All the way from India to New Orleans, U Prep knows its way around the kitchen
Biryani is a happy thing
Sophomore Zubin Abraham-Ahmed’s parents originate from Southern India. “My Mom’s side is from [Kerala, India]. My Dad is from the state of Karnataka,” he said, “We eat Indian food quite often.”
While Americans are familiar with bubble tea, Abraham-Ahmed drinks falooda, which “is made out of rose syrup, sabja seeds (basil seeds), vermicelli (noodle part in drink), jelly, pistachio, almonds and chilled milk,” he said.
Falooda sounds intriguing, but don’t forget the essential dish: biryani.
“Most festivals and holidays are dominated by biryani. It is rice with meat and sometimes vegetables. It is a little more dry than a curry, but has a similar consistency. At my Mom and father’s’ wedding,” he said, “They had biryani there. They would all make it in these giant pots. It’s kind of a happy thing.”
Keeping it kosher
Freshman Alma Zimberoff experiences an amalgam of cultures on her palate. “My mom is from France. We have gratin a lot, and we have crepes at parties,” Zimberoff said.
Religion plays a larger role in Zimberoff’s cuisine. As an Orthodox Jew, every holiday has some sort of dish or theme associated with it. One such holy day comes every week.
“Shabbat is the day of rest. The main staple of Shabbat is to have fancier food than the normal week. There is always challah and wine and a lavish meal, and washing rituals and songs,” Zimberoff said.
Most annual holidays have requirements or traditions to eat specific foods. “Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and it involves a seder (an order of dishes) for specific foods with individual prayers for all of them. The foods people associate with Rosh Hashanah are the fish head and the apples with honey,” she said. “The fish head symbolizes the head of the New Year, and the apples with honey symbolize a sweet year to come.”
On the other end of the spectrum, six days a year are considered fast days. “There are days when we don’t eat anything, which might surprise some people. They are mostly in remembrance of sad events,” Zimberoff said.
Monday New Orleans Style
Even American food has some culture if you look for it. Traditional food from New Orleans makes its way into junior Ana Bogdanovich’s diet.
“If I have been really stressed lately, or there is a lot going on, or a special occasion, my Mom always says, ‘OK this Monday I am going to make red beans and rice,’” she said.
Bogdanovich’s mom is from New Orleans, and “Monday” is vital to red beans and rice in the Big Easy.
“Back in the day Mondays were wash days for women, so they made red beans and rice. In the morning, they would put the red beans on the stove on low heat and it takes all day, so all day they can do the washing,” she said. “Every time my mom makes it she follows the traditions: cooking it on Monday, letting the beans cook all day while she does housework and serving it with cornbread.”
Violence, romance and spices
Born in Dallas, senior Nikhil Raman’s parents come from India. Raman gives us his take on both Indian and American food.
“I can do this in analogies. It’s like the relationship between South Indian and American movies. [American movies have] a set theme, a single taste and it’s the whole taste. With South Indian cuisine, you have a little bit of everything. Some spice, something sweet, something sour, a bit of bitter and a bunch of other stuff. It’s the same with the movies, there’s always violence, too much romance, and far too much unrelated comedy,” he said.
Raman’s family carries out the following ritual at every dinner: a portion of the prepared food is offered to a deity, prayers are said in Sanskrit, and after a while the offered portion is mixed with the rest of the food, making it blessed so that it washes sins away once you eat it.
From Russia: fish jelly
Senior Sasha Shenk’s family moved to the U.S. from Moscow, Russia when she was two. Shenk is well acquainted with Russian food.
“On weekends we make blini. They’re basically crepe-like pancakes. And borscht, a beet soup that is very, very Russian. Piroshki is a meat-stuffed bread roll that can also have vegetables in them,” Shenk said.
Alongside those dishes, come a lot of cabbage and fish Jelly. “Russia’s got a thing where they put fish in a white jelly, you cut pieces of the jello and there’s fish in it,” she added.
Unlike the American fast-paced lifestyle, Shenk says that Russian culture is more focused on coming home and sitting down for a meal.
“Anytime someone comes you have them stay over and you cook them a meal. Whereas in the US, when someone comes over, you pick something up. You don’t make them food. But that’s a very Russian thing to do,” Shenk said.
Lamb on a stick and galaktoboureko!
Senior Stone Poletti’s mother’s family is from Monastiraki, Greece.
With Greek food’s spicy flavors and its Mediterranean touch, it and it’s preparation differs from American food.
“On Greek Easter we roast a lamb on a stick, which usually takes people by surprise here, because you know, you don’t find people in a neighborhood roasting a lamb on a stick in their front yard,” Poletti said.
Poletti’s mom, grandfather and grandmother have special Greek recipes, like pastitsio (Greek lasagna), and tiropita (a pastry with phyllo and cheese/egg mixture).
“One of my favorites, which is really fun to spell, galaktoboureko. It’s just like a basic Greek dessert, custard in phyllo-,” he said.
Greek food isn’t only a big part of Poletti’s diet, it is also a major part of his culture and life.
“It brings people together in the Greek community. It’s for people to really have a good time and come together and share new experiences. Food means a lot more in a Greek household than what you eat. You’re never going to go to a Greek household and leave with an empty stomach,” Poletti said.
By Soha Kawtharani and Yoela Zimberoff