Morning Rotary Club’s international dinner on March 23
Marietta may not seem like the most diverse locale in the world, but on March 23, it’ll be probably the only place you can eat a dinner of Bulgarian sauerkraut and pork and West African jollof rice and peanut soup, complimented by a hibiscus beverage and sponge cake from Panama.
The Morning Rotary Club’s annual Taste of the World international dinner is back for its eighth go-round from 6 to 8 p.m. that day at the Marietta Shrine Club. Proceeds benefit the club’s literacy efforts: the Marietta College Summer Reading Camp, the Boys and Girls Club reading room at the Harmar Community Center and a project to provide a dictionary to every third-grader in Washington County. The experience, participants say, benefits the community by providing a glimpse – and taste – of other cultures.
“I tend to tell people it’s a feast for the senses,” said Khadine Ritter, organizer of the event and provider of food from her native Panama.
In addition to dishes from about 15 different countries, many of the chefs will be dressed in traditional garb and entertainment will be provided by a singer of Brazilian bossa nova music. And the food isn’t simply being translated by folks who have picked up the recipes from afar.
“The rule is you have to be a native of that country or first-generation,” Ritter said.
Ena Vulor, McCoy professor of French language and literature and director of European studies at Marietta College, will share peanut soup from her birthplace in Ghana and jollof rice from its West Africa neighbor, Senegal. Vulor said she’s participated for several years because she thinks it’s important to promote diversity and internationalism.
“It’s a positive thing for us,” she said. “We live in a very isolated community.”
But there are more connections to other parts of the world than some residents realize, said Petia Johnson, 46, a native of Bulgaria living in Parkersburg.
The dinner is a chance “for the people to see actually how many different countries we are here,” she said.
Johnson is a member of the Mid-Ohio Valley International and Newcomers Club, made up of folks who came to the area from other countries. She’s not the only member to participate in the international dinner in Marietta and similar events nearby.
“We like to bring culture into the area, so whenever there is an international event of some sort, we love to do it,” she said.
Johnson directed anyone who has moved to the area from outside the United States to the group’s website, sites.google.com/site/movinternational/, or its Facebook page The group can be a resource for folks who may be new to the area and struggling to fit in, she said.