Musakhan was a sort of flatbread, the crust soft and spongy and spread with a light glaze of sumac, onion, and spices. Big chunks of chicken were the main feature, decorated with pine nuts and fresh herbs. It was sweet, hearty, and a little smoky, like it had just come off the grill. Like traveling to a street fair halfway around the world while carrying the comfort of homemade Friday-night pizza.

This is just one of CCV alumni Richard Witting’s contributions to last week’s International Food Festival in Winooski. Witting attends the gathering every year with his company, Firefly Catering. This time around he prepared dishes from “unrecognized regions”: Alongside the musakhan was rogan josh, a goat curry with rice, and khudat with cheremsha, a mixture of polenta, leeks, and feta—from the cuisines of Palestine, Kashmir, and Chechnya.

Students and other community members shared portuguese soup, sambusa, Spanish rice and beans, cheese puffs, bitter leaf soup, goi cuon, spicy chicken noodles—from Portugal, Mexico, Nigeria, France, Vietnam, and Nepal.

Student Spencer Morrissey was volunteering at the event, scooping up steaming bowls of Portuguese soup, thick with kale and sausage. He says the food fest brings people together by celebrating differences. “We need to build community. We need to see that we are different and embrace the diversity that we have right here. And food is such a beautiful way to do that. Sitting at a dinner table breaks down all boundaries; it’s a global thing. And we can have that here.”

2019 marks the 19th consecutive year of CCV-Winooski’s tasty tradition, which also always includes music and dance from around the world. Coordinator of academic services Dave Amsden is a committed volunteer at the event. He says that while CCV defines diversity broadly—more than half of students are the first in their families to attend college; many are Pell-eligible; many are high school students, or veterans, or single working parents—the racial and ethnic diversity of students is also expanding. In the past two years, CCV-Winooski has enrolled students from more than 120 different countries of birth. In the last year, roughly 15% of the student body at that academic center self-reported as multilingual, and more than 1 in 5 identified as a racial or ethnic minority. And those numbers are double what they were ten years ago.

Amsden says like each of the College’s twelve academic centers, CCV-Winooski proudly mirrors the larger community in which it’s located. “I think it is so interesting, and enlightening, to see our diversity as a representation of the community, as opposed to something we recruit for. We serve the community.”

Linda Bassey, who is working toward a CCV degree in human services, stood proudly behind a table spread with bitter leaf soup, cornmeal cakes, rice, and spicy beans—all of which she had made, all of which comes from her home country of Nigeria. She says she likes cooking for others, and she likes good food, and she wanted to share.

“From when I was growing up, my mom always cooked and called people from the community to eat. She loves cooking for people.” Linda is the same way. “I like when people eat my food. It promotes bonding, and community, and invites everyone to be free with each other and be healthy, and be happy.”

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