Just because international travel is currently discouraged doesn’t mean other cultures can’t share their worlds with us, especially when it comes to food. Organizations across the city are keeping the lines of culinary communication open with a series of virtual events and carryout options designed to expose interested diners to unique cuisines.
A group that has been doing this since long before Coronatimes is Gigamunch, a unique meal-delivery service launched in 2017 by a group of entrepreneurs who met in college at Tennessee Tech. The service has partnered with local immigrant communities to showcase multicultural cuisines through weekly meals delivered directly to subscribers’ homes. Each week features a different country, with a multi-course meal prepared by a Nashville immigrant familiar with the cuisine. Recent national cuisines highlighted have included Syria, Cameroon, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam, and upcoming meals will take visitors to Bangladesh, Grenada and Peru. You can see everything that’s scheduled and sign up for 50 percent off your first delivery at gigamunchapp.com.
Meals arrive packaged with clear reheating instructions — along with a suggested playlist to accompany your meal, a biography of that week’s chef that describes their connections to Nashville and their home culture, and a general overview of the featured destination. The meals are sized to feed two or four people at less than $15 per person, and they usually include a starter or side dish, some sort of salad, a main course and something sweet. Vegetarian options are generally available, and there’s no more delicious weekly geography lesson in town!
An ongoing series that highlights different international foods is the InterNASHional Food Crawl. The event is organized as a benefit for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. In past years, the InterNASHional Food Crawl was a physical tour of international eateries, either self-guided or as part of organized excursions to a list of restaurants kept a delicious secret until attendees boarded the bus.
For 2020, however, the veil of secrecy has been lifted a bit in favor of arranging some curated carryout baskets created by notable local cooks. This year’s virtual crawl, which spans several weeks, kicked off Sept. 5 with a Persian Picnic Basket prepared by chef Louisa Shafia (author of The New Persian Kitchen) and chef Lokelani Alabanza, creator of Saturated Ice Cream. A virtual cooking class with Chef Yassin Terrou, owner of Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, took place Sept. 16.
There are still two delectable opportunities coming up — a Dumpling Drive-Up on Oct. 4 and an InterNASHional Brunch Box available on Oct. 17. Both meals feed two for $50 and have been created to offer treats from a variety of destinations. Dumpling Drive-Up patrons will pick up their baskets at Lucky Bamboo on Charlotte Pike, with that restaurant contributing the Chinese version of dumplings to the basket. But don’t think that those, the most familiar of dumplings, are your only option. Also included will be varieties from Nepal, Laos and Kurdistan. (At press time, Dumpling Drive-Up was sold out, but it might be worth checking the website to see if tickets have been added.) The brunch event will be hosted by the popular Murfreesboro Road coffee shop The Horn, and tickets were still available at press time — visit nashvillefoodcrawl.com to get yours. (All the food is prepared under safety guidelines set out by the CDC, the city and the state.) Harkening back to the tradition of secrecy, organizers won’t release the exact menu in advance, but you can bet that this vegetarian-friendly sampling of breakfast items from favorite international restaurants around town will be delicious and fascinating.
Photo: Aerial Innovations A much-lamented loss during this pandemic will doubtlessly be the chance to rub shoulders with thousands of neighbors at the annual Nashville Oktoberfest in Germantown, an event that has been a tradition since 1980. But the organizers haven’t completely abandoned the fun, thanks to their planned Prost in Place virtual event, landing at 5 p.m. on Oct. 10. Sign up at thenashvilleoktoberfest.com and you’ll be invited to take streaming online tours of two famous breweries — the iconic Paulaner Brewery of Germany, and last year’s winner of the People’s Choice award, Sierra Nevada. Viewers can pick up some of the two breweries’ autumnal beers from local markets and sip along during an online tasting. There will also be door prizes and some special surprise visitors during the hourlong presentation.
Additionally, you can order the official Prost in Place Box for $59 (plus shipping) to make sure you have all the accoutrements for a proper at-home Oktoberfest experience. The box will include a commemorative Nashville Oktoberfest beer stein, a collector’s pin, a pretzel necklace (plus some German mustard to dip it in), a beer token and a coupon for 25 percent off the VIP experience for next year’s Oktoberfest (Gott willing!), a #TNStrong bracelet to support those affected by the March 3 tornado, and a bottle of hand sanitizer, because everything now includes a bottle of hand sanitizer.
Other beloved Nashville Oktoberfest traditions that have gone virtual include a self-paced 5K run, which you can complete anywhere indoors or out on Oct. 10 — just post your time online afterward. What’s more, the fantastic Dachshund Derby has morphed into an online wiener dog beauty pageant. Dress up your pooch and film him or her running 10 yards (or really, just doing anything) for the chance to win prizes in categories like “Best Dressed,” “Speediest” and “Ms./Mr. Congeniality.” It’s gonna take a lot more than some virus to keep Nashvillians from having fun this fall.