By: Cory William Berlekamp
On Sept. 6 at the Buford Center, the smell of peppers and rice filled the room as a group of people watched the chef of the day cook a dish from her home country. The chef is pharmacy student Manasa Akkineni and the dish she is preparing is rasam, a soup which is familiar to the Southern Indian state of Telangana, Hyderabad, where she is from.
The Buford Center is home to all things international at the University of Findlay and they regularly host cooking demonstrations for the cuisines of the different exchange students who attend college there.
“We try to do it at least once a month,” said Gabi Ferris, the administrative assistant for the center. “If anyone likes cooking and wants to do a show-and-tell of the foods that they love, they are welcome to share it with everybody.”
According to the flyer handed out at the demo, rasam is a spicy and sour soup which is common in South India. And to the chef of the day, Akkineni, it is a comforting classic.
“My grandma used to make this for me every time I was sick because I didn’t feel like eating anything else,” explained Akkineni, who says it helps you feel better because of the flavor and spice. “Since it is about to be flu season right now I thought it would be useful for everyone so I chose this.”
Though it seems to be the comforting equivalent to the Western chicken noodle soup, rasam is more than just a remedy when one has the sniffles.
“This is a usual course of the meal at every Indian household,” said Akkineni. “Especially South Indian because we eat a lot of rice.”
According to Ferris the cooking demonstration is free for anyone on campus and Buford Center provides the groceries for the students.
“It is pretty cheap to do,” said Ferris. “You just get the groceries to feed a sample to about 15 people plus the extras that might come in through the door.”
She says that people from around the university have been very generous and kind to both the center and the exchange students themselves when it comes to cooking utensils and appliances.
“Wonderful people from UF have donated skillets, pots, and anything that we could possibly need,” said Ferris. “But also for the students because we disperse basic household items that they may need.”
Though this cooking demonstration helps Akkineni feel at home when she cooks one of her favorite dishes, she also believes it helps other people who might not have tried rasam before.
“I feel like a lot of people would miss out on so many things if they didn’t try other cuisines,” said Akkineni. “Because when they don’t try, what do they know about other parts (of the world)? They are missing so much.”
Ferris agrees since she was raised in the southern part of Illinois which according to her a normal dinner consisted of meat, potatoes, and some sort of cooked vegetable.
“I think it’s amazing, it is very eye opening,” said Ferris.
The next cooking demonstration is held at the Buford Center from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 3 when students from Bulgaria will be showing off the food from their country.