LIBERAL, Kan. — After two years off the radar, the popular Taste of Kansas will return to Seward County Community College in recognition of Kansas Day. Sponsored by the SCCC Inclusivity & Civility Team, the event focuses on the power of food to bring people together.
“Taste of Kansas is an all-campus potluck but with a twist,” said team member Annette Hackbarth-Onson, SCCC Dean of Student Success. “We are asking employees and students to something from their history, culture, background, family etc. to share with others. It is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the fact that while we may come from many different places, we are all living and working together here is Kansas.”
Organizers are still soliciting donations to the meal, which is offered free of charge to all on campus. Previous years of Taste of Kansas drew between 150 and 300 people, with food from more than 50 cultural traditions served in the SCCC library. This year, Taste of Kansas will take place in the SCCC Student Union.
With a student population comprised of people from more than 20 countries of origin, SCCC has the ingredients for a multicultural feast, said I&C committee head Casandra Norin. She hasn’t decided what to contribute yet, but has received requests for the Chinese smashed cucumbers she prepared in 2020.
“There’s a surprising range of recipes represented, from Asian specialties prepared by employees like me, who have lived overseas, to the regional Mexican dishes our Adult Learning Center students brought at our last Taste of Kansas,” she said. “They arrived and set up their table, everyone descended and the food was gone.”
Because Kansas Day — the anniversary of Kansas’ recognition as a state in 1861, on the eve of the U.S. Civil War — falls on the weekend, the event will take place the Monday after the official calendar date. Even so, the meal will feature several favorites familiar to Kansas natives.
“We always make sure to offer chili with cinnamon rolls, chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes, and bierocks,” said I&C team member Charity Horinek. “Like me, most Kansas kids remember eating all those combinations in the school cafeteria. But it’s not common in other parts of the country.”
With that in mind, organizers expect to see other regional favorites originating far from Kansas: Louisiana gumbo, Minnesotan wild rice, and Indian samosa. Hackbarth-Onson plans to contribute vegan dishes she has mastered, along with a family heritage recipe for molasses cookies.
“My ancestors were coal miners in Pennsylvania, and the cookies were a hearty food they often carried with them when they went down in the mines to work,” she said. “The recipe I have came from my grandmother.” Hackbarth-Onson said she looks forward to hearing similar stories from other cooks and diners. The whole point of the event, she added, is not just to enjoy a great meal, but to get to know one’s fellow Kansans.
“In Inclusivity and Diversity work, we often talk about celebrating differences while finding common ground, and I can’t think of anything more universal than food,” she said. Norin added a quote from the Chicano activist Cesar Chavez sums up the experience.
“We’ve got a quote up in the hallway with our Taste of Kansas posters: If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with them … the people who give you their food give you their hearts.”
To participate in Taste of Kansas, cooks may register in advance through this link:
For more information, contact one of the Taste of Kansas team members: 620-417-1106, 620-417-1125, or 620-417-1161.