even had them going back for seconds!
The Chinese and Vietnamese dishes were amazing, bringing many to experience new flavors; the steamed garlic noodles, Vietnamese summer rolls, and fungus and goji berry dessert soup were some of the class’s favorites.
The Cyprus, Armenia, and Israel group not only brought incredible flavors but high energy. Our hosts were catering, kind, and helpful, offering a plate to everyone passing by. During this meal, the Cyprus BBQ skewers were hard to get a hold of. They were so well-liked that I didn’t even get to try them! Not to worry; I was promised I’d get the opportunity again.
The German, Austrian, and Hungarian team brought authentic German beer to the dinner and portions to feed an army! Good thing too; everyone was hungry for more. Notable favorites were the porkolt cipoban and apfelstrudel.
An outstanding dish was the Italian panzerotti, a pan-fried bread with mozzarella and tomatoes inside – the perfect crispy crust and balanced flavors had everyone fighting for the last piece.
Having the international dinners has been an unforgettable experience and will be a highlight of our experience here in Charlottesville, VA.