Category Archives: Young Professionals: “Taste of…”

Want to learn about other cultures while enjoying great food and greater conversation? Read up about our Young Professional’s “Taste of…” program! For more information, check out: http://www.unagb.org/programs/young-professionals

Tasty Turkey

Merhaba, dear readers!

In preparation for our upcoming Taste of Turkey event, with Turkish Airlines and the Turkish Consulate General at Sofra Bakery, we decided to brush up on our Turkish cuisine knowledge and share our findings with you. Whether you managed to get a ticket (tickets sold out in 24 hours!) or just want to learn more yourself, read on!

Turkish cuisine is a fusion cuisine – taking influence from the surrounding countries, but adding unique twists for a vast array of specialties.

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“Similar to other grand Cuisines of the world, it is a result of the combination of three key elements. A nurturing environment is irreplaceable. Turkey is known for an abundance and diversity of foodstuff due to its rich flora, fauna and regional differentiation. And the legacy of an Imperial Kitchen is inescapable. Hundreds of cooks specializing in different types of dishes, all eager to please the royal palate, no doubt had their influence in perfecting the Cuisine as we know it today. The Palace Kitchen, supported by a complex social organization, a vibrant urban life, specialization of labor, trade, and total control of the Spice Road, reflected the culmination of wealth and the flourishing of culture in the capital of a mighty Empire. And the influence of the longevity of social organization should not be taken lightly either. The Turkish State of Anatolia is a millennium old and so, naturally, is the Cuisine. Time is of the essence; as Ibn’i Haldun wrote, “the religion of the King, in time, becomes that of the People”, which also holds for the King’s food. Thus, the reign of the Ottoman Dynasty during 600 years, and a seamless cultural transition into the present day of modern Turkey, led to the evolution of a grand Cuisine through differentiation, refinement and perfection of dishes, as well as their sequence and combination of the meals.” (Turkish Cultural Foundation)

Delicious food at Sofra!

Delicious food at Sofra!

You might most easily recognize Turkish desserts, which have become extremely popular in many western cultures, like baklava and Turkish delights, but the savory delights of Turkey are not to be trifled with and bang a pretty hefty flavor punch – just think about kebabs or kofte! Some common ingredients that you’ll find in Turkish food are: ground beef, eggplant, lamb, beef, fish, chicken, and nuts among others. For additional flavor, they use olive oil, onions, tomato paste and cheese. Some common grains include rice, white flour, and bulgur. You can learn more here: Turkish Cuisine by the Turkish Cultural Foundation.

1500 year old boat found under Istanbul

1500 year old boat found under Istanbul

In general, Turkish food is very delicious and nutritious. With a vast variety of ingredients, spices, textures and traditions, Turkish cuisine is absolutely something that we all should be enjoying more. I hope that you will be joining us on the 21st, and if not, be sure to stop by Sofra (or its sister restaurant Oleana) at your own leisure.

Interested in brushing up on your Turkish knowledge outside of food? The Guardian and CIA World Factbook are full of facts and interesting stories. Also, want to read about something really cool? Sunken vessels were found under Istanbul by Dr. Ufuk Kocabas…he will be joining us in Boston in April, so get properly prepared for the event by reading about his findings!

Happy Diwali!

नमस्ते (Hello) readers!

We are so excited to bring back our long overdue taste of culture event series with Taste of India on November 5th!  And what serendipitous timing.

This past week was the annual “Festival of Lights” or Diwali celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs.

It is an official public holiday in many parts of India. This religious holiday celebrated in autumn spiritually honors the dualistic nature of life; that is the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. Various schools of Hindu philosophy center around the belief that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite and eternal (Atman). Diwali celebrates the awakening or transcendence into this ideal state, which is ultimate oneness and the Inner Light.

