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Get your taste buds ready: Fargo-Moorhead International Potluck returns Friday

With the first potluck of 2022 marking the event's return after years of a pandemic-induced hiatus, everyone is invited to come to the potluck, try new foods and meet people from different cultures, founder Peter Schott said.

A picture of the different kinds of foods available at the International Potluck.jpg
A picture of the different kinds of foods available at the International Potluck.
Special to The Forum
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MOORHEAD — Fried potstickers. Tandoori chicken. Crispy samosas. Surbiyaan. Names that may sound strange to some Midwesterners but somehow still make the mouth water.

For more than two years, such dishes from places like Africa, India, China and elsewhere nearly disappeared from the plates of many Fargo-Moorhead area residents during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. But they’re coming back with the return of the Fargo-Moorhead International Potluck.

The event will begin at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at Gooseberry Mound Park, 100 22nd Ave. S. in Moorhead. The public is invited to attend, and optional registration is available through the event’s Facebook page or Eventbrite at www.eventbrite.com/e/welcoming-week-international-potluck-tickets-399212434137.

Founder of the International Potluck Peter Schott began the monthly gatherings about seven years ago. The events drew anywhere from 25 to 250 people and featured food, music, art and speakers from around the world.

“We were waiting for the right time (to bring it back). In one week, I had five people asking me when we will get the potluck going again, so we thought we’d open it up with Welcoming Week,” Schott said.

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Exotic food names take on new meanings during the International Potluck and become signs of welcome and community, he said.

“Living in the Midwest, if you haven’t had the chance to meet people from other cultures, you might have fears or preconceived notions, but sharing food around a table carries a very human element that breaks down those fears,” Schott said.

Having lived in Malta and the Dominican Republic for years, he realized after he returned to Fargo that food was at the heart of any community. He began the potluck dinner because he wanted to rekindle his curiosity with different cultures and cuisine.

“The first time we did this, I didn’t think it would be a regular event — it just evolved into it. Food and the word 'potluck' became this safe space to bring people together,” Schott said.

Ibtissem Belmihoub, executive director of New American Consortium, a fiscal sponsor of International Potluck, agreed, saying that “food and the social element is a comfortable space to explore, to be curious without being in the spotlight.”

The New American Consortium became a sponsor after Schott’s second event. During the colder months, many of the events were held at the Plains Art Museum.

“The Consortium works to integrate refugees and immigrants into the community. This falls right into our mission to bring different communities together, and it doesn’t have to be a conscious effort to meet someone — it’s just a community event and it’s just sharing a meal. It takes away the weight of engaging in a so-called debate, so I think the International Potluck was the perfect fit,” Belmihoub said.

With the first potluck of 2022 marking the event's return after years of a pandemic-induced hiatus, everyone is invited to come to the potluck, try new foods and meet people from different cultures, Schott said.

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This Friday’s event is called Welcoming Week, which coincides with a national day of celebration with a nonprofit called Welcoming America , Belmihoub said.

“At this event, we will have a few people talk about how welcoming others is part of their heritage,” Schott said, adding that any dishes from any background are welcome, even lefse, strudel or a favorite chili.

“Someone from Somalia might not have ever tried those things,” he said.

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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