"The jackfruit is our most popular fruit," Fatema Haque said, pointing to a photo of a whole jackfruit, and then inviting visitors to sample some cut-up fruit on a platter.
She was standing behind the Bangladesh display table at Cultural Night Thursday at the Muslim Community Center Full Time School in Morton Grove.
All around the school's gym, display tables were set up from 21 countries--each with maps, artifacts and art from the country, and each offering a typical food to the many interested people who came to the festival.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Rizwan Kadir, chairman of the MCC Full Time School council, who was key in organizing the fest. "We're new in the community so the onus is on us to introduce ourselves." Residents in the neighborhood were invited, he added.
The countries ranged from those in Asia, such as Sri Lanka and India, to Europe, such as Bosnia and Montenegro, to Africa, such as Uganda and Malawi, to North Africa, such as Ethiopia and Algeria, to the Middle East, such as Iraq, Syria and Jordan. There were 21 countries in all; the school draws students from 30 countries.
People attending went from booth to booth sampling the food and chatting; in the center, women painted mehndi, or decorative designs, on the backs of other women's hands.
The food included beef samosas, Ethiopian chickpea dip with a spongy bread, tabbouleh, falafel, peanut cookies and chocolate-vanilla cookies.
Uniting America, a non-profit agency which works with immgrant groups, co-organized the fest.