Friendsgiving International Potluck Coordinator, Thanya SuwansawadLabor rights leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez has said: “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him . . . the people who give you their food give you their heart.” Indeed, when Cornell parent, Thanya Suwansawad, was approached in 2014 by fellow parent and former event organizer, Joanna Manqueros, to carry on the beloved tradition of Cornell’s annual International Potluck, it was Thanya’s strong belief in the power of food to bring people together that helped her turn this always-anticipated community-builder into an even clearer reminder of the importance of making time for sharing and friendship at Cornell!
What exactly is Friendsgiving? Whereas the event used to focus primarily on food, activities, and live music, today Thanya also stresses it as an opportunity to reflect on being inclusive of our different perspectives and the global diversity reflected at our school. A few years ago, she changed the name of the event to Friendsgiving to specifically emphasize gratitude for peace and friendship. Now, every November, the event brings together between 60 and 80 Cornell families to make, share, and eat their own favorite dishes as part of a large buffet. Communal dining tables are set up, and families are encouraged to choose new friends to meet and sit next to. For this year’s event, dinner will be accompanied by a short ceremonial Aztec dance, and DJ Sandwich Selector (Thanya’s husband Dylan!) will also play music from around the world to introduce families to different genres of music. So, kids and families are definitely encouraged to get up and dance!
In case you’re looking for ideas, past dishes that families have brought to Friendsgiving include spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, challah, borscht, chicken curry, biriyani, potstickers, and momos – and no one is ever disappointed by what always turns out to be a wonderful overabundance of desserts. Says Thanya, “I think that it’s always important to take a moment to build community, but especially with all that is going on right now, locally and globally, it is more important than ever. The Potluck allows us to enjoy a pleasant meal and get to know each other a little better. Through food, we can celebrate the diversity of our school community and celebrate life.”
And, Thanya stresses, please don’t worry if you’re not a master chef – you are still welcome and encouraged to come to the event!: “I sometimes talk to people who say they don’t attend because they don’t cook. But I always encourage you to come anyway. It’s okay to order a pre-made dish and bring that! If you want to bring your homemade bread and butter, no one will complain! And if you can’t manage a dish to bring, you should just show up, because there is always plenty of food. What is really important is that we are together.”
This year, the Friendsgiving International Potluck will take place on Friday, November 3rd between 6 and 8:30 pm in the Cornell MPR.
Would you like to contribute a dish to to this year’s event, or volunteer to help ensure that this opportunity for Cornell families to meet and learn about one another is a continued success? If so, please email Thanya at: email@example.com. Help is always needed with bussing tables, and offers to help decorate the evening before or to provide clean-up after are always especially appreciated.
We can’t wait to see you at the dinner table!