Bite-sized culture: G-C hosts international cook-off

Greenfield-Central High School students and visitors have a huge menu of items from which to choose as they make their way through the collection of dishes. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Mona Purnama Sari said she was “so proud” to see her fellow classmates enjoy a meatball dish — full of vegetables, broth, noodles and sauces — native to her country of Indonesia.

The 17-year-old exchange student was one about 120 Greenfield-Central students who participated in the 21st International Cook-Off on Tuesday, Oct. 29. It’s an opportunity to experience different cultures and celebrate the world language classes and the school’s international exchange program, said Sonja Jaggers, Spanish teacher and event organizer.

Students from Greenfield-Central High School’s Spanish, French and German classes — as well as some eighth-graders from Greenfield Central Junior High School — showed off entrees, appetizers and desserts that relate to the countries they’ve been studying in classes. Some brought enchiladas and tostadas, and others made pastries and cakes.

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The food is judged by a group of teachers and administrators, and the four winners get prizes. Jaggers said the event is the only extra-credit opportunity during the semester for world language students.

“It’s neat to be able to interact with the students in an after-school activity and get to know them a little bit better and see their creativity blossom,” Jaggers said.

Before the students and their families who attended the event could enjoy the diverse dishes, they listened to short presentations from the high school’s exchange students, who come from Colombia, South Korea, Japan, Brazil Indonesia, Poland, Thailand, Ukraine, Chile, Spain and France. The international students briefly introduced themselves and presented their flags to the attendees.

The crowd then walked down the hallway, from the cafeteria to the school’s international court next to the library, for a flag ceremony. There, the international students climbed a ladder and placed their flags in holders on the wall and above pictures of current and past Greenfield-Central exchange students.

Mona, who proudly displayed her red and white Indonesian flag, said she enjoys being in Greenfield.

“The activities are so cool, and the friends are so friendly, and the teachers are so helpful,” she said.

Iryna Plaskon, a 16-year-old from Ukraine, said attending high school in the United States is quite different than Ukraine, but she likes it. Iryna is taking high school Spanish, which she said it much easier to learn than English. She plans to keep studying Spanish in Ukraine.

During the semester, Iryna said she’s enjoyed sightseeing. She has visited Ohio, Kentucky, Lake Michigan and Washington, D.C.

Once the flag ceremony ended, the crowd of hungry students was ushered back to the cafeteria to sample the dishes their peers made, stuffed on two long tables with recipe cards to explain the foods.

Jessica Harris, a freshman at Greenfield-Central, made arroz con leche, a Mexican rice pudding. The 14-year-old said she burned the first batch of the milk and liquid-heavy dessert, so Jessica had to run to the store to get more ingredients. The second try was much more successful, she said.

Geovanny Sanchez cooked tres leches cake, to represent his Salvadorian heritage. His grandfather lives in El Salvador and has perfected the simple milk cake recipe, Geovanny said. The Greenfield-Central freshman, who first filled his plate with multiple desserts, said he was excited to try his classmates’ dishes.

“It’s a lot of work people put into it,” he said.

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French: Brooklyn Bettinger — chocolate mousse

German: Piper Dalton — German cherry-apple strudel

Spanish appetizer/main dish: Grace Cunningham — paella

Spanish dessert: Audrey Brinkruff — bizcocho con canela a la leche