On the evening of Friday, February 10, a novelty occurred at Concord Academy—or so it would have appeared to most current students. The return of CA’s winter International Potluck, complete with live DJ karaoke, drew hundreds of hungry community members to the Stu-Fac.
Last gathering community members in January 2020, the potluck had been a popular annual event at CA. In December 2022, parent committee co-chairs Lexie Olmsted P’22 P’23 and Ly Tran P’22 P’23 invited the parent community for a mid-January committee meeting to discuss the potluck. A sign-up sheet soon filled with pledges of home-cooked meals and financial support, and many parents volunteered to help with logistics. Olmsted and Tran reported remarkably high support from parents of all classes, even from families abroad.
The savory side of this year’s International Potluck included Kenyan goat pilau, Finnish salmon soup, student-made Ukrainian Borsch, Icelandic smoked trout on rye, Korean bulgogi, pastelitos, Lebanese kibbeh, various Chinese dumplings and baos, sushi, Thai chicken larb, Filipino pancit, Italian pastas, and homemade beef stew and meatballs. Desserts, too, varied immensely, with displays of fresh tanghulu and lactose-free muhallabieh. Gluten-free and nut-free options peppered a separate table.
The main event lasted from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and included live karaoke provided by CA’s Summer Programs Director Greg Jutkiewicz and Jutkiewicz’s friend Scott Ostroff. Jutkiewicz also provided lighting, which included not only strobe and floor lights, but also green fairy lights that feathered each table in a gentle glow.
Students lined up to get their initial round of food—and many returned later for seconds. The event coordinators provided compostable take-out containers, which boarders filled with the next day’s breakfasts. Still, the massive surplus of food meant there were leftovers. The event saw many dishes tossed into the trash or compost, as by the end of clean-up at 10:35 p.m., there still lacked enough hands to take it all home. This food wastage was perhaps the one greatest weakness of the event, something that future potlucks might seek to remedy.
Overall, however, the International Potluck was a rousing success. Olmsted and Tran hope the tradition continues for years to come—and many newcomers seem to agree.
Food has the power to ground people. Despite this, many in America are expected to de-prioritize eating. Americans eat in cars, work during lunch breaks, and buy instant breakfasts to expunge meal prep from their morning routines. This “American tradition” is one CA shares, with only thirty minutes allocated on Tuesdays and Thursdays for one to load a plate, scarf down lunch, and sprint to the desk in one’s next class. February 10’s long act of eating, serving, and sharing food was not only an act of community, but an act of temporal easing-off of the gas.
To many boarders and multicultural students, the food was also a reminder of home. To others, it was a taste of things rarely served in the Stu-Fac. Mars Bitout ’23 says, “I loved the amount of food from many cultures; it was a trip across the world in one table.”
And to others, the food was simply very, very good.
“[We thank the] truly countless number of parents [who] volunteered to cook, generously contributed financial resources, drove to pick up take-out orders, set up and decorated [the] StuFac, labeled foods, helped with buffet line traffic, took photos, and cleaned up,” said Olmsted and Tran. We also owe special thanks to Meredith Walsh, Assistant Director of Engagement and Parent Programs, who directly liaised and coordinated between parents and the school, as well as to Juan Patino and Jay Rosinaldo, members of CA’s own Sodexo dining staff who stayed late to help with serving.