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University of Wisconsin-Superior students Heejung Lee (left) and Karla Cho prepare curry-and-chicken kabobs at the International Cooking Demo at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Superior on Saturday afternoon, April 12, 2014.(Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Diners line up, clean their plates at UWS international cooking demo

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The popularity of an international cooking demonstration by students at the University of Wisconsin-Superior was evident on Saturday by long lines and quickly disappearing food.

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“China ran out of food,” said Jennifer Hoffmann of Superior, who was attending the annual event with sons Jaxon, 12; Jayden, 10; and Jordan, 9.

Nonetheless, the cooking demonstration won great reviews for the countries they’d tried by the halfway point of the two-hour event.

Jaxon, who had a taste of China before the food ran out, said he liked it the best; Jayden and Jordan favored Japan and Jennifer’s choice was the rice with carrots and potatoes and spicy sauce from Nigeria.

“Everything we’ve tried, we loved it,” she said.

They had a ways to go. Eleven countries were represented on tables lining the fellowship hall of Pilgrim Lutheran Church, which abuts the UWS campus. From Japan’s nikujyaga — a meat and potatoes dish — through Libyan koskos to a Mongolian meat pastry called khuushuur to a chocolaty Brazilian dessert called brigadeiro, guests were treated to an international smorgasbord without having to step back out into the cold April breeze.

“And this is free, too,” Jennifer Hoffman pointed out.

The event, put on annually by the school’s World Student Association, is gaining adherents. Carol Knoble, the group’s faculty adviser, said they’ve generally planned for 100 guests. But last year, 150 people showed up. An exact count wasn’t available for Saturday’s crowd, but it appeared to be closer to 200.

The students prepared their dishes in the bustling and steamy Pilgrim Lutheran kitchen, introducing spices that perhaps aren’t often seen there. Then they took turns introducing their creations and explaining how they were prepared before serving generous samples. Lines quickly snaked around the chairs set up facing each table. Recipe booklets compiled by World Students Association public relations director Jenny Yoo were limited to one per family but still ran out.

The students, taking time out of their academic schedules as finals approach, said it was a treat for them.

“We ran out of food,” said Farida Suleiman, a 19-year-old from Nigeria. “I was surprised. I was shocked. A lot of people actually liked it. I’m excited that I shared my culture and they appreciated it.”

Such activities make the World Student Association a popular group on campus, said its vice president, Hannah Ness of Clear Lake, Wis.

“We just do a whole lot,” said Ness, a 22-year-old senior. “What really draws a lot of people in is just the variety of things we do.”

The majority of students in the group are from other countries, Ness said, but it’s popular with Americans such as herself who are interested in other cultures.

About 140 of the 2,700 students at UWS come from 37 countries outside of the U.S., Knoble said. The World Student Association has a membership list of about 200, arguably the largest student group at UWS.

Karla Cho, a South Korean who is the organization’s president, chose to join the World Student Association because she wanted to know what life was like in other countries, she said.

“People make fun of me because I know so little about the world,” she said. “I want to meet people from different countries, know about them and (go to) events that unite people together.”

That doesn’t just apply to the students.

Evelyn Hagfeldt was acting as a sort of ad hoc goodwill ambassador at the cooking demonstration, dispensing greetings and hugs. Retired from the graduate studies program at UWS, Hagfeldt remains passionate about the World Student Association.

 “I don’t get to travel very much, but now I get to see all these countries through the students,” Hagfeldt said. “And that is incredible.”

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