GREENFIELD — For two mouth-watering hours Sunday afternoon, the Hancock County 4-H Exhibit Hall was transformed into a multicultural hotspot with tasty treats from around the world.
A visitor could start with mango salsa from the U.S. Virgin Islands, then sample some cucumber soup from Belgium. Finish with sweet potato cookies from Zimbabwe, and wash it all down with some Earl Grey tea from England.
Each February, Girls Scouts across the globe commemorate World Thinking Day, an event aimed at raising awareness of countries across the globe – including, of course, their signature foods.
In Greenfield, dozens of Girl Scouts representing 25 local troops came together to share what they had learned about countries from Cameroon to Kazakhstan.
World Thinking Day celebrates Girl Scout programs across the globe, troop leader Kristin Charpentier said.
“It actually started in England, and they were ‘Girl Guides,’ initially,” Charpentier said. “I think it’s great having (the girls) learn about a country they’ve never heard of.”
That was certainly the case for Stephanie Peck, 13, whose troop settled on Zimbabwe.
“I didn’t even know it existed,” she said.
Each troop represented a different country and provided three trivia questions that could be answered by carefully examining the troop’s display board.
The Girl Scouts rotated between manning their own booths and exploring others’ displays. Participants went from booth to booth with passport books containing a page for each country with that country’s questions. After completing each page, they left the event with a World Thinking Day patch.
The event looks a little different each year, as troops are not allowed to draw from the pool of countries represented the year before.
Charpentier, who is also the Girl Scout service unit manager for Hancock County, said her family learns something new about the world every February.
Charpentier’s daughter, Grace, 11, has been participating in Girl Scouts for years, and the family always looks forward to World Thinking Day.
“We now have six (display) boards at home from the six years, and she won’t let me throw them away,” Charpentier said.
Sunday, Grace was wrapped in a purple toga made from a folded bed sheet. Her troop represented Greece.
Grace and her fellow troop members took pride in their display, which featured fun facts about the country and a sample of Greek cookies.
“It represents our troop’s handiwork,” Grace said of the display. “Ours is definitely the best.”
The cookies certainly were up for best cultural snack, according to those who visited the booth.
Tina Carrigg and her granddaughter, Krissy, a member of the troop, made the traditional Greek cookies.
“They’re a powdered-sugar cookie,” Krissy said. “I can’t really pronounce the name, though.”
They’re called kourambiedes (That’s “koo-rah-bee-YAY-dehs,” Carrigg said), and the recipe is one Carrigg has made many times before.
Carrigg’s mother moved to the United States from Greece in 1929, and while her father was born in Indianapolis, his parents were from Greece as well. Greek traditions – cooking included – are alive and well in Carrigg’s family.
Carrigg passed out recipes for the popular cookies, which she admitted get some of their flavor from a few tablespoons of alcohol in the batter.
“I don’t know why the Greeks always have to have brandy in everything,” she said.
Lesley Tice, leader of troop 1049, spent the afternoon manning the grill to make Madagascar’s popular snack, banana fritters.
When Tice’s troop decided on Madagascar, most of the girls admitted they didn’t know much about the country apart from what they’d seen in the animated movie of the same name.
But by Saturday, they were prepared with a detailed poster of fun facts.
While the girls enjoy learning about new places, the highlight each year is usually of the cooked variety, Tice said.
“The food is always the biggest hit, taste-testing everything,” she said.