By: Taylor Foxx
Traveling abroad comes with its full set of adventures, both anticipated and unanticipated. Among these, food is often one of the greatest. Though almost everyone anticipates engaging with strange, new foods overseas, few might foresee the experience of trying food that is said to be from their own home country.
A most obvious and, perhaps, expected example of this situation at Troy University would be that of Mein Bowl, the campus’ Chinese restaurant.
“The Chinese food served in the Trojan Center is definitely an American version of Chinese food,” said Jailei Chen, a senior communications major from China, but he said he still likes it a lot. For him, it reminds him a little of his province where the food tends to be on the sweeter side.
Outside of the Chinese food options, many internationals have had the opportunity to try foods from other countries in recent months. During Homecoming week in Nov. 2012, Trojan Dining partnered with the International Student Cultural Organization (ISCO) to create a special selection of international foods during the university’s “International Education Week.” During this week- long event, Saga’s staff produced foods using recipes from countries such as Japan, Vietnam and Greece. During other months, Saga has held special events that featured food from India, Thailand and several other exotic destinations.
Katsiree LaSuwaratana, a sophomore collaborative education major from Thailand, was excited when she heard that Saga planned to serve Khoo Soi, a favorite dish from her region in Thailand. After skipping a class during lunch hour, LaSuwaratana was disappointed to find what she called “a broke, college student’s chicken noodle soup.” The curry she remembered which contained ten different ingredients had been reduced to a thin soup containing only three.
Not all responses to the international food options have been negative. Thuy Nguyen, a freshman broadcast journalism major from Vietnam, said that the “Vietnamese” food she had eaten in Saga was not bad, just different from the food she remembers. According to Nguyen, when people make food from a country that is not their own, the food loses its soul because it lacks the cultural techniques and features that make it uniquely from its respective country.
This difficulty in creating traditional, ethnic food is not surprising to Saga. Duc Pham, a junior business major from Vietnam, was recently hired by Trojan Dining to prepare fresh Spring Rolls for the student body in Saga. Pham loved the experience and said, “It was an honor to represent my country and make one of my country’s traditional foods for Troy’s students and staff.”
As for Thai curry, there may be an opportunity for redemption. LaSuwaratana, an avid cook herself, says she would love to prepare Thai food for the student body the way it is supposed to be made. According to a representative from Trojan Dining, she could have that opportunity if she is serious.
This approach seems to be the smartest move that Saga could make. By allowing international students to recreate traditional foods from their respective countries, Saga draws on the invaluable experience and heritage of the students while honoring them with a platform to showcase their countries’ cuisine. The result is authentic dishes and a cultural experience for the entire student body.