Beautiful “Festival of Lights” at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

Since Diwali is celebrated among three religions, the religious significance and practices vary. The festival, for Sikhs, marks the historical, political moment when the much revered Guru Har Gobind (16th Century) freed Hindu Kings from imprisonment under Islamic rule and arrived at the Gold Temple in Amritsar in Northwest India. To this day, Sikhs celebrate their version of the festival of light with fireworks and merriment at the Golden Temple. While, Jains on the other hand celebrate the attaining of Nirvana (liberation from cycle of death and rebirth) by Lord Mahavria, the reformer of Jainism and the last individual to have attained samsara (cycle of death and rebirth). For Hindus, depending on regional myths, legends and beliefs, pay homage to deities such as Lakshmi, Kali, Rama, Krishna and many others. In return, worshipers hope to receive abundant blessings for the year ahead as well as giving thanks.

The eve of Diwali night, people undergo an elaborate, meaningful ritual of cleaning, renovating and decorating their homes; preparing a puja (prayers to certain deities) and dressing in their finest. This is comparable to Christmas in that there is a commercial component. It is one of the biggest shopping seasons in India, as individuals  buy new clothes, gifts ranging from food to practical utensils for themselves and others.

Popular Diwali dish: saag aloo with roasted gobi curry. Keep your eye out for one of these at "Taste of"

Popular Diwali dish: saag aloo with roasted gobi curry. Keep your eye out for a variation of this at “Taste of India”!

The holiday provides an opportunity to start anew, thus marking the start of the new year, especially for businesses in some regions.

Diwali is one of many beautiful traditions, holidays in India. Learn more about other aspects of Indian culture with some awesome YPs Wednesday, November 5th! Reserve your ticket and join us at Diva’s Bistro for a “Taste of India”! and Happy Diwali!!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/taste-of-india-registration-13612598649

A Brief History of the Mighty Sushi Roll

Hello readers!

We hope that you all are excited for the Young Professionals cultural event TONIGHT, Sushi Rolling Night with Young Professionals! Have a look at the interesting facts about the history of sushi to prepare you for the amazing cultural event that is in store for you this week!

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The first meaning of the Chinese symbol for sushi is believed to be “those made with fish”, then became “food where fish is pickled by rice and salt”. This cuisine bares little resemblance to the Japanese sushi we enjoy now!

With sushi readily available to most cultures around the world due to globalization, it has rapidly become a popular dish around the globe and even a symbol of Japanese culture. However, the sushi that most cultures experience today is not exactly how it was introduced to Japan during it’s inception. There are many forms of sushi that exist. The very first form of sushi introduced in Japan was called Narezushi. During the process of creating the Narezushi form of sushi, raw fish were stuffed with rice and then placed through a fermentation process. The fermentation process would take a couple of months until it was almost complete. Before the process of fermentation was complete, the fish stuffed with rice were prepared for people to eat in order to save the rice from dissolving. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Japanese sushi was transformed into more of a commonly produced food.

During the 19th century, as commoners began to receive permission to create businesses of their own, sushi transformed into a new form called edomaezushi, and became a type of fast food in Japan. Raw pieces of fish were placed on top of rolled squares of rice infused with vinegar. During this time, merchants were forced to become creative in the preservation of the fish used for sushi as raw fish spoils quickly. Depending on the type of fish they were using, merchants would cover their product in salt, wasabi, vinegar, or soy sauce. This allowed merchants to keep their product for a longer, although still limited, amount of time. Edomaezushi is now popular all throughout the world and sometimes changes shape to compliment other cultures. In the United States some types of Edomaezushi come with an assortment of sauces that you wouldn’t typically see in Japan.

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The earliest written mention of sushi, according to OED, was in the 1893 book “Japanese Interiors”

Sushi has made a drastic change in America. A prime example of this change can be seen with the extremely popular California roll. There is a legend that says Japanese sushi chef Ichiro Mashita is actually the chef that created the California roll. Upon opening one of the very first restaurants that featured a sushi bar in Los Angeles, Mashita wanted to find a substitute for Toro (fatty tuna) in his cuisine. He realized that avocado holds the same greasy texture of Toro and decided to use it as a substitute. He also turned the roll inside out in order to appease his American customers who did not like seeing the Nori (dried seaweed) when eating their sushi, which is how you would typically order sushi in the U.S. today. The type of sushi that Mashita crafted is actually called Makizushi, which is translated as “rolled sushi”. Makizushi and Edozushi are some of the most popular ways that sushi is experienced within the United States!

Now that you have some background into the history of sushi and the different ways it can be experienced we hope that you will join us and your fellow YP’s at Sushi Rolling Night!!

The Search for Authentic Chinese Food

By Miriam Shahidi, Travel and Foreign Language Lover and Assistant UNA-GB Blogger

Ni Hao readers!

We hope you’re ready for the next UNA-GB Young Professionals cultural event, Taste of China! Read along to gain some insight into China’s unique cuisine and rev your appetites for our event, which is only mere days away!

I’m sure most of you have heard many things about Chinese food and its sometimes bizarre ingredients and offbeat recipes. The first thing we should know about our idea of Chinese food is that what we eat here in the US is very different from native Chinese food. In fact, American Chinese food is almost an entirely different genre by itself!

What you think when I say “Chinese food”

Globalization has always brought an integration of cultures, allowing people in one part of our shrinking world to experience some cultural aspect of another faraway country, and a perfect example is Chinese food in America. What we eat here varies vastly from what people eat in China. In America, a typical Chinese restaurant will serve dishes rich in oil and heavy sauce, and somewhat uniform in flavor. To an American, this seems like an exotic dining experience, but in fact, these dishes are missing a common characteristic of authentic Chinese cuisine- simplicity. Which leads us to ask, what actually is real Chinese Food? What role does it play in China besides basic sustenance?

Food is an extremely important part of Chinese culture. China, having the largest population in the world, stands in at about 1.35 BILLION people.  That explains its huge agricultural industry and extensive  diversity of cuisine. Historically, the idea has been for Chinese people that if you want a good meal you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it, no matter who you are or where you come from. What most Chinese recipes have in common are their inexpensive ingredients and great nutritional value.  Here are some common staple ingredients in Chinese cuisine:

  • Basic grains: rice and wheat, which are either eaten as is or processed into hundreds of different types of noodles and dumplings.
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Green tea is a common addition to any meal

  • Meat, tofu, or bean curd are used as the protein of the meal.
  • Vegetables: bok choy, or Chinese mustard, has the texture of lettuce and is cooked or steamed. Eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, bean sprouts, mushrooms, snow peas, radish, and bamboo shoots are also very common vegetables to steam or fry.
  • Flavor: soy sauce, chili paste or sauce, rice vinegar, plum sauce (also known as sweet and sour sauce). All are flavor enhancing and give each specialty its energizing kick!
  • Green tea, black tea, and white tea are the most common drinks with and between any meal. They are all rich in antioxidants and carry great medicinal value. No meal is complete without a small, hot cup of tea!
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Prepared chicken feet… yum!

Authentic Chinese food has many forms and recipes, depending on the region it comes from. A trip to China in 2007 along the Silk Trail showed me how much food really differs by region. Going from coastal China’s large cities like Beijing and Xi’an, to the Gobi desert in the West, food transforms from simple, predictable dishes like rice noodles with steamed vegetables, pork, beef, or chicken, garlic notes, and lots of soy sauce, to more exotic dishes the more West you go. In the West, dishes tend to be more exotic, and sometimes bizarre, especially through the eyes of a Westerner! Somewhere in the Gobi desert, people are eating pickled chicken feet with spicy yellow curry sauce and green peppers (which would rank 5 out of 5 peppers on those spicy guides on menus in American Chinese restaurants).  Chicken feet, which are  more delicious than they sound, are something you can find in Chinese grocery stores in America. Meanwhile, somewhere in America, people are eating Sweet and Sour Chicken with knives and forks, reading their zodiac sign from a menu.  Another bizarre specialty in Western China is pig’s snout and it is eaten with flavorful soy and sesame sauce- and despite what it looks like, it’s absolutely delicious!

Real Chinese food is uniquely delicious and not to be missed. The detail, care, and craftsmanship that go into a real Chinese meal is unlike like any other. Don’t be put off when you see something like pickled chicken feet or frog legs at an Asian market in America. This is just one part of China’s vast culinary diversity. When you have the chance to taste authentic Chinese food, or better yet, make it yourself,  it’s a meal you will never forget!

