No Food Like Home Food
College can be difficult for many people who leave behind family to start a new chapter in life. As time goes by, students find themselves missing the little things, often those delicious, warm home-cooked meals.
While we can’t recreate the ability to gather around your kitchen table during breakfast or dinner, students at West Texas A&M University bring little pieces of home with them in the form of recipes that reflect their culture and their taste buds.
Stephanie Wang, a graduate student in music performance and a food enthusiast from Malaysia, has a soft spot for Malaysian curry. With her busy schedule and her family’s schedule, they would never get the chance to sit down at the table and enjoy a meal. When this meal was being cooked, her family knew they would all come together.
“I remember when my whole family and some extended family went to Cameron Highlands in Malaysia,” Wang said.
“We sat all together, the weather was cold which was rare in Malaysia, we chatted and ate this curry with bread. It was a time well-spent with family.”
Between the traditional and newer innovative recipes, Wang prefers to stick to the former. Only four little ingredients are needed for curry: potatoes, okra, chicken or fish, and curry paste. The cooking process could take up to four hours, but that ensures the curry comes out perfect.
“This dish makes me happy when I eat it. I never get tired of this dish,” Wang said.
Another way students at WTAMU connect with international food is through International Week, which gives students the opportunity to prepare their favorite meals to share with students in the Jack B. Kelly Student Center.
Different cultures often prepare the same ingredients in different ways, resulting in flavors that are as opposite as night and day. Victory Omietimi, a sophomore pre-nursing major, said her favorite home-cooked dish is the Jollof rice her mom makes. Omietimi loves it because of the different flavors added, be they spicy or simple. Her mom’s version is very savory and rich.
The ingredients that her mom uses to make this dish are rice, tomatoes, onions, seasoning cubes (chicken), thyme, salt, and fresh pepper. She’ll also use ingredients from other dishes, like frozen chicken stock, to add variety.. The preparation time for this dish is usually about two hours, depending on the vegetables or meats used. Omietimi said her mom usually cooks this meal after church on Sundays. They all gather together in her mom’s kitchen and help prepare everything.
“Even though my dad didn’t cook, he would pop in and out to check on the food, because he is always hungry and just chat with us,” Omietimi said.
Along with chatting, Omietimi’s mom assigns her daughters different tasks: she cuts the vegetables while her sister cleans the rice, and her mom would finish up the meal.
Students’ favorite family dishes aren’t always savory. Diana Baeza, an MBA student with an emphasis in management, said carrot cake is her favorite dessert her mom makes. One memory Diana has is of her mom, sister, and herself baking this cake on Thanksgiving. For them, cooking was a perfect chance to hang out.
“Bonding through making food has always been something my family has loved to do,” Baeza said. “Getting to make desserts and dishes for Thanksgiving always allows us to grow that bond while doing something fun together.”
Her mom doesn’t make desserts often, but when she makes carrot cake, Baeza feels like she’s home. The recipe itself is a little unusual; Baeza’s mother came up with it on her own, with a little inspiration from other recipes she’s used before. Her recipe consists of flour and eggs, carrots, pineapple, brown sugar, pecans and vanilla extract.
Cooking and bonding with family in the kitchen can leave you with happy memories. For these students, those memories and flavors will always be with them.
By: Karina Avila
Artwork by Hailee Cox