UNC Asheville’s Farm-to-Table Dinner focuses on immigration and cultural heritage

DINING UNDER THE STARS: More than 300 guests gathered on th e Quad at UNC Asheville recently for the university's third annual Farm-to-Table Dinner. Photo courtesy of UNC Asheville

For the third consecutive year, UNC Asheville’s Quad filled on the evening of Sept. 14 with members of the college community and local residents for the school’s annual Farm-to-Table Dinner.

“I think this event has really caught on for people, partly because now it’s a seasonal ritual, we know it is coming in the fall to celebrate the fall at UNCA and the start of the harvest season,” says Sonia Marcus, director of sustainability at UNC Asheville. Over 300 tickets were sold this year, resulting in more attendees than available seats, prompting some guests to sit in the grass.

Before the meal began, guests gathered for mingling and appetizers provided by local vendors as well as a discussion of this year’s theme: migration. “When I was thinking about what we could do to bring culture back to whiteness, I was thinking ‘Well why don’t we talk more about issues of immigration?’” says Marcus. “Why does it have to be ‘Oh, this is the dinner where we talk about Irish people,’ and ‘This is the one where we talk about African-Americans?’ Why don’t we talk more about the dimensions of migration and how they have created what we know now as local food culture.”

The theme was represented in various ways throughout the dinner, beginning with the invocation. During the ceremony, Rick Chess, the university’s English department chair, blew a shofar, or ram’s horn, calling for attendees to “rise up and be our best selves” during the upcoming harvest season.

The dinner highlighted the multicultural theme with a Bibb lettuce salad, Hickory Nut Gap beef shepherd’s pie, No Evil Foods plant-meat chorizo and hominy stew, Algerian okra and tomatoes, Patchwork Urban Farms fall medley of butternut squash and sweet potatoes, kale and white bean cassoulet, cornbread, corn tortillas and ice cream provided by The Hop.

As the sun set, the Quad lit up with strings of lights. The dinner was followed by dancing and music presented by Cornbread & Tortillas, a collective of artists from Kentucky and Latin America. with a performance that honored the cultural heritages of Eastern Kentucky, Nicaragua, Mexico, Greece, Guatemala and Ecuador. The evening ended  with a few final thoughts on migration and, as a final nod to the heritage of Appalachia, a clogging dance-off.


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