The Global Gastronomy Group embraces 'grow locally, cook globally' philosophy
by MaryAlice Bitts
January 26, 2010
Students making gnocchi from the recipe of Nicoletta Marini Maio, assistant professor of Italian.
Dickinsonians are bringing a taste of the world to campus through the new Global Gastronomy Group cooking classes. Founded by Catherine Beaudry, associate professor of French & Italian, the group delights palates, celebrates international cultures and encourages cross-cultural friendships by offering students a rare chance to come together and savor tasty international dishes.
“One of the things students miss most when studying in another country is their favorite foods from home. Conversely, when students return from a study-abroad program, they become nostalgic for the food they ate overseas,” Beaudry explains. “Our students love the Food Channel, so they are interested in cooking. Why not bring them in contact with each other so they can cook and share what they learned while abroad? It’s a culinary encounter of the best kind.”
There are other benefits, as well. While they learn the basics of cooking, students also master an array of easy dishes that they will be able to prepare when they graduate and begin to live on their own.
Using kitchen utensils borrowed from Dining Services and fresh ingredients from the Dickinson College Farm, students gather each week in the Stern Center kitchen, where they learn to whip up tasty comfort foods from different corners of the globe. Attendance varies from session to session, but Beaudry reports that the club has attracted as many as 36 persons per class.
Beaudry kicked off the sessions with an introduction to ratatouille, a flavorful eggplant-based vegetable stew that the French serve both hot and cold. “Some of the students had never cooked anything before, so we had to start from the beginning. We began with instructions on how to select vegetables and safety techniques for slicing them,” she said, adding that the result was well worth the effort: “It was 'un succès fou,' as my mother used to say when she pulled a soufflé out of the oven.”
In some of the subsequent labs, faculty members shared their cultural and culinary expertise. Rae Yang, associate professor of Chinese language and literature, showed students how to create Chinese dishes the authentic way. Akiko Meguro, lecturer of Japanese, taught students how to make rice rolls and miso soup. Nicoletta Marini-Maio, assistant professor of Italian, used locally grown winter squash to create mouthwatering risotto alla zucca and extolled the virtues of the simple gnocchi.
It was, she said, a big hit.
"The students learned the whole process very quickly and ate the gnocchi even faster," said Marini-Maio. "Some of them said they would make gnocchi in their room over the weekend."
Students also got in on the act. Gabriela Uassouf '10 prepared masterful empanadas con queso, a cheesy treat that is popular in her native Argentina. Patrick Sheehy ’12 of Vienna, Va., taught students how to create savory spaghetti alla carbonara, which he had concocted during his summer job as a caterer. Visiting international scholars Elena Aysakova and Natalia Chernysheva taught students a few words in Russian as they whipped up blinis, a light and fluffy confection that originates from their native Russia.
Global Gastronomy Group members also marked the anniversary of the Franco-German Armistice by making crêpes and pfannkuchen. The week before Thanksgiