Saturday, Sep 22, 2018
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Mary Bilyeu

An international feastival at the Islamic Center

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    Ismail Shbat, owner of the restaurant Fetoosh, makes Falafel during the 15th Annual International Festival Saturday, September 12, 2015, at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg.

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    Ziad Tubeileh, left, serves food at the Palestine table during the 13th annual International Festival at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg.

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    Anisse Zeitoun of Oregon makes Syrian Village Bread September, 2012 during the International Festival at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg.

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We’ve eaten our way around the world, this summer, at Polish picnics, Greek and Hungarian festivals, the Hindu Festival, and so many more. Every weekend, it seems, a different church or club or organization has invited us to fall in love with its favorite foods.

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This time, let your taste buds travel around the globe while you stay under one tent.

The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, 25877 Scheider Rd. in Perrysburg, will host its 18th annual International Festival from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 12 to 6 p.m. Sunday. It is a warm, welcoming event steeped in food, fun, and friendship.

There’s something for everyone. Kids can have a great time at the petting zoo and on camel and pony rides, or gleefully giggling in the bounce house. Those interested in learning more about Islam can tour the mosque and ask questions about the faith. Those who are inspired by culture can go on a shopping spree at the bazaar.

You know I’ll be sitting at a table striving valiantly to sample something from each country’s tempting array of treats. I often say that the festival shouldn’t leave me to make my own decisions about what to try. Instead, I need a fixed-price tray with one of everything placed on it, and one or more “to go” containers too.

That’s because you’ll be able to sample more than 100 different dishes. As my friend Najwa Badawi, secretary of the Center’s public relations committee, says, it’s an “international feastival.”

Ahmad Taouil, chairman of the festival, says that the countries being represented include Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Guyana, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, and Turkey, with more still to be determined. Some of these are readily identified as having large Muslim populations, while it may come as a surprise that others also have significant Islamic communities.

And that’s part of the festival’s purpose: This is an opportunity to learn more about our neighbors at the Islamic Center. And there’s no better way to do this, to my mind, than over a meal.

Stop at each station and ask questions about the food being served: What’s in this? Is there a special occasion this might be served for? Why is this important to your faith or to the country whose cuisine you’re offering? Find out about regional recipe differences, family traditions, and exotic ingredients while making friends and enjoying some extraordinary food.

Some of the dishes being served, Mr. Taouil said, are ones that might be familiar favorites: grape leaves, lentils with rice, tabouli, meat pies, falafel, chicken shawarma sandwiches, Turkish coffee, and mango ice cream. Others that might require an introduction include pakoras (vegetable fritters), samosas (savory stuffed and fried pastries), coxinhas (deep-fried conical meat croquettes), saj (a griddled flat bread), zalabia (a.k.a. jalebi; fried swirls of batter, a bit like miniature funnel cakes, which are soaked in a sugar syrup), and biryani (a celebratory spiced meat and rice dish).

“We will also be offering American food and soul food,” Mr. Taouil said, “and so much more!”

For more information go to icgt.org or facebook.com/events/291018341699083, or call 419-874-3509. Note that parking costs $3, but there is no admission fee.

Toledo’s season of celebrating culture and cuisine is coming to a close with the International Festival.

What better way to relish our region’s delicious diversity?

Contact Mary Bilyeu at 419-724-6155 or mbilyeu@theblade.com, and follow her at facebook.com/thebladefoodpage.

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