Feb 11th, 2018, 08:00 PM

Tastes of Home

By Chanet Smith
Image Credit: Flickr/ Marco Verch
Traditional foods from our culture bring us back home, no matter how far away we are.

Spending months away, or just having cravings, there is always food from home that you’re thinking of. Whether it is the smell of the traditional dish you have at celebrations or the taste of your mom’s homemade cooking, there is nothing like the food that brings us back to our home and cultures. Various students describe their favorite dishes, from Madagascar to Egypt.

Sofia Coelho is a 20-year-old sophomore from Florianopolis, Brasil. She has been away from home for one year and is studying in Miami. "Brazilian food reminds me of my childhood. It's nothing fancy, but everyone loves it." In Brasil, a common household meal includes rice, beans, and farofa. 'Farofa' is a cassava flour mixture that you can either place on the side or mix with other foods such as meat or spices. These side dishes usually accompany the main dish, such as meat or fish.  “It’s salty, but kind of sweet at the same time. It’s a mix of smells of fried butter and beans."

Image Credit: Wikimediacommons/ Sebastian Frerire


Tommy Tomova is a 21-year-old AUP senior from Sofia, Bulgaria. In eastern Europe, 'Banitsa' (Баница) is a traditional dish from Bulgaria "prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of cheese between and then it is baked in the oven,” Tomova described. “On New Year's Eve we put lucky charms and notes with small wishes into the pastry and each person who takes a piece shares his luck with the rest of the family. Wishes may include love, happiness, health, and success throughout the new year." It is her favorite tradition, as it brings people together to share food and love. 

Kiitan Akande is a 21-year-old junior studying in Lille from Lagos, Nigeria. Akande spoke of  'Jollof rice' as one of the most popular Nigerian foods. “It’s basically rice mixed with tomato sauce. There are different ways to make it: the Nigerian way, the Ghanian way, the Senegalese way..." but Akande says the Nigerian way is the best. Nigerian 'Jollof' is made in one pot with rice, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and stock cubes. It is a symbol of celebration in Nigeria for birthdays, weddings, and more. It is commonly served with a protein such as chicken, beef, or plantains, or is sometimes served with coleslaw.

Image Credit: Wikimedia/ ask4ugo
 

Naf Nikodimou is a 21-year-old AUP senior from Thessaloniki, Greece. 'Moussaka' is the daily dish that reminds her of home and her family. “Where I am from, people usually gather in large family groups for their daily meals. They often take hours to eat, and at night they spend their time at Greek bars enjoying the Greek music,” she explained. 'Moussaka' is made with sautéed eggplant and tomato with minced meat, usually topped with a white sauce, then baked. It has Middle Eastern origins but was re-created to make a more modern Greek version.  

Youssef Mina is a 22-year-old AUP senior from Cairo, Egypt. ‘Fattah’ is a dish that is usually served for feasts such as after Ramadan or a celebration. It consists of shredded chicken layered with rice and small toasted pieces of bread. It is put in garlic and vinegar sauce and on topped with a thin layer of yogurt and roasted pine nuts. Mina explains that “it’s special because it’s a pain in the ass to make well, so we don’t really eat it very often. We usually eat it every Christmas or after fasting for forty days. ‘Fattah’ is always the first thing that we run out of because everyone wants it." Fattah brings the family together-"There's always a heated argument from my uncles before, but once the food comes out everyone becomes quiet and gracious for my grandmother's food."

Image Credit: Flickr/stu_spivack
 

Liz Nguyen Son is Vietnamese but grew up in Singapore. She is a 22-year-old senior at AUP. The first food that comes to her mind is 'Laksa'. “It has these delicious, soft, spaghetti-like round rice noodles in a thick and creamy coconut gravy. It’s spicy and has hints of seafood flavor. It’s so indulgent and unique. Singaporeans fight over which hawker stall has the best laksa,” she says. “I think it demonstrates the cultural hybridity in Singapore. The city-state is so small yet immensely diverse and that manifests into the food.” 'Laksa' is eaten as an everyday dish in restaurants or small food stands.  

Riantsoa Ranaivo is a 22-year-old AUP senior from Antananarivo, Madagascar. He remembers a traditional Malagasy dish called 'Ravitoto'. It is a stew made up of ground cassava leaves mixed with pork and served with Madagascar’s red rice and a tomato 'rougail' sauce. Each region of Madagascar adds their own spices and tastes to the dish. “The visual appearance is not quite appealing, however, the freshness and its potent flavor make 'Ravitoto' my favorite dish. The ground cassava tastes more or less like 'matcha'. It’s a culinary must if you visit Madagascar."

Erik Sederowsky is 21 years old and from Stockholm, Sweden. ‘Pickled Herring’ covered in sweet mustard ('Senapssill’) is a traditional appetizer that you eat at Midsummer, Easter, and Christmas in Sweden. Erik explained that Swedish people "cook ‘herring’ in plenty of ways, but my favorite – along with half of Sweden- is the mustard one. It’s the best because it covers the smell and makes it sweeter. It is still good without the mustard, but a little stinky and more of an acquired taste.” Pickled Herring in sweet mustard is usually found in jars but can be made fresh too. This traditional appetizer is a big holiday food because of the amount of Herring that Sweden has. 

Image Credit: Google Images/ Esquilo
 

Every country has their own set of traditions and culture, and within that lies food. We remember our own cultures through the smell and taste of the food that we grew up eating. Being homesick can manifest itself into intense cravings for traditional food from our cultures. Paris has diverse markets and restaurants that, most of the time, can satisfy our homesick cravings. Grocery shops carrying imported goods from Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and more. Finding the ingredients to make traditional dishes ourselves can bring us closer to home. With that being said, nothing will ever taste as good as a home-cooked meal.