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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    A Taste of Something New

    It’s 11:30 a.m., and dinner is served.

    Several energetic servers stand joking with one another behind two tables overflowing with a variety of fragrant dishes. Aprons are draped over dress shirts and neckties, dresses and blazers. One reads, “Fays Kitchen” in golden stitching. Sporadically a patron or two will come up for a taste of what resides on the tables. They leave with Dixie plate painted with the colors of soul food.

    It is the African Ancestral food tasting, the tenth of its kind. Held on Stony Brook’s East campus on the third floor galleria by the Black Faculty and Staff Association. It is held each year during Black History Month to give students, faculty and staff a taste of traditional African foods.

    All foods present, which range from ox tails to cornbread, are homemade and served by the members of the Black Faculty and Staff Association. The Galleria booms with laughter from the servers, but by 1 p.m., there aren’t too many eager mouths to feed.

    The 15 round tables dressed in cobalt colored tablecloths are desolate with the exception of a few stragglers here and there enjoying their food. “It’s the first year its not packed,” says Diana Filiano employee of the school of social welfare. Another social welfare employee, Janice Palmer, said “Its usually a larger turnout.”

    The purpose of this two-hour free dine-in is to expose people to traditional African foods. “Survival foods” as Francis Brisbane, Dean of the School of Social Welfare and Vice President of the Hospitality Committee, put it. “My favorite are the ox tails and collared greens,” she says leaning over to set up the next dish to be brought to the tasting. Mrs. Brisbane coordinates, cooks and cleans for this event. “A hundred years ago we would call it survival foods,” she said.

    Ox tails, chitterlings and fried chicken are the three main meat dishes. The ox tails are in a stewed brown sauce and are bony tender meat from the tail of a beef animal. Chitterlings are stewed intestines. “Years ago people in the meat market would give it away,” Mrs. Brisbane said. Other dishes present, such as cabbage and chicken, became soul food. These were all foods which were easily and cheaply accessible. “One of the things we continue to eat a lot of is friend chicken,” she says.

    The fried chicken in the most popular dish at the tasting, it quickly vanishes into the stomachs of the students, faculty and staff. “Yard bird, running around the yard,” says Jerry Edwards, a six-year African Ancestral food-tasting veteran. “Now that’s a little trivia,” he said, bursting into laughter.

    “This is cool!” exclaims Wendy Lindsey, a Stony Brook staff member as she walks toward the table decorated with its range of foods.

    “Didn’t I tell you, stick with me if you want to eat,” says her friend Lorraine Koelbell.

    The are both greeted with warm smiles from the severs offering them fried chicken, ox tails, chitterlings, candied yams, collard greens, cabbage, bean and rice and cornbread. “I have to say, I’m loving the oxtail,” said Mrs. Koelbell offering her friend a taste.

    “I can’t, I’m scared about the ox tail,” she said, pulling away.

    Succumbing, Mrs. Lindsey tries a piece and said, “Oh my god, oh this is very good,” looking back at the servers with gratitude. They all chuckle in an almost “I told you so” manner.

    That is the goal of the African food tasting, to expose people to foods that they wouldn’t normally try. Mike Turner, a building manager for the Wang Center and one of the severs said,” You have to taste it to get the real story!” The turn out may not have been as large as last year, but Syteria Mowhawk, a staff employee for the hospital, said, “Sometimes its good to have some food left over.”

    It was not the amount of food consumed. The focus of the participants was on the experience gained from the tasting of traditional African foods.

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