A taste from around the world

The Spectrum

In 2008, Piyush Bareria, a UB graduate student, proposed UB should provide a different kind of cooking class - specifically one in which students can express their individual cultures and personalities through their cooking.

The Wellness Education Services agreed, funded the idea and the cultural cooking workshop was born.

The workshop, held at South Lake Village community center, allows any participating student to lead a class and cook food that represents his or her background. Janice Cochran, nutrition and physical activity promotion coordinator, facilitates the programfor Wellness Education Services. Students are invited to come and partake in the preparation, cooking and eating of the meals. The workshop runs every few weeks and features a different culture each time.

Sowmya Ghosh, a student in the Graduate School of Education, held the last workshop this past Tuesday. Ghosh's class featured Middle Eastern dishes such as Tabouleh salad, Tahini sauce, vegetable soup and a pear crisp for dessert.

"I'm full Indian, but I grew up in Singapore," Ghosh said. "I grew up on Middle Eastern food, so this was really a taste of home for me."

Ghosh provided the 10 participating students with an apron, a recipe sheet, rubber gloves and the necessary ingredients and tools for preparing her meal. She gave a hands-on demonstration of how to prepare her chosen foods as well as a background on why she chose them.

Students branched off in groups of three or four and spent over an hour washing, chopping and mixing food. Exotic vegetables like leeks and scallions were included in the dish, and Ghosh provided tips on how to conserve food, time and money through cooking with produce.

"I wanted to try and get students to try some new kinds of vegetables and produce," Ghosh said. "There are so many affordable options at our local farmer's markets."

According to Cochran, the class is put together using the "MyPlate guidelines" from Choosemyplate.gov, a site specifically for building healthy diets.

Ghosh believes having a class like this is important because it broadens a college student's perspective of vegetarian and cultural cooking in general. It's also a great way to take your mind off everyday schoolwork.

The participating students collaborated in cooking and setting up the room, as they all pushed tables together to eat their finished products. Each student was distributed one portion of each dish and a cup of water. Students were encouraged to go up for seconds and thirds.

"This is my second time coming here," said Nic Baldenko, a senior electrical engineering major. "I just can't stay away."

Baldenko has learned new techniques, recipes and tips on food safety. The workshops are mostly vegetarian-based and he enjoys using other mediums of protein besides meat. He considers himself a "self-proclaimed lentil master."

Cochran oversaw the whole operation and made sure everyone's cups were full and knives were sharp. Cochran encouraged the participating students to reach out and provide their own feedback on the workshop and hopes to see more diversity in the future. She has facilitated workshops featuring everything from Indian, Latin American and Greek food to Pakistani, Turkish and Italian food.

"The workshop just makes sense," Cochran said. "It's a great way for students to not only learn how to make food and try some food they haven't had, but to meet other students of different cultures."

The informal and relaxed environment combined with a useful hobby is a means of helping form community at UB, according to Cochran.

The next cultural cooking workshop will be held on March 4 in the same location and features Nigerian international student Rosemary Bassey. She's a visiting research Fulbright scholar and pathology major, and she comes to Buffalo from the southern part of Nigeria. Bassey refused to disclose what she plans to cook but revealed it's what is called a "Nigerian continental dish."

Bassey, who has cooked as a hobby for her entire life, will soon put her skills to the test.

Baldenko said he will definitely be attending the next cultural cooking class, and he looks forward to see what" awesome" Nigerian food Rosemary has in store for him.

Email: features@ubspectrum.com