, Salem, MA


September 5, 2013

World at your doorstep

International Festival draws 50,000-plus visitors for ethnic foods, music, dancing, art and children's fun

Lola Busta has cooked food for every International Festival since the event started 30 years ago, so she knows her menu by heart.

Of course, it’s Polish.

That means stuffed cabbage (golumpki), fried cabbage (kapusta) and Polish sausage (kielbasa).

“We will have Polish doughnuts, which are paczki, and we’ll have that for dessert,” said Busta, who is president of United Polish Organizations of Peabody.

Not surprisingly, she added, “We always have a line.”

This Sunday, thousands of people will form lines all over Peabody Square as the International Festival once again celebrates the city’s ethnic diversity by serving up platefuls of foods from around the world, along with music and dancing from different cultural traditions.

More than 60 groups representing citizens with Irish, Greek, Chinese, Portuguese, Brazilian and other origins will be offering menus of their own.

As with many of those citizens, Busta learned her recipes in a tradition that started well before the International Festival.

“Basically, we all learned from the ladies, the original immigrants to this country who built St. Joseph’s Church,” she said. “There’s quite a few steps to making Polish food. We were their helpers and learned from them.”

Those ladies worked in two kitchens to prepare enormous amounts of food for church picnics. In all, as many as 100 people would be involved in cooking and serving the meals.

“I remember doing the ordering, and I would order 600 pounds of flour,” Busta said. “Eighty pounds would go to baking Polish bread, called babka.

“We’d make about 10,000 pirogi — cheese, potato and cabbage,” she said. “We made 3,500 of the stuffed cabbage, called golumpki. We had 35 roasters going.”

For International Festival, Busta and a dozen others started cooking on Tuesday and continued through the week. On festival day, they’ll rise at 7:30 a.m. to make the Polish doughnuts, which must be served fresh.

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