Are you hungry yet? We hope you are excited for A Taste of China and won’t miss the opportunity to try some real Chinese food with your fellow YP’s! Tickets are $20 and you should reserve your spot as soon as possible!

Taste of China
Wednesday, August 21 @ 6pm
Shojo Restaurant
Tickets on sale here!

All about Poland and Pierogi

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Hey readers,

We’re sure you’re just as super excited for the Young Professionals ‘Taste of Poland’ event next week as we are here at the UNA-GB! In life, you may not be able to have your cake and eat it too, but here at the UNA-GB, you can make your all the pierogi you want and eat them until you’re completely satisfied! This blog post will be introduce you to the wonderful food form and throw in a few fun facts about Poland along the way.

What, exactly are pierogi you may ask? They are an age-old Eastern/Central European delicacy that serves brilliantly both as an appetizer as well as the main course of a meal. Pierogi are basically dumplings of unleavened dough – first boiled, then baked or fried with butter and onions. The best part is – perogies are super diverse and can be stuffed with anything, from potato filling and cheese to ground meat and sour cream, or even your choice of fruit. You can have all sorts of fun with cooking them too! Pierogi can be semicircular, triangular, rectangular or any shape you want if you’re feeling creative!

Fried Perogies – Yum!

Traditionally considered ‘peasant food’, the exquisite taste of pierogi quickly spread across Poland throughout all social classes including nobles. Outside Poland, they are very popular in other European countries such as Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine. Many cookbooks from the 17th Century describe pierogi as a staple of the Polish diet, and each traditional holiday had its own special kind of pierogi. Different kinds of fillings and shapes are observed for occasions such as Christmas and Easter, and important events (such as weddings) have their own special kind of perogies – ‘kirniki’ – filled with delicious chicken meat. There are also ones made especially for mourning/wakes, and even some for caroling season in January!

Surely, a country that gave birth to this wonderful cuisine must be pretty amazing itself. Here are some fun facts you may not have known about the Republic of Poland to ‘chew’ over before Taste of Poland:

  • Poland is the 69th largest country in the world, 9th largest in Europe.

    Marie Curie – A Polish physicist, chemist and two-time Nobel Prize winner.

  • Poland boasts 17 Nobel Prize winners, including four Peace Prizes and five in Literature
  • Polish born astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was the first person to propose that the Earth was not the center of the universe
  • Saint John’s Kupala is a popular holiday in which people jump over fires, a tradition that predates Christianity
  • In Wroclaw there is an annual citywide medieval festival, including jousts, horse archery, medieval dances and other activities
  • Pizza in Poland does not contain tomato sauce. The waiters bring sauce to the table in a pitcher, and you pour it on top. Sometimes, the sauce is just ketchup.
  • There is a ‘Pope Channel’ on TV. Anytime one wishes to see the pope, they can tune him in
  • In popular Polish culture, bananas are peeled from the blossom end, not the stem end
  • The most popular name for a dog in Poland is Burek which translates directly to ‘brownish-grey color’
  • In Poland, the name day is considered more important than the birthday
  • Around 90% of Poles have completed at least secondary education

We hope all this information has you excited for YP ‘Taste of Poland’. Tickets are $15.00 only, and June 13th is quickly approaching. Be sure to mark your calendars, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to learn how to make pierogi from local Polish experts, enjoy eating your delicious creations, and meet with other globally minded Bostonians. Get tickets in advance please so we can buy the right amount of ingredients, details can be found here! We hope to see you all there!

Fun Facts about Ethiopia

Ethiopian-flagHave an itching desire to visit Ethiopia? Want to know more about the country? Planning on attending Young Professional’s Taste of Ethiopia on Wednesday? Well here are some fun facts about Ethiopia to get you ready and prepared!

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a small country located in the Horn of Africa. It is only about double the size of Texas with a population of 84,734,262 and is the second most populous nation in Africa and one of the oldest independent ones in the region. The capital is Addis Ababa, which is also the largest city in the country, and the location of parliament and official buildings. Throughout the past decade, their former prime minister Meles Zenawi has strengthened relations with the US, making Ethiopia one of America’s closest African allies.

