August 12-14, 2011

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Programs & Activities: Food

Food Traditions

Taste of India food vendorWhat we eat says a great deal about who we are and where we came from.
Vendors invited to participate in the Great Lakes Folk Festival's "Taste of Traditions Food Court" offer traditional foods closely linked to their ethnicity or region. Below is a glimpse of some of the treats available at this year's festival.

Information for Food Vendors

Information for Traditional and Non Traditional Food Vendors

The Taste of Tradition Vendors 2011
Click on the name or scroll down to see more info about the vendors

(updated 7/13/11)

A.J. Rib Experience



Local and Other Food Vendors 2011
-Melting Moments-Locally produced Ice Cream Treats
-Blimpies/Smoothie Island- Classic American Subs ( Hoagies, or Heros)
-Grand Grillin'/Capitol City Concessions - chicken wraps, etc
-Shucks Enterprises - roasted corn
-Trenton Concessions - Philly Cheesesteaks and Deep Fried Onions
-American European Food - Chicken Gyros, Pita, hot dog, corn dogs, fries

-Amist Concessions- Fresh-squeezed Lemonade
-King of the Grill - brats, pulled pork sandwiches

Sidewalk Cafes

-Harper's Restaurant and Brewpub

A.J. Rib Experience
Allen Jones
Lansing, Michigan


Barbecuing ribs is an art and practitioners have their own discrete methods. Some marinate, some baste with vinegar, some boil, some bake, and some smoke the meat. Ribs can be cooked long and slow or hot and fast. Some like their ribs moist and tender; others argue that only firm and chewy will do. And what of the sauce or spices? Some use commercially bottled sauce that they adjust to their taste, while others make their sauce from scratch, often using a family recipe. Others rub the ribs with spices and may or may not use sauce. There is wide variation in the degree of spiciness and sweetness. In Michigan, ribs are a popular foodways, about which everyone has a strong opinion. Allen Jones's barbecued ribs are rubbed with a secret seasoning and smoked.

Allen Jones moved with his family from Chicago to Flint in 1969. As a child, he already had aspirations of being a chef and began cooking at the age of 5 under the direction of his mother, grandmother, and great great uncle. He attended prestigious culinary art schools in Arkansas and Boston and is now a certified chef. He applied his culinary skills at the Michigan School for the Blind until the school closed in 1994, when he turned to catering. Today his family's southern culinary heritage is but one part of his cooking repertoire. He did not begin to barbecue until the late 1990s, when he saw a fellow barbecuing and selling ribs on a street corner and he knew he wanted to do this. When not at the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Allen can be found selling ribs on the corner of Pleasant Grove and Hamilton.

Anishnabe Meejim

Robin and Eva Menefee
Lansing, Michigan

Native American Foods

Native American cooking consists of the oldest foods and the oldest cooking methods in North America—a food and cooking tradition based on things gathered from the ground, plants, and fresh and salt waters. Like the Native Americans themselves, their food and cooking have changed greatly since first contact with Europeans. Nonetheless, the Native foods that were once associated with ceremonial life remain so today. Certain things are still eaten in certain seasons only by certain people. What is eaten is central to being Native, and nothing is eaten without a prayer.

Many New World foods have enriched the cuisines of other nations. What would Italian food be, for example, without the tomato? Native peoples grew and preserved a wide variety of corn, which European traders took to all corners of the world. Corn is still an important ingredient in the Native American diet and is eaten in a variety of ways.

Some foods closely identified today with Indians are the result of European and other Native American influences. Frybread, for example, evolved because of access to European wheat and lard, and today it is associated with all Indians. Through fairs, festivals, and pow wows, the southwestern version of frybread--the Indian or Navajo taco--has been adopted by Native Americans of the Great Lakes region and elsewhere.

Fonda Celaya

Bath, Michigan

Mexican foods

Maria ("Lupe") Aguilar left Mexico decades ago, now lives in Bath, Michigan and is an active member of the Cristo Rey community in Lansing. At church and Latino festivals, she prepares and sells Mexican foods, some from her hometown, Celaya, Guanajuato. For more than 25 years she has been making tamales, both the savory variety with pork, which most Michiganders know, and the sweet variety, which Mexican-Americans favor at Christmas and other festive occasions. For nearly as long, she has made and sold gorditas, thick shells made from masa that are filled with meat, potatoes and vegetables or vegetables and cheese. Another of her specialties are flautas, a form of taco found in northern Mexico; a tortilla is filled with beef, generally, then rolled and fried. Lupe cooks the real Mexican food, the same as she prepares for her grandchildren and very different than anything you are likely to find at commercial establishments.


