American Taste Seminar 2013 (The best ever!)
November 12th marked a day of history-in –the-making for the students of the American Taste Seminar! For the first time ever in Skidmore College’s history, these lucky students were able to cook and present a global dinner to President Glotzbach at the Lucy Scribner House. First on the menu was Poutine, a dish native to Canada, as well as Latino Tamales. These appetizers share their richness in flavor only, as their history and origins could not be more different. Traced back to Aztec, Incan, and Mayan cuisine, the nature of tamales has evolved over thousands of years. In contrast, Poutine is a contemporary comfort food that is rumored to have been created only fifty years ago when a customer wanted cheese curds added to his fries and gravy at a snack shop in Quebec.
Panzanella, a traditional bread, tomato, and onion salad eaten by peasants in Tuscany, was next on the menu. Noted for its numerous ingredients, this bread salad incorporated leftovers and stale items deliciously—a great advantage when food was unavailable or inaccessible to peasants. After mass Italian immigration into America took place, cultural assimilation occurred while their foodways remained the same. Italian women regarded their traditional means of cooking as part of their livelihood, which is why the original recipe for Panzenella is most popular in America today. Together, Ceanna and Julia, teamed up to bake Naan, a flatbread from India and Afghanistan. Renowned for its buttery flavor and soft, doughy quality, Naan has become much more mainstream in America. Usually a type of bread served during a special occasion in India, Naan is now the typical bread served in most Indian restaurants in America.
For the dinner course, the students decided to serve a vegetarian and shrimp version of the stir-fried noodle dish, Pad Thai. In Thailand, Pad Thai is a casual dish served primarily in casual restaurants or street fairs. After the Vietnam War, many people of Asian descent immigrated to America, bringing their culture and food, like Pad Thai. Today, Pad Thai is a staple of Asian cuisine in America. Due to its growing popularity, Pad Thai was featured as the fifth most enjoyable dish on the 2011 list of the World’s 50 most delicious foods according to CNN. For dessert, the students made Baklava, a Middle Eastern delicacy. In the Middle East, Baklava is a demonstration of wealth since only kings could eat it during the eighth century. When the migrant laborers brought their foodways to America, baklava was no longer a dessert of the elite and became accessible to all.
While sampling the dishes, President Glotzbach asked the group what their favorite aspect of Skidmore was. One person appropriately responded, “the dining hall” without hesitation. Skidmore has gone to great lengths to provide its students with choice and variety in regards to food, especially in the Global Café of the dining hall. As students are introduced to other culture’s foods, Skidmore successfully brings a little piece of home to international students while educating others about the unique cultures of the world. All in all, the dinner was a great success! One student even said “it was a unique and awesome experience to be able to say that I cooked dinner for the President in my freshman year, and the class bonded over the ethnic flavors!”
Written by Anika Verma