_54199226_ethiopiaPeople in Ethiopia generally speak Amharic, which is a Semitic language like Arabic and is considered a sacred language to Rastafarians. The word Rastafarian actually comes from the name of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) who visited Jamaica in 1966 and was generally considered a messianic figure who would bring peace and prosperity in a golden age.

For those of us who love our cup ‘o joe in the morning, we are indebted to Ethiopia as an original birthplace of coffee. Ethiopia is the world’s seventh largest producer of coffee today, and Africa’s top producer. In Ethiopia, as in Arab and Eritrean cultures, there is even a ritualized and ceremonious way of making and drinking coffee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATraditional Ethiopian homes are called Tukul; round huts with dirt floors and walls built with mud and/or sticks and roofs are made out of a kind of long grass called teff. In modern times, it is fashionable to wallpaper the walls with magazines or newspapers.

In the past two years, Ethiopia has been one of the fastest growing non-oil economies in Africa and has become recognized for its geothermal energy potential. In January, the Bank of Ethiopia announced that it will offer $20 million to expedite the private sector’s energy projects, funded by the World Bank.

Additional fun facts:

– There are 13 months in the Ethiopian calendar

– Traditionally, parents and children do not share a last name. Most children take their father’s first name as their last name

– Ethiopia has 63 airports. Only 17 of them have a paved runway

– Ethiopian television has only one channel

– Ethiopia is the only African country with its own alphabet

– Time in Ethiopia is counted on the opposite side of the clock (6:00 is at our 12:00)

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Are you now fascinated by Ethiopian culture? Learn more while enjoying an Ethiopian feast this Wednesday, February 20! Join Young Professionals for Taste of Ethiopia! RSVP now here: http://yptoe.eventbrite.com

Written By: Noor Hakeem and Ziyu Zhan [YPers]

Taste of Japan

Our “Taste of” series are back! Young Professionals kicked off the new year by enjoying authentic Japanese food!

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On the 23rd, a group of 25 YPers came together at Itadaki Boston on Newbury Street for “Taste of Japan.” We gathered in a private room in the basement and had exquisite buffet-style Japanese tapas including ginger salad, Japanese spring rolls, pan fried gyoza, potato croquettes, boiled chicken and lotus root, and sushi rice.

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Akira Muto, Consul General of Japan in Boston, was our guest speaker, and he spoke about his experiences as a diplomat. Also, we had the head chef of the restaurant give a few remarks about the delicious Japanese food that we were served.

While we were enjoying our authentic food, we also played a fun game of trivia in which fun questions about Japan were asked. Some examples of the questions include: What is the name of the academic and research arm of the UN, established in 1973 in Tokyo? United Nations University! What is the name of the tallest mountain in Japan called? Mt. Fuji! What does Itadaki mas mean? “Thank you for your life (everything).”

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All in all, it was a fun night of good food and good company! Check out more photos from the evening here and make sure to join our upcoming events!

The next “Taste Of” event will be in mid-February and we’re focusing on Ethiopia! Stay tuned for more information and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Young Professional’s “Taste of Brazil”

December has been the month of the Young Professionals with events ranging from film screenings to restaurant visits; YP has been very busy the last few weeks! The past two Wednesdays had YPers eating delicious international cuisines from Brazil and Mexico.

On the 5th, a group of 12 gathered at Oliveira’s Restaurant (297 Chelsea St) for all-you-can-eat Brazilian buffet. The food ranged from salads in varieties of greens, potatoes, olives, tomatoes, and pasta; to beans and rice; to meats where chicken hearts were a favorite tester; and finally to a scrumptious coconut chocolate confection for dessert.

As we enjoyed the ethnic food, we also got to learn a little about Brazil! For example, do you know what two South American nations Brazil does not share a border with? Chile and Ecuador! Can you guess how many stars are on the Brazilian flag? 27! And do you know what colors are on the Brazilian flag and what they stand for? Apparently the yellow stands for gold, the blue for sky and the green for forest.