Greekland Foods
Port Saint Lucie, FL
Greek foods

We are Greekland Foods and our name speaks for itself. We offer Mediterranean cuisine, which is characterized by its flexibility and range of ingredients. We take pride in serving many traditional foods from Greek culture such as Greek salads, Gyros with thinly-sliced, specially seasoned meats served on pita bread and topped with tzadziki (traditional seasoned yogurt topping); and Souvlaki, which are marinated grilled meat kabobs.

East Lansing, MI
Indian Foods

Indian cuisine is very complex. According to Pramod “Paddy” Rawal, owner of the India Palace, it is the variety of spices and aromatics that both enrich and enhance the dishes he creates. Paddy emphasizes that you cannot compromise the diversity of the dishes by overemphasizing the heat & spice of the dish. These are the values that Rawal has lived by for over two decades in the restaurant business and practicing his craft. He came to America from India eight years ago with only a dream. “It is a land of opportunity, and I am an example.”

Rawal opened his first Indian restaurant in Farmington Hills, MI, but the thrill of new adventure and opportunity drew him to East Lansing earlier this year to re-open India Palace. Paddy brought not only his cooking techniques, but also his customer “guest” first values with him. “Good is not enough for me,” he said, “I am only as good as the last meal I serve.”


Maria's Tacos
Lansing, Michigan
Tex-Mex foods
The term "Tex Mex" designates Texas Mexicans (Tejanos) and their culture. Much of the cuisine we know in Michigan as Mexican is Tex Mex, brought by families who settled in Michigan from Texas and by seasonal agricultural workers from Texas who live part of the year in Michigan.

The Espinoza family's ancestors emigrated from Mexico to Texas during the Great Depression. Highway construction work in the 1950s brought the grandparents of James Espinoza to Michigan, and ultimately his family turned to agricultural work and settled in the Thumb region. James Espinoza and his mother, Maria, made and sold tacos for the first time at a Croswell festival over ten years ago. They make tacos the way their family has made them for generations, with corn tortillas, cheddar cheese, beef or chicken seasoned with cumin and garlic, lettuce, tomato, and mild homemade salsa. This, according to James, is the "real" Tex-Mex taco from the region of Corpus Christi. In addition, they offer burritos, which James describes as taco ingredients plus beans wrapped in a flour tortilla.

Taste of the Great Lakes
Beer and Wine Tent
in partnership with Lansing Jaycees
Located in the Taste of Traditions foodways area on Albert Street, near the Dance Tent; featuring a selection of Great Lakes beer and wine, as well as a selection of soft drinks; open during all festival hours. The Jaycees are planning to offer these fine regional beverages:

-Atwater Block - Dirty Blond
-Frankenmuth Brewery - Munich Dunkel
-North Peak - Siren
-Goose Island - IPA
-Leinenkugels - Seasonal (Summer Shandy or Octoberfest)
-Leinenkugels - Sunset Wheat
-August Schell - Firebrick
-Uncle Johns Ciders - Perry

Woody's Oasis
East Lansing, Michigan
Arab foods
Outside of the Middle East, Michigan is home to the largest Arabic-speaking population, comprising many religions, nations, ethnic groups, and regional cuisines.

Great value is attached to cooking and good food in the Middle East. It is a sensual kind of cooking, generously using herbs, spices, and aromatics. Most local cuisines include rice and wheat dishes, stuffed vegetables, pies wrapped in paper-thin pastry, various methods for roasting meats, meatballs, thick omelettes, cold vegetables cooked in oil, scented rice puddings, nut-filled pastries, fritters soaked in syrup and a variety of fruit and vegetable juices.

Some areas are known for a highly developed cuisine. Lebanon, for example, is one of only two Middle Eastern countries to have a highly developed restaurant tradition. Lebanese emigrant cooks and restaurateurs brought Arab cuisine to the attention of the world. In Michigan, the majority of restaurants and bakeries offer Lebanese foods. Woody's Oasis, the first Arab restaurant in the area, has pleased its customers with Lebanese foods.


Zemer's Rootbeer
Tyler, Texas
homemade rootbeer
Zemer's rootbeer standRootbeer is an all-American drink that dates from the mid-nineteenth century. Chris Zemer is a fourth-generation rootbeer maker and vendor; his great grandfather started his rootbeer business in Ionia in the 1920s. From a stand made by his grandfather and great grandfather in the 1920s, Chris and his wife Joy have been selling rootbeer since 1991. Chris's grandfather made the counters and his great grandfather had used the rootbeer barrel, both of which are part of the stand. The stand is a highly valued family heirloom and the rootbeer business, a long family tradition.

With this history, Chris has stories to tell. He won't give us his secret recipe, but he will tell you there's nothing better than an ice cold glass of his homemade rootbeer. "Once you taste my rootbeer," Chris boasted, "you'll never want anyone else's."