International Flavors Featured at Newman Center Mardi Gras Event
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
March 2, 2023
DEKALB—The Knox Community room at the Newman Catholic Student Center, Christ the Teacher Parish on the campus of Northern Illinois University, here, resembled a United Nations of cuisine as the parish hosted its annual Multicultural Mardi Gras Dinner. Parishioners and students cooked and served ethnic delicacies from 10 different heritages including Cajun, Polish, Belgium, Tanzanian, Irish, Slovakian, German, Filipino, Italian, and the USA. 
“Our focus of the dinner is to celebrate the diversity of students we have on campus at NIU and to learn a little more about the variety of foods that each culture represents,” said Denise Sanders, Newman Center pastoral assistant and the event’s organizer. “This dinner is also a way for our parish to have a multi-generational event where a family recipe can be made and shared with the community.”
“The Johnsen family — Marty the grandmother, Jared the dad, and Vincent the grandson — are calling themselves ‘Team Potato’ and have made Irish recipes including potato soup and scalloped potatoes,” Sanders said. “They also made a chocolate cake which has mashed potatoes in it. This is a Depression-era recipe that was passed down the family tree from 90 years ago, so it’s very special to have a connection like that.”
Marcelli Vios and Greg Comonal are NIU students who attended the dinner to share foods from their Filipino backgrounds. 
“I’ve always loved sharing the Filipino culture with others and sometimes feel that it’s underrepresented. By making and serving Filipino egg rolls, chicken and rice, and mango float for dessert, I feel like I’m helping others to see the beauty of our country and the goodness of our food,” Comonal said.
“It’s important to know your roots, and it’s fun to share your culture with others,” he continued. “My parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 1995 to give us a better life. I’m pretty Americanized but making and sharing Filipino food helps me to keep in touch with my roots.”
NIU student Alex Kleiber thoroughly enjoyed the event and getting acquainted with different ethnic foods. “I’ve been attending many of the Newman events, and I thought this dinner was especially interesting. All the food was great but I especially liked the mango float dessert. It was very, very good, and college students like nothing better than free food and a great community!” 
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