Latino Foodways Celebration planned for Nov. 2

Oct. 25, 2013
Contact: Chelsea Morgan, Communications Assistant
865.981.8207; communications@maryvillecollege.edu

Maryville College will host “Latino Foodways Celebration: From Nixtamal to Grits” on Sat., Nov. 2 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

The event will feature several vendors from area restaurants, providing guests with an opportunity to sample and buy authentic Latin American cuisine. In addition, presentations on the history, culture and chemistry of Latin American and Caribbean foods will be offered.

Vendors will be assembled on the Plaza, and presentations will take place in the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall. The event is open to the public.

According to Dr. Doug Sofer, associate professor of history and one of the event organizers, the Latino Foodways’ emphasis on food and the traditions surrounding native cuisine provides attendees with an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of cultures originating from Central and South America and the Caribbean.

“We can learn a great deal about societies and their cultures by studying and experiencing their foods,” Sofer explained. “Food helps us make sense of different regional and national identities. It can provide a view into socioeconomic classes by analyzing what is considered working-class fare as opposed to haute cuisine.

“Food – its handling and preparation – can help us understand the ‘secret’ lives of women who are not always well-represented in male-centered historical documents. Food also tells us about a society’s relationship to the environment when we study how people extract from the earth the calories and nutrients they need to survive and thrive. Food-centered celebrations can reveal many insights into the lives of the communities in which they take place,” he added. “In short, food is a window into culture and its many complex facets.”

Daniel Gomez '10, an alumnus of the College, and his father, Francisco Gomez, who owns Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant in Maryville, will deliver the keynote address on the changing face of Latin American cuisine in East Tennessee.

Additional presentations will include Sofer’s “A History of Latin America Through Food;” “The Biochemistry of Nixtamal,” by Dr. Angelia Gibson, associate professor of chemistry; “Food and Family: Un Cuento,” by Dr. Crystal Colter, associate professor of psychology; and “Family Dinner Conversation,” by MC students Jósé Perez and Owen Shelnutt.

The Latino Foodways Celebration is a part of the new “Villamaría at Maryville College” initiative, which is made possible through the Appalachian College Association’s Access, Retention and Completion (ARC) for Latino Student Success in Appalachia program. ARC was created with funding from the Kresge Foundation with oversight from Excelencia in Education.

Villamaría is aimed at improving and increasing access to the College for Latino students from surrounding East Tennessee counties. The program seeks to build and strengthen relationships between the College and the surrounding Latino community.

“This festival will be a hands-on approach to the diversity of Latin American history and culture as seen, smelled and tasted through food,” Sofer said. “The cultures of Latin America emerged and are still emerging from the migration and mixing of peoples with European, Indigenous American, African and even Asian roots. Latin American cuisines reflect this same richness and diversity.”

While the festival will certainly provide all attendees with great food and a fun outing, Sofer continued, the celebration will also allow members of the College and the Latino community a chance to come together and learn from one another.

“We hope that people who attend this event on Nov. 2 gain a greater understanding of this cultural complexity and enjoy enhanced culinary experiences,” he said.