Daniela Navarro also contributed to this story.
Surrounded by ingredients, frying pans, rolling pins, and trusty smartphone cameras, some Colorado State University international students and community have been reaching out beyond their COVID-19 imposed quarantines to share their favorite dishes, at least virtually.
Through the Cooking with International Programs video series, the Office of International Programs sought opportunities for the community to engage with one another, feel less isolated, and increase the knowledge of different cultures. Step by delicious step, these international chefs hoped to bring people a sense of unity, even as they were apart.
The video demos began by word of mouth and continued to help the community break out of their stay-at-home cooking ruts with favorite international dishes.
The first Cooking with International Programs video was filmed in Fort Collins with Confucius Institute’s Kevin Nohe and his wife, Su, who shared her Chinese sweet & sour pork recipe. Chef Susu, as she’s affectionately nicknamed, taught local Chinese cooking classes in pre-pandemic times. After that first one was posted to the OIP website, videos streamed in from across Colorado and the world.
Filming cooking demos not only helped our international friends get through the difficult, and often boring, early days of quarantine. They also helped share the lives and cultures of their home countries in new and interesting ways.
Often while living abroad, individuals can find themselves learning about the host culture (in this case, U.S. culture) more than they get to show others about their own. Through cooking demos, international students showcased the foods they love from the places where they grew up.
Three individuals in particular who filmed cooking demos from afar were Dulmaa from Mongolia, Elena from Italy, and Ana Maria from the CSU Todos Santos Center in Baja Sur, Mexico. They each created dishes from their countries with the help of others, sharing their culture, language, or customs along the way.
Dumplings from Mongolia
Dulmaa grew up in a small, peaceful village in Mongolia, but currently resides in the capital city, of Ulaanbaatar. She loves sharing the culture of Mongolia with others, especially those who are unfamiliar with nomadic culture and traditions of the country. In 2013, Dulmaa met Nicole Pawloski, an education abroad coordinator at CSU, during Nicole’s time in the Peace Corps. Nicole suggested a cooking demo for one of her favorite dishes, Khuushur, with Dulmaa leading the way.
Khuushur is a large, delicious, flat-fried dumpling. It can be filled with meat, or potatoes to make it vegan. Traditionally Khuushur is eaten during the Mongolian summer festival, Naadam, in July. The holiday focuses on three main sports: archery, horse racing, and wrestling.
For the video, Dulmaa headed into the countryside to make the dumplings in a traditional Mongolian ger with her friend, Lhamnorjmaa. A ger is a round, portable tent used often in nomadic culture in Mongolia.
Pasta from Italy
Another chef, Elena, also works for the Office of International Programs as an international student worker. She traveled back home during spring break to stay with her family in Italy. During quarantine, her mother, Michela, began to cook more often and Elena took the opportunity to create a video to help CSU students not feel so alone and see a part of her own culture.
Elena filmed herself and her mother making orecchiette pasta in their home in Rome. Michela is from the southern region of Italy where orecchiette originates. Orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian and is called such because of its shape.
As a child, Elena would visit her grandparents in southern Italy where she would often make pasta with her grandmother. In the video, she even shows how children can make the pasta as she did back then. Any sauce can be put on the pasta, with a few options discussed toward the end of the video.
Chilaquiles from Mexico
Ana Maria is the chef at the CSU Todos Santos Center in Baja Sur, Mexico. Known as “Mama Ana Maria,” her culinary talents combine with her love of people to make her a favorite among students and staff alike. Many CSU students, faculty, and staff have met her while on education abroad programs at the Todos Santos Center and her dishes receive rave reviews.
Chef Ana Maria taught the community how to make chilaquiles rojos, a layered dish commonly served for breakfast or lunch in Mexico. It can either be made with chicken or a fried egg, and Ana Maria showcased some of the optional toppings as well.
Full range of cooking videos
Dulmaa, Ana Maria, and Elena were all excited to be able to share their traditions with others. It was an opportunity for them to finally have their friends and community abroad see more of their home countries and have a taste of what life is like where they are from.
To date, eight Cooking with International Programs videos have been released and viewed by hundreds, seeking to learn a new recipes such as Chinese sweet and sour pork, Mexican chiles rellenos, puran poli (sweet Indian flatbread), and paneer tikka masala (vegetarian Indian curry).
View all of the videos here and subscribe to get information about new videos as they come out.