There was no shortage of food or people at the annual Taste of Soul event last week.
Students, staff and faculty gathered to enjoy soul food at the Marketplace at Doan cafeteria.
The event took place from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, to celebrate families during Black History Month by coming together to enjoy Southern food.
Diverse recipes from black faculty and staff at the University were prepared with help from SVSU Dining Services.
Mamie Thorns, organizer of the Taste of Soul event and special assistant to the president for the diversity programs, made pecan tarts. Within an hour and a half, her dessert had disappeared.
“I doubled my recipe from last year,” Thorn said. “That’s amazing!”
Thorn said she created the recipe because pecans are a “Southern tradition.” The recipe comes from her great-aunt who lived in Mississippi.
Jay Dillard, a cook at the Marketplace at Doan, had a busy first half of the week preparing food from the recipes submitted.
Dillard had been prepping two days prior to the lunch and started cooking at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Ribs, fried chicken, collard greens, Mexican cornbread, chicken pot pie, smothered chicken, shrimp and grits were among the dishes created.
“I feel awesome. We haven’t run out of anything (except for a few desserts) and had no complaints,” Dillard said. “I feel pretty darn good about this one, better than previous years.”
As the cook looked around the cafeteria, he said he felt his hard work had paid off because “from the looks of it, everyone (had) a smile on their face.”
Jason Wolverton, marketing director of dining services, was also happy with the turnout.
“I think it’s fantastic. You can see as you look around that this place is packed. We have lines at every station,” he said during the event.
Each line, Dillard said, had a 15-to-20-minute wait.
That didn’t deter biology junior Jade Mays, who said the cuisine reminded her of home.
“It reminds me of being back at home and when my family from down South – Mississippi – cooks soul food,” said Mays. She named macaroni and cheese, smothered chicken and catfish as her favorites.
Another student who attended the event was pleased to also get a taste of home.
“I like it because it’s a variety of food. It’s food that we like. It’s not every day you get home-cooked, soul foods so it’s good,” Marshae Anderson, social work junior, said.
Cynthia Essex, administrative secretary in the office of diversity programs, made her great-great-grandmother’s macaroni and cheese recipe, which, like Thorn’s, also comes from Mississippi.
“I am very happy because of compliments,” she said about the special lunch. “The event was awesome. Everything was good.”
Essex said the event brought people together.
“If you look around, the event brings all cultures together,” she said. “Food brings us together. We are not celebrated by our color.”
Other dishes were catfish from Robert Lemuel, director of scholarships and financial aid; greens by Barbara Jones, associate professor of teacher education; marble fudge cake from Makiba Batten, assistant cross country/track and field coach; and southern shrimp and grits from Shawn Wilson, director of multicultural student services, and his wife, Gina.
Thorn said she was impressed by the turnout, saying it was the best she’d seen in years.
“This is definitely much larger than last year. It’s been very successful,” Thorn said. “I’m very grateful for the support from the entire campus and the community.”