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Posted 4/24/2018

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By James D'Ambrosio, Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Over 150 New York District employees assembled in the Weiss Federal Building in Manhattan in April and celebrated Diversity Day, an EEO-sponsored cultural event organized by an event committee designed to showcase the ethnic diversity of New York District. Food sampling was the focus and contributed to the event's success. 

30 Staff Contribute Food Items 

With the aroma of food in the air, employees arrived to a large room with the sounds of music in a looped slide show that echoed visual customs from 30 countries.  In anticipation of the arrival of staff to sample the cuisine, committee members set the big spread in banquet-style tables filled with the cuisine from a variety of cultures and countries.As the serving line snaked out the door and in the adjacent corridor, staff were busy serving, and in some cases explaining, the ingredients.

Leadership & Division Chiefs Serve 

Donned with chef hats, food servers included Col. Thomas Asbery, District Engineer; Lt. Col. Richard Gussenhoven, Deputy Commander; and Division Chiefs who served main dishes and desserts of over 30 entrees and desserts prepared and brought in by District staff. Employees were eager to sample new dishes and desserts as there was little left after the line passed the serving tables.

 A sampling of food items included:   

SPAETZLE, small dumplings made in Southern Germany consisting of seasoned dough poached in boiling water.

PASTEIS DE NATE, a Portuguese egg tart pastry found in Brazil and other countries with many residents of Portuguese background.

PUERTO RICAN PASTALONE, a layered dish of Latin Caribbean foods made from yellow plantains, garlic, onions, cheese, butter and meat. (Some regions add wine, nutmeg and raisins for sweetness.)

PICO DE GALLO SALSA, made from chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, fresh serrano peppers, salt, and lime juice. Shrimp or avocado are sometimes added.

CARIBBEAN RUM CAKE, a dessert cake where, traditionally, dried fruit is soaked in rum for months and then added to dough prepared with caramelized sugar.

Bagpipe Performance

A bagpipe performance by Sean O'Donnell, Operations Division, sparked the event by playing Scotland the Brave, Wings, and Jimmy Finlader. O’Donnell has played the bagpipes for 25 years and is a member of the Inis Fada Gaelic Pipe Band ― one of the oldest pipe bands on Long Island, N.Y.

Background & Culture

"The Scottish have made bagpipes a central part of their culture as many songs, stories and poems have celebrated them," said O'Donnell. "Despite that cultural history and contrary to what many believe, the bagpipe did not originate in Scotland. Rather, it originated in the Middle East nearly 2,000 years ago and evolved in Europe alongside emerging early civilization."

“Diversity Day was a major success,” said Col. Asbery. “I was impressed by the large turnout and by the many employees who contributed food items from different cultures ― I’m still stuffed.”

“Going about our busy schedules, we often are unfamiliar with our co-workers’ backgrounds and cultures,” added Jean Lau, chief, Equal Employment Opportunity office and event coordinator.  “Diversity Day is a great opportunity that accomplishes this.”


Diversity Day New York District USACE