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The very next week, on the 12th, YP met once again to enjoy Mexican food at Ole Restaurant (11 Springfield St). 26 people crowded together in a private back room to taste traditional tapas dishes, which included the obvious guacamole and salsa with chips, quesadillas, melted cheese and mushroom, and fried plantains, all served with homemade corn tortillas! Similar to our Taste of Brazil, interesting trivia questions were shared, but also fun language cards floated around the room, teaching us that burrito actually means little donkey! Or coaching us on flirting phrases in Spanish, such as ‘isn’t that guy over there handsome?’

imageYP was lucky enough to get a demonstration from the head chef and owner of Ole about Mexican food, his relationship with it, how to make the best guacamole (don’t forget your lava stone!), and smelling the different chili peppers. We devoured the food and margaritas well into the night, unwilling and sad to end the evening.

We will be having our last event of the year, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ screening for a belated celebration of Human Rights Day on December 19th.

Happy December everyone and we hope that the holiday season is starting out well! Hope to see you all at some YP events in 2013!

Bon Mange: A Night Out with UNAGB’s Young Professionals

August 1st was quite a night for the Young Professionals. UNA-GB’s bi-monthly “Taste of” series continued this past Wednesday with a focus on Haiti. ImageUNA-GB’s Young Professionals enjoyed a Haitian dinner with 25 other young professionals, coming from as far as Providence, RI, while discussing the rich culture (and delicious food!) of Haiti. The night took place at Highland Creole Cuisine in Somerville, where there is a large Haitian population. The guests enjoyed an authentic three-course meal. The night started with salad and bread, and continued to the main course. Options ranged from fish and beef to chicken and creole goat, a common Haitian dish.

In attendance were several people who had visited Haiti, Haitian immigrants, and a variety of people who have volunteered in Haiti, including many returned Peace Corps volunteers who had spent time in Haiti. They worked in areas ranging from education, environment, and public health.

YP Chair Nate Tassinari led the group in a game of trivia, with the winner winning a $25 gift certificate. Everyone learned lots of fun facts. For example, Haiti has had many different flags, but only 4 national flags since its independence in 1804 and Haitian currency is named after the gourd. Haiti’s democratic government system is relatively young, only electing their first president in 1990. Their most recent election was especially important because Haiti was attempting to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake, and trying to cope with a cholera epidemic that followed the earthquake. At that time, the UN donated about $10 million for aid relief.

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Check out more photos from the evening here and make sure to join us at our upcoming events. Next month, the Young Professionals will be co-hosting a film series at Emerson College. The series will begin in September and will hopefully offer screenings quarterly!  The next “Taste Of” will also be in October – country and restaurant still in the works.  Stay tuned for more information and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

-Leah B.

Bon Appetit: Cuisine and Conversation with UNA-GB’s Young Professionals

On Tuesday, May 7, UNA-GB Young Professionals (YP) said “bon appetit” with 25 young professionals of Boston at their bi-monthly Taste Of series. While sipping on French wine, authentic cheeses, hor’ dourves, and desserts at  Petit Robert Central Bistro attendees discussed the culture and current events of France. The hot topic of the night was the recent presidential election in France.

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Dominique Thomas, a student from France, gave insight on Francois Hollande defeating Nicolas Sarkozy in the election that gained worldwide coverage.  Hollande won 51.9 to Sarkozy’s 48.1 with 80 percent of the French population voting. Hollande, the first socialist president in almost two decades, could alter the future of the European Union.

Dan Sullivan, YP Leadership Board

Dan Sullivan, a YP leadership board member, educated the group on the relationship between France and the United Nations. France is one of 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council. France is present in 10 of the current 15 peacekeeping operations including Afghanistan and Lebanon.

A game of trivia was played for those who were not so familiar with their French facts.  France ranks second among host countries for the Olympics with five, falling behind the US who has hosted the games eight times. France ranks first with Nobel Prize in Literature with twelve.

The evening ended with further discussion on French topics and a chance to network with other young professionals of Boston. Please stay posted for the UNA-GB next event at the end of July! Stay updated through Facebook and Twitter!

Santé!

-Olivia