I love food, reason enough to revel in Mosaic; I also love learning about other cultures, another reason to love Mosaic. I also love what the event says about the Holton community: the multiplicity of nationalities and ethnicities our families represent–34 countries and ethnic groups hosted tables this year; the pride families exude as they share signature dishes and other aspects of their cultures, like the ever-popular Indian henna tattoos; and the number of students and their parents who come to take part in this community celebration. In so many ways, the evening encapsulates so much of what makes Holton so special.
Some of you who have read my Mosaic pieces before know that I first seek out food I particularly like that disappears quickly. That used to make Greece my first stop to secure baklava; whether the Greeks are bringing more baklava or it's less popular, I don't know, but the depletion danger has declined. Chinese dumplings, however, can run out fast (interestingly there was no Chinese table 12 years ago), so now I go to the China table first. I started out with a large egg roll and two dumplings when, given the array of gastronomic delights awaiting me, just one dumpling would have been a much wiser selection. Greece still comes second, where I picked up the coveted baklava as well as a square of delicious spinach pie. Italy was close by and who can resist a cannoli? Traveling around the Mediterranean, I headed to Israel for some kugel, one of several dishes I have only ever eaten at Mosaic. A platter of large pickles had just arrived, and I enthusiastically took half of one (not exactly restraint, but...). Staying in the Mideast, I stopped at Iran for some wonderful green rice that I remembered fondly, along with a very tasty sausage-esque item. While at Iran, a mother from the Japanese table urgently escorted me across Asia to ensure that I didn't miss out on sushi. I gratefully chose my sushi and, despite the fact that I was already starting to feel quite full, couldn't refuse a Japanese sweet pressed on me. Remaining in Asia, I visited Korea for some noodles and a kimchi dumpling.
While sampling some coconut rice–surprisingly and pleasingly spicy–at the Nigeria table, I was chatting with someone who wondered if a heaping pile of buns were hush puppies. That prompted me to wonder whether the buns are the ancestors of hush puppies, one of the many byproducts of the Atlantic slave trade. While a little sweeter, the buns had exactly the same texture and structure as hush puppies.
Some parents raved about the food at the Kurdistan table, one of the two new tables this year, so off I went. I savored a stuffed grape leaf (I was finally so full that I was exercising more moderation) and took a piece of baklava to compare with the Greek version. Next, some mango lassi beckoned me from the India table. There's something about the texture of lassi that I just love. While there, I had to have a samosa. After a break for a little chatting, I headed to Mexico. I adore Mexican food, but I was so full I couldn't contemplate an entire taco. Nonetheless, I was persuaded to take some chicken and then the guacamole called, so I took a little with a few chips. The chicken was so good I went back to tell the family hosting the table. A little farther along was the Scottish table with its "I tried the Haggis" stickers, a Mosaic tradition. I ate my requisite cracker with haggis and tried not to express too much disbelief when the Scottish mom told a curious eater that it was lamb sausage. At the Swiss table, the mother and daughter joined me in finding the flag for the Neuchatel canton, where my husband's family is from. I took some Toblerone chocolate. There is chocolate, and then there is Toblerone.
Then I encountered a Pakistani mom who politely urged me to visit her table, where I tried a vegetable dish that was delicious and definitely homemade; I also had a samosa. Blessedly, the Pakistanis offered a rose-scented water, the perfect intermezzo for my continuing culinary adventures. At Palestine, I chose some excellent tabbouleh, another favorite food, and happily on the lighter side. At the Philippines, I tried what looked like a long, skinny eggroll, while at Senegal I had some Mafe Ginaar, a traditional chicken stew made with peanuts (a staple crop in Senegal) and sweet potatoes. Then I spied Goya drinks on the Puerto Rico table, and, I thought, maybe a little Coco Rico will settle the stomach. We go to Puerto Rico every spring break, and I had a nice chat with the family about how underappreciated that American territory is. The Singapore contingent had lots of information and takeaways, including flags, but I was there for the food. I inquired of the Lower Schooler dressed in traditional garb what I should try and she suggested a pineapple tart–delicious indeed! (And, thankfully, very small.)
The Swedish meatballs count as another of my annual favorites, so I had one of those with a little of the berry jam–so tasty. The mom noticed my haggis sticker and remarked that they should have stickers too: "I was daring and ate the herring." I love herring, so I happily helped them out and ate a piece, sticker or no sticker. Vietnam represented another new table this year, and I was happy to pick up an eggroll from them–I do like eggrolls. Then I came upon what I consider the most interesting table of all: the Sephardic Jewish family from Rhodes. I knew nothing about this ancient culture until last year, and happily returned, this time for a meatball. I next came upon Bolivia, which I think had the best cultural display, with vegetables (potatoes!), quinoa, and other staples as well as traditional instruments and dress. I had seen people eating poutine earlier, and knew that at some point I would need to make a stop at Canada. Poutine is another dish I had never experienced until Mosaic a few years ago. At this point, I actually needed a separate plate for this delicacy from our neighbors to the North.
While eating my poutine, I surveyed the room to see what tables I had missed. Off to Eritrea I went for some chicken, and then to Ethiopia for an injera chip and a taste of collard greens. My stomach couldn't comprehend the popular Nutella crepes at the Russia table so I wistfully settled for a small cookie. I had a hard time choosing at the Irish table, but settled on my annual favorite of bread spread with that heavenly Irish butter. At the African-American table, I took a smidgen of macaroni and cheese and wasn't allowed to pass up some more collard greens (vinegary and very tasty). After a pleasant conversation with a new dad, I noticed the Peru table, where I enjoyed some chicha morada, a ubiquitous sweet drink made from purple corn (Peru has thousands of corn varieties) while chatting with the family and their Peruvian nanny about how much I loved the Peru Junior Journey this past summer. Only Bangledesh remained, where I had some excellent potato curry while talking with the daughter, who also happened to have also been on the aforementioned Peru Junior Journey.
And there you have it: a girl whose family is from Bangledesh, who lived in London before coming to Holton, and whom I got to know on a trip to Peru. That's the world we are preparing our girls for. How wonderfully rich and exciting it is.
With enormous thanks to all our volunteers, especially the chairs, Alaleh Rafia P '25, Leili Soltani P '25, '28, and Molly Vanden Bosch P '22, and Director of Constituent Relations Dani Aronson.