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Christopher King, an Adrian, Mich., native, grimaces as he bites into an Easter pancake with spinach sauce, the food presented by the United Kingdom food stand at the Nago International Food Festival. King said the first bite surprised him, but the sample didn't taste too bad.

Christopher King, an Adrian, Mich., native, grimaces as he bites into an Easter pancake with spinach sauce, the food presented by the United Kingdom food stand at the Nago International Food Festival. King said the first bite surprised him, but the sample didn't taste too bad. (Lance Cpl. John F. Silwanus / Special to S&S)

Christopher King, an Adrian, Mich., native, grimaces as he bites into an Easter pancake with spinach sauce, the food presented by the United Kingdom food stand at the Nago International Food Festival. King said the first bite surprised him, but the sample didn't taste too bad.

Christopher King, an Adrian, Mich., native, grimaces as he bites into an Easter pancake with spinach sauce, the food presented by the United Kingdom food stand at the Nago International Food Festival. King said the first bite surprised him, but the sample didn't taste too bad. (Lance Cpl. John F. Silwanus / Special to S&S)

Visitors to the 6th Annual Nago Food Festival grabbed not only food, but also a little information about the meals.

Visitors to the 6th Annual Nago Food Festival grabbed not only food, but also a little information about the meals. (Lance Cpl. John F. Silwanus / Special to S&S)

Members of the III MEF Band rock the crowd with several jazz renditions during the food festival.

Members of the III MEF Band rock the crowd with several jazz renditions during the food festival. (Lance Cpl. John F. Silwanus / Special to S&S)

Ross A. Francis dances along with several students from Meio University in Nago.

Ross A. Francis dances along with several students from Meio University in Nago. (Lance Cpl. John F. Silwanus / Special to S&S)

Don Cash and Michael Foskett sing classic American country songs to the crowd at the festival. Foskett and several Marines from Camp Schwab volunteered to help run the American booth.

Don Cash and Michael Foskett sing classic American country songs to the crowd at the festival. Foskett and several Marines from Camp Schwab volunteered to help run the American booth. (Lance Cpl. John F. Silwanus / Special to S&S)

NAGO, Okinawa — Once a year, Nago becomes an international culinary experience.

Husband and wife Alex and Dulce Garcia, both Marine sergeants stationed on Okinawa, traveled through 15 countries on one weekend in February by walking through a 100-foot-long alley in Nago City. They were among more than 1,000 people who visited the city’s annual world home cooking fair.

Food stalls set up on both sides of the alley beckoned visitors with mouthwatering aromas and spicy and sweet flavors. Hungry food hunters stopped at stalls to sample French roast pork here, Vietnamese noodles there and Argentine potato pie a few steps along. Choices ranged from England’s Easter pancakes to Brazilian chocolates and Indonesian salads.

“It is very interesting,” Alex Garcia, assigned to the 12th Marine Regiment on Camp Hansen, said while tasting Tuoyone, or Mongolian noodles. “These are the countries I have never been to, but I tasted their food.”

“It’s a good experience,” said his wife, a member of the Headquarters and Service Battalion on Camp Courtney.

The fair’s dishes were prepared and served by volunteers from the local community, including foreign students at Meio University in Nago. The event also let them showcase the cultures of their distant homes.

“This is a precious opportunity for me to show my country,” said Nguyen Nunh Hung, a student from Vietnam. He said some ingredients and condiments were not available on Okinawa but substitutes worked fairly well. Only “nuoc mam,” a fish sauce as important to Vietnamese cuisine as soy sauce is in Japanese cooking, was unavailable.

“Every time I go home, I bring lots of it back to Japan,” he said.

Cpl. Brian McCartney, a Marine Corps III MEF band member, tried a bowl of Bolivian soup. “I don’t know the name of this food, but it is really good. It’s good to get a taste of different cultures.”

The III MEF band, together with local groups, added another international dimension to the fair: music.

Caroline Latham, an American professor at the Meio University, knew how to take advantage of these two powerful communication tools. “I learn the recipes and music in every country I go to,” she said. “They are the best souvenirs that you can bring back.”

For the cooking fair, she prepared österreichische Schinkenrolle, or Austrian ham rolls, where she spent two years.

Preparing dishes of her own country helped Argentine-born Patricia Nakasone reaffirm her national identity. “It feels good to cook and show off the dishes from my country,” she said, offering Pastel de papas, a type of potato pie. “When I find people like the food of my country, it makes me very happy.”

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