Smile Politely

Tasting Culture

CornbreadThe great thing about merging so many cultures together in one place (like, say this campus) is the variety of different food offerings that come about.  Oh, and that there are many interesting people to meet and talk to as well.  That’s also nice.

But the food.  That’s where it’s at.  Especially when the food is mixed with delightful entertainment.  It also helps when there are three massive tables loaded with an amalgam of as many different types of food that you could dream up.  From kimchi to cornbread. 

I dance with a West African dance group and we perform various gigs when the opportunity arises.  This opportunity was brought about by one of the dancers, as she mentioned that her son’s Tae Kwon Do teacher was throwing a celebration and wanted us to perform. 

Not knowing what to expect, two of the dancers and I drove to the Tae Kwon Do master’s estate.  An estate indeed.  And in the countryside of Urbana.  The house itself was a gem, but the surrounding area of lush green accentuated its greatness.  As we drove up, there were parking attendants directing us where to park.  And we were handed programs.  Yep, they don’t mess around with these festivities. 

Speaking of not messing around, the tomahawk throwing seemed to draw attention as well as it channeled the inner tomahawk-wielding warrior in all of us. Though the three of us tried our hand at it, none of us made it stick.  But we were all pretty close.  My inner child was also threatening to rush forth (and possibly rush the little ones out of my way) as horseback rides were offered to those who wished to stand in line and wait their turn. 

Back to the food.  After our performances, the host announced dinner.  And what a dinner it was.  As people gathered to wait in line, they had a choice of three long tables piled with such a diversity of foods that also reiterated the master’s point of coming together and bringing those cultures together.  There were staples like Korean kimchi and kimbap.  There were also southern staples like cornbread, as well as pastas, dips, and a whole roast pig.  Though I had planned to cook dinner that evening, I could not resist the triple threat of carbs, sweets, and more food items that contained a combination of carbs and sweets.  My favorite was the cornbread, with its buttery, sweet, carb-loaded goodness.  The texture was slightly grainy (in a good way) but yielded with the moistness of a muffin right out of the oven.

Needless to say, we stuffed ourselves after our cardio-laden performance.  After experiencing the harmonious combinations of excellent food, compelling conversations, and performances that gave me chills, I had a newfound appreciation for Urbana-Champaign.  I had no idea places and events like this one existed in Central Illinois.  Once again, I felt the true sense of community that I have come to cherish so often after living in Urbana for almost four years.  And I don’t plan to leave anytime soon. 

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