El 大 Fêtegäßle brings language clubs together in competitive remote cook-off

Junior Snigdha Akula shows the flautas de papa y queso she made for Spanish club’s cooking day. “It’s all about having fun. El 大 Fêtegäßle allows all four clubs to come together for a few days and it’s not super competitive or anything. We just have fun and cook dishes together,” Akula said. Photo courtesy of Snigdha Akula. 

Over the course of four weeks, students from Spanish, Mandarin, French, and German Club participated in El 大 Fêtegäßle with slight changes from previous years. El 大 Fêtegäßle is a cooking competition between the four language clubs composed of traditional recipes from all around the world. 

Due to the pandemic, El 大 Fêtegäßle had to be held completely virtually this year. Instead of meeting in the culinary classrooms and using the kitchens, students participated in El 大 Fêtegäßle from their homes. Each club had its own cooking day where all students competing recreated the recipe provided by the specific club. 

German Club’s cooking day was first. The club chose to make traditional German pretzels, or Brezeln

Senior and German Club member Steven Pokorny said the pretzels were his favorite recipes so far. This year was his third year competing. 

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s nice to try different foods and meet new people outside of our community,” Pokorny said. 

Junior and member of Mandarin Club Paris Hunt participated in El 大 Fêtegäßle for the first time this year. 

“It really helps students get a feel for other cultures and try things that they may not be able to all the time, because I know personally, I don’t usually eat food from Germany. So it was really nice to be able to try those foods,” Hunt said. 

Hunt decided to participate in both Mandarin Club and El 大 Fêtegäßle this year because of encouragement from her friends. 

“I was a little nervous. I don’t usually do these types of things. But it was actually really fun and once I got to sit there and cook, all of my stress went away,” Hunt added. 

The first El 大 Fêtegäßle was won by Mandarin Club. The champions for the second year were German Club. The results of this year’s competition are yet to be announced. 

Despite El 大 Fêtegäßle being a competition, the spirit of the friendly event lied in the learning experiences for everyone involved. 

German Club sponsor and teacher Anna Hog said it’s a fun opportunity for light-heated  competition and cultural experience.

“I’m competitive. I like working with my colleagues and I love food. And I like that the students learn something new about cultures and life skills like cooking,” Hog said. 

Hog was one of the sponsors that started El 大 Fêtegäßle. She said she’s enjoyed every year so far and that competing both in person and virtually had its perks. 

“In person you get to actually work together. You have to collaborate, you have to talk to each other,” Hog said. “Whereas at home, it’s nice to be able to see families working together and collaborating. With remote we have been able to see things about the students that we don’t normally get to see. And I think it’s opened our eyes in a lot of different ways.”

El 大 Fêtegäßle was created three years ago by the four sponsors of the language club. The main idea was to bring all four clubs together by making a fun competition. Spanish Club sponsor and teacher Alexis Zayed said she was determined to find a way to unite the language learning department.

“We thought it was a nice way to feel like one group instead of feeling like four separate clubs. Because it’s kind of nice that we all have that language learning in common. We needed a good way to bring all four of us together, and of course the best way to share our culture is with food,” Zayed said. 

Despite the health restrictions that made planning the competition much harder, the language club sponsors worked together to come up with a plan that would allow them to continue the tradition while following guidelines and staying safe. 

Junior and President of Spanish Club Snigdha Akula said that although she still enjoyed this year’s competition, she preferred competing in person. 

“The atmosphere is obviously different because everyone is having fun together in one location. But still, I think we’ve made a good decision to continue with this year, though it is remote,” Akula said.

Other students, like junior and Mandarin Club member Ania Querido, also preferred in person competition. This year was her second time competing.

“Even though it was remote, it gave a sense of normality in the circumstances we’re in,” Querido said. “It gave us something fun to do instead of stressing over regular school.” 

This year’s competition was such a success that Zayed and the other language club sponsors talked about continuing the idea of dedicating one day for all the students to share the recipes separate from El 大 Fêtegäßle. She said that just having a fun cooking day apart from the competition could be a possible event for future years. 

“I think that in any situation, when you get to learn about other cultures, you grow as a human being, you grow as a person, you grow as a member of society,” Zayed said. “So that in itself, separate from all the fun food, was enough for it to bring some enlightenment and growth to our students.”

Mariel Herrera is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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