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'Beans & Rice' initiative aims to teach students how to make international cuisine

Brazilian students Leticia Matanovich and Filipe Mendes make pizza dough as part of Beans & Rice's Pizza session. (Northern Review photo/Khadijah Bagais)

Brazilian students Leticia Matanovich and Filipe Mendes make pizza dough as part of Beans & Rice's Pizza session. (Northern Review photo/Khadijah Bagais)

When international students leave their native countries and come to the United States, one of the first shocks they endure has to do with the foods available to them, especially when it comes to dining services. In an attempt to help international (and domestic) students on campus with these food issues, International Student Services came up with the idea of the “Beans & Rice” initiative.

Beans & Rice is a monthly cooking session, where students can come together to learn how to make different cultural foods. The program is named in consideration of how beans and rice are staple foods for most of the world.

Omega Hollies, international services coordinator, said she came up with the idea after hearing students complain about how much they missed food from their home countries, and how many of the ingredients they were used to were not easily accessible in Ada. Additionally, many of them didn’t even know how to cook the dishes they were used to eating at home. The idea was to teach them how to make many international staple foods with ingredients they can easily find.

“Food is very important to all of our students on campus, it’s not just international students. Americans also have really strong opinions about food, and what food means,” Omega said. “But especially when you’re an international student, you are very far from home, and [food] is sort of like a memory trigger; eating something from your home country, or something that tastes like what mom made, it has a lot of emotional connection, and if you’re homesick, it’s one of those ways you can connect again.”

Each session focuses on a specific staple food and the different variations of that food. The first session, held in September, actually centered on different bean and rice dishes, with the second session, held October 6, focusing on pizza.

Management senior Elita Smith felt that the program serves as a great way to bring both domestic and international students together in a way that fosters learning of the different cultures and foods.

“It shows not only the differences in the way rice or pizza are prepared around the world, but also how cultures themselves differ. By bringing so many cultures together to prepare food, the students learn more than just the differences in food preparation, but also the value of their own differences and how they can learn from one another.”

In addition to being a learning experience, the sessions encourage students to socialize with those they wouldn’t normally hang out with. During the pizza making session, students from Japan, China, Brazil, and the U.S. teamed up to make their very own pizzas. Ranging from the classic cheese, to margherita, to a special Brazilian chicken and catupiry cheese, the students enjoyed their time working together toward a delicious goal.

“I have really enjoyed the events! They have given me a chance to spend more time with the international students and get to know them better, while enjoying cooking and eating food, which everyone loves,” said Elita.

With two events down for the semester, Omega is looking forward to the next session, which will be on November 9 at 6 p.m. in the Affinity Northwest kitchen. She will be teaching students about the food fermentation process by making Kimchi, in addition to explaining how fermentation is useful for not only preserving food, but also encouraging healthy bacteria growth in the immune system.

Omega believes that these educational experiences will serve as a gateway for any and all students on campus to get more involved in food culture and preparation, especially in consideration of how important food is.

“Food is, of course, the way that we get life and how we survive in this world. Talking about different ways in which our global community conceptualizes health and well-being when it comes to food is a really good conversation to have, especially when we’re constantly talking about being a healthy campus,” she said.

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