WILMINGTON — Wilmington College agriculture professor Tom Stilwell had not yet sampled the dish of student Jessica Michonski, a member of his World Food class.
Walking over to her portion of the table where the samples sat, he picked up a small pastry called a paifala, a pineapple treat from Samoa, and gave it a big bite.
“That is really good. Delicious,” he told her, and commented on the surprising ingredients and flavor of her dish.
Michonski, a third-year agriculture and history, nodded and smiled. Sweet.
In fact, all 27 of his students had prepared special dishes to be shared March 30 in the Quaker Heritage Center as part of the 7th Annual Wilmington College Food Symposium. This year’s theme was “Sugar Rushed.”
The day-long event included a candy making competition for both students and non-students; a sugar cube sculpture competition, a student research panel on sugar; and a “Sugar and Wellness” panel discussion with local experts on health and nutrition.
“We have been doing this for six-seven years now,” Stilwell said. “This is part of the World Food class we hold every spring. Each spring the students prepare a dish from a different country. This year the theme was sugar, so all the dishes had sugar in the recipes.”
He said at the beginning of the semester, he passes around to his students a list of countries and they pick one country from the list. Throughout the semester, the students prepare reports on food topics in this county.
“Food production, soil, economics and climate are all part of their research,” Stilwell said. It all culminates at the annual Food Symposium when the students prepare a dish from their selected country.
“I enjoy teaches this class. All of my agriculture experience comes from overseas, food production,” he said. He said he came out of retirement to teach at the college.
In the McCoy Room on campus, while guests and students were enjoying the World Food class samples, judges were also sampling sweet treats. They were judging the approximately 30 entries in the annual cooking contest. There are student and non-student categories.
This year, with a theme of sugar, the entries were all candy dishes. In past years, the entries were sweet, too, with cakes, pies and cookies competing.
This year, the student Grand Champion with peppermint patties was first-year student Emily Robnolte. The non-student Grand Champion was math instructor Russ Kincaid with his birthday cake fudge.
Once the judging was completed, students and guest then had the opportunity to sample these treats, as well.
“These look very good,” said Dr. Erika Goodwin, Wilmington College’s vice president of academic affairs. She and her daughter Emily were enjoying all of the treats to sample in the McCoy Room as the guests walked from sample to sample on long tables putting on their plates the candies they thought looked best.
First year student Shelby Dodds was pointing out all the candy to fellow students Catrice Tatum and Amber Jones. “These all taste amazing,” she pointed out.
In the student research panel, students Bethany Siehr, Mike Secrest, Kendra Cipollini, Doug Woodmansee, Luis Sierra and instructor Dr. Corey Cockerill gave research reports on topics such as diet, animal nutrition, hidden sugar content, sugar’s impact on weight and behavior, use of language and images in advertising sugar products, and sugar, slavery and Portuguese colonization.
The day ended with a “Sugar and Wellness” panel that included Dr. Barbara Utendorf; Laura Knisley R.N., of the Clinton County Diabetes and Wellness Program; Kate Kennard, area chef and cooking educator; and wellness educator Paula Stewart.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.