By Alexis Tarrazi For Monroe-Woodbury Middle School’s multicultural night, families were asked to bring bite-sized samples of a food that represents their culture. “But the Greek families go to town,” said school secretary Gina Yunque, who co-organizes the night. Greek meatballs with tzatziki sauce, feta and roasted pepper spread on pita bread, koulourakia (dipping cookies) and Greek coffee. “I have to give them a double table.”
Now in its sixth year, the festival drew representation from Australia, Colombia, Eqypt, England, France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent and Switzerland. From Hungary came the crepe-like palacsinta, India represented with mango lassis, Italians brought baked ziti and tiramisu, the Irish served soda bread and potatoes and parsley.
The night was born out of a girls’ lunch group run by guidance counselor Theresa Mack. “Somehow we got talking about our ethnic roots. One girl was Jamaican, one was Korean, a third was Albanian, another was Irish,” recalled Mack. “It morphed into a 6th grade classroom project relating to diversity. We developed a survey with their class of 28… I was amazed at the ethnic diversity within this one class, so then we decided to do a festival.”
The night’s headliner had to be Al Gonzales, also known as The Royal Piper, who played the bagpipes in full costume. “He’s actually played for the Queen of England,” said Yunque. Gonzales… doesn’t sound Irish. “It’s not,” agreed Yunque. “He must be half.”