This fall, Wellesley’s dining halls are boasting a diverse collection of international dishes. The initiative started last spring, when Wellesley Fresh began researching recipes from around the world right here on campus at the Slater International Center. The two organizations began a mutually beneficial collaboration in which members of the College’s international student body worked closely with the Wellesley Fresh culinary team, offering and preparing their own recipes and ideas.
Cherie Tyger, the Wellesley Fresh resident director, initiated the operation, recognizing that Wellesley’s diverse student body should lead the effort.
“We wanted to make sure the recipes were made authentically, so we invited the students to participate in the production of the dishes. Over a two-day time period, several students came into the kitchen and worked with our culinary team to create their dishes. It was a truly great experience for all involved,” Tyger said.
Members of the Slater executive board, a group of about 20 students headed by Mia Guild ’16, who was then serving as the cultural chair, participated in the event.
For Slater, the collaboration with Wellesley Fresh complemented its first International Education Week last spring as another opportunity to celebrate diversity on campus. Currently, international students comprise 12 percent of the student population, a figure that does not include students that are U.S. citizens with international backgrounds.
“These students are an untapped resource for the College, and these recipes were one small way that they were able to offer their cultures to the community,” said Director of the Slater International Center Karen Pabon.
After gathering an initial base of recipes from the students at Slater, Wellesley Fresh continued research to expand their repertoire, referring to well-known chefs and culinary experts. Once this phase was complete, Wellesley Fresh executive chef Keith Tyger took the reins in locating the rare ingredients that many of these recipes call for and worked throughout the summer to research and negotiate with specialty purveyors to source these items.
The result was a total of 30 different international dishes, representing Wellesley students from the Middle East, Korea, South Africa, Scotland, Norway, Australia and Germany, to name a few. Some of the new dishes that Tyger was especially excited to introduce are cheese tteokbokki, kafta, lahma bajeen and bibimbap, each of which has made an appearance on campus already.
For those who missed their debuts, there will be kafta seasoned beef with mujadara today for lunch at the global grill in Bates, followed by bibimbap at the fusion lunch bar in Bae Pao Lu Chow tomorrow. Wellesley vegans can also try the South African bunny chow, bobotie and chakalaka in Pomeroy tomorrow night.
Wellesley Fresh’s project and partnership with Slater was a first for the college and, according to some international students, still a work in progress.
“Though I think it’s nice that they’re trying to have more international foods in the dining halls, I’d appreciate it if it was more authentic — otherwise there’s not really a point to it,” Ye-Eun Sung ’16 said. “The kimchi jigae that the dining hall made was not what I or most Koreans would call kimchi jigae; it didn’t even look like there was kimchi in the soup. Scallion pancakes were taken a little too literally and weren’t anything like actual scallion pancakes.”
Although the success in authentically representing several dishes has been disputed, the additional diversity in dining hall cuisine has initiated a greater representation of international cuisine on campus and an open dialogue between students and Wellesley Fresh.
“The dining halls don’t have a lot of Bulgarian food, but still, it’s easier for me when I see other cultures’ food because it kind of reminds me of home. It’s not just the regular American cuisine,” said Victoria Angelova ’18, a Bulgarian international student. “My favorite dish has been the polenta.We have that in Bulgaria, so it was super exciting when I saw it.”
As for the Slater students involved, Pabon believes the opportunity to embrace and teach others about their culture was invaluable to participants.
“I have been at Wellesley for almost five years now, and this was the first time that we have worked in collaboration with dining services to highlight the special international foods that our students love and want to share,” Pabon said. “They especially enjoyed seeing their friends eating the foods that were so meaningful to them.”
To experience and learn from more about international cultures with performances and food, check out the Slater Culture Show on Oct. 24. Or, if you’d like to see your own culture’s dishes featured in the dining halls, be sure to submit your recipes online to Wellesley Fresh for the upcoming Recipes from Home event on Oct. 22.