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(Photo by Denise Hernandez)
(Photo by Denise Hernandez)

‘Roll It’ Brings Foods From Around the World to UNLV

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Students from seven different countries scrunched their faces with caution and raised their eyebrows with curiosity as they gathered around tables to celebrate and explore the tastes of the East.

UNLV’s Students Organizing Diverse Activities and International Council held the second annual Roll It event in honor of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Middle Eastern Heritage Month on Thursday, April 23, at the Student Union.

The event sought to promote cultural awareness by introducing students to different rolled foods from multiple cultures around the world.

“It’s very interactive,” said Linette Posada, a third-year public administration major at UNLV.

The event allowed students to create rolled foods, including spam musubi — a Hawaiian creation that consists of grilled spam, steamed rice, and dried Japanese seaweed — and spring rolls — a traditional festival food popular in China that consists of rice paper, noodles, cabbage and shrimp.

One rolled food item that was new to the majority of participants was the dolma, a stuffed vegetable dish that comes from the Middle East. The most common type of dolma consists of rice, eggplant, tomato and peppers and is wrapped in vine leaves and served cold. The dolma received many mixed reviews.

“It was very different,” said Posada. “I think it’s the texture I didn’t like, because I’m not used to the leaf, and the stuffing. It’s completely different from what I eat so it’s interesting to me.”

Despite the different ingredients, the idea of rolling foods with leaves was not a foreign concept to Posada.

“We don’t eat wine leaves, we eat banana leaves,” Posada said. “We make them into tamales.”

Even with these differences, the students were eager to learn, teach and eat the rolled foods they’d created. According to Dianne Esteller, the program assistant for international programs and marketing chair for IC, Roll It was even more successful this year than last.

(Photo by Denise Hernandez)

(Photo by Denise Hernandez)

“It more successful this year because we actually have international students who knew how to make the food,” said Esteller, who originally came from the Philippines and joined IC as a means of boosting her resume and satiating her curiosity about other cultures.

“I really like learning about cultures and not being from here, it made me want to seek other international students,” Esteller said. “IC is more of an organization that bridges international and domestic students.”

Some of the future events that IC has planned for next semester include cultural awareness coffee hours. The concept for these coffee hours is to allow for international students to introduce to domestic students to their cultures, while IC provides the venue and the food.

“It’s about educating students about certain cultures,” Esteller said.

While both IC and SODA held the event, Roll It is primarily a SODA event.

“SODA came up with it as a meeting event last year,” said Momo Flores, the social media and marketing coordinator for SODA.

This year was the first time SODA and IC collaborated for the event and they hope to continue that in the future. Both organizations are funded by UNLV as part of the Office of Civic Engagement and Diversity.

Even as students were rolling and eating their spring rolls and dolmas, another curious thing connected the students — Coke drinks. Coke was the only drink provided for the event. That is because the Office of Civic Engagement and Diversity teamed up with UNLV Recycling to create a UNLV sign made out of Coke cans.

“Coca-Cola donated a large amount of cans at Premier two years ago,” said James Jones, the program coordinator for international student programs. “It’s a nice recycling effort to show that we do care about the environment, but also care about UNLV.”

According to Jones, the collection of Coke cans for the UNLV sign has been going on for the last two years. UNLV Recycling is very close to reaching their goal and the sign will be used at major events, such as Premier, Homecoming, and Festival of Communities.

As the Roll It event came to a close, both domestic and international students were beginning to file out of the room, bellies full and connections made. Esteller and Flores seemed to be elated by this year’s outcome.

“They’ve become curious and we always have at least one person who says, ‘Oh, this is really cool. I didn’t know we had this at UNLV,’” Flores. “That’s how they get involved.”

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