The food dishes on display at tonight’s annual multicultural dinner will range from Sunday dinner traditional favorites to concoctions whose names few will be able to pronounce properly.
But that’s really the beauty behind this event conducted each year by members of the Joplin Interfaith Coalition. It’s long been said that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In a similar fashion, cultural barriers can be shattered through the sharing of food.
At 6 p.m., in the lower level of the South Joplin Christian Church, 1901 S. Pearl Ave., guests will eat a potluck supper consisting of dishes from a number of cultural heritages, said the Rev. Dr. Colleen Carroll, senior minister for South Joplin Christian Church.
“We are asking people to bring something from their culture — or something that’s just a favorite food — and to list ingredients for the sake of those who might have food allergy concerns or dietary restrictions of any kind.”
Dishes that have been served in past dinners and could very well be on the table tonight range from exotic-sounding dishes from the Islamic community to main courses and desserts commonly served in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
• Baklava, a rich, sweet dessert pastry from Greece made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrups or honey.
• Kushari, an Egyptian dish made of rice, macaroni and lentils, garnished with chickpeas and fried onion and topped with tomato and garlic sauce.
• Flan, a sweet dessert that originated in Spain during the Middle Ages.
• Dahl, a lentil curry meal from Pakistan usually eaten with rice, salad and hot pickles.
“I’m not Japanese but I’ve lived in Japan and I’ll be bringing a Japanese dish (called) mochi, which is a rice cake,” said Carroll.
Paul Teverow, a member of Joplin’s United Hebrew Congregation, said he would be bringing a dish, called kasha, that represents his eastern European heritage; it is a type of porridge made of roasted, whole-grain buckwheat.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., representatives of different religions — primarily Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Buddhism and Christianity — will come together to read stories and sing songs from respective traditions relating to the chosen theme of generosity.
“We formed this interfaith service (and dinner) because … a lot of people in the community, even though they have their own beliefs and traditions, really want to learn about how other people confront some of the same issues in different ways,” Teverow said.
It’s why they don’t have a common prayer that represents all the religions.
“We can learn a lot by listening to other people’s prayers,” he continued.
New this year will be door prizes.
“We haven’t done this before,” Carroll said.
Prizes include a commemorative mug from the St. Louis Cardinals 1982 World Series victory, a walking stick made by Father Frank Sierra of Joplin’s St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, as well as a couple $100 gift certificates to Walmart.
How these prizes will be handed out, Teverow said with a playful chuckle, “is a secret. You’ll just have to come here to find out.”
Crowds in the 60-70 range are expected tonight, though, as it’s often the case in Missouri, turnout will be linked to weather.
There have been people who come up to them who have a much stronger appreciation for another culture or religion.
“All that time,” Carroll said. “I hear that from my own members, and I know several of them know each other now on a first-name basis, which is very encouraging.”
The coalition was formed in 2012 to promote cooperation and understanding between Joplin’s different religious faiths, primarily members of the Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Buddhism and Christianity. This intuitive was really kicked into high gear since mid-2012, after an arsonist intentionally burned and gutted the Joplin Islamic Society building, then located at 1302 S. Black Cat Road, that had served 50 families in the Joplin region. Its replacement, built by donations from across the country, opened in 2014.
“I came from the Lake of the Ozarks, and we don’t have anything like this there,” Carroll said. “So to be able to come to a new community and have such beautiful resources and people that we can make friendships with is really encouraging.”
Want to go?
The Interfaith service will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the multicultural dinner will follow at 6 p.m. inside the South Joplin Christian Church, 1901 S. Pearl Ave. The event is hosted by the Joplin Interfaith Coalition. Details: 417-624-2522.