The din of lively conversation and the scent of fresh-baked goods filled the Linden Hall Coffee House Friday, as members of the International Students Organization held its first End of the Month Cuisine meal of the semester.
The ISO centers each of its monthly Cuisine events upon the food of an international culture, changing the theme from meal to meal. The food of Bulgaria was highlighted on Friday.
“We have a strong presence of Bulgarian community in the college, so we decided to kick start the event this year with Bulgarian cuisine,” said sophomore Achyut Gautam, vice president of ISO.
The event ran behind schedule. The listed start time of the meal was 5:00 p.m., but the advertised cuisine did not arrive until 7:30, when Gautam announced loudly, “Guys, the food is ready!”
The vice president's words were greeted with cheers and applause from the attendees gathered around him. Students grabbed servings of the meal for themselves, before returning to their games of pool, air hockey, foosball and Jenga.
Three ISO members cooked the meal. During its preparation, the cooks – all of whom hail from Bulgaria – described the traditional Bulgarian dish, as they whisked eggs and managed the oven in the coffee house’s small kitchen.
“It’s called banitsa,” said sophomore Hristo Ganchev, as he flipped a pancake on the stove’s range. The pancake, Ganchev explained, was a snack for himself.
Anna-Maria Boycheva and Simeon DoreCov, both sophomores, put the finishing touches on a second banitsa as the first baked in the oven. Boycheva compared the dish to a more well-known one in America:
“It’s like pie, but without the apples. We put cheese and eggs in it,” she said.
When served, the banitsa was hot yet fluffy, the eggs and cheese layered throughout a phyllo-like pastry. Sophomore Catherine Clinton, who heard of the event through the Ramapo Daily Digest, enjoyed the meal greatly.
“I was a little disappointed by the wait,” Clinton said, “But the food was certainly good and the atmosphere was lively. I’ll probably show up at the next one.”
“It’s so good,” said Alyssa Rabinowitz, a sophomore friend of Clinton’s. “I was able to get seconds. It’s a warm, inviting environment, and I like the concept. If the ISO is able to prepare the meal closer to the event’s start time, I’ll definitely check it out next time.”
Gautam himself is looking to improve End of the Month Cuisine, and to increase attendance at future events.
“[End of the Month Cuisine needs] a more spacious kitchen to cook for a larger number of students,” he said.
“There were around 40-50 students who attended the event,” Gautam continued. “This, I believe, is a good turnout if we are to compare attendance of students in other similar events. However, we definitely would love to see more people attending the event.”