Encouraging multiculturalism


I am certain that everyone who reads my columns is well aware that I was born in India and grew up in St. Maarten. For those who don’t know, St. Maarten is essentially a melting pot of different cultures, a place in which different people and cultures come together and live harmoniously sharing their culture with one another. Eindhoven also has a lot of people of different nationalities and cultures; however it doesn’t have the same sense of community, which I once hoped to have found.

Eindhoven has people from many different countries around the world, each belonging to a different community or culture, some of which you may know nothing about. For this reason, the Indian Students Association (ISA) and Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia (PPI) came together and decided to host a joint event. Something which speaks not only to the members of the two associations, but also to others who would want to get to know about the associations in a fun environment. The two associations represent cultures with a rich culinary history and palette, so it was obvious that an event with food as its basis would be ideal.

Ultimately, the event was such that the members of each association were given the opportunity to prepare a dish which represents their culture, and the attendees would have the opportunity to get a literal taste of other cultures. I was one of the volunteers who opted to prepare a dish from their cultures. I was quickly aware that there would be ample Indian food, so I thought outside the box and brought some Caribbean food to the event. This way the attendees would become exposed to more cultures, which was the purpose of the event.

The event saw food from India, Indonesia and the Caribbean. Interestingly enough, while I am a member of ISA and I have been eating Indian food since I was born, the cookout managed to make me get to know my culture a little bit better. There was a dish called ‘srikhand’ which I had never even heard of before. Now, not only have I tasted it, but I received a quick rundown on how to make it from Dhwani, one of the event coordinators.

On the other hand, I have little to no connections to Indonesian cultures and food, so the cookout became a gateway for me to try this ‘new’ cuisine and get to know more about the people, the country, and their food. I did also get a chance to eat a dish from my childhood which I haven’t had in a very long time: gado gado, which is an Indonesian salad coated in peanut sauce.

Lastly, as one of the volunteers who brought Caribbean food, I felt like it was my responsibility to ensure that people get a basic idea of what the food means to us and how it is generally eaten. It was very fulfilling to see how interested people were to learn more about our culture.

There was a great deal of uncertainty, as no one knew whether the cuisines would work well together, if the spice palettes had too large of a contrast. However, the event showcased that some of the best things come from collaboration. Due to the presence of the different foods, some attendees were able to try tostones (double-fried plantain) dipped in peanut sauce (originally brought for the gado gado), which I heard was a success. I am a strong believer that our differences are what allows us to fit together, because you can’t put two identical puzzle pieces together.

All in all, it became an event where three cultures shared the spotlight, and each person attended with something to gain from it. Whether it is trying out a new cuisine or getting to know an old cuisine a little bit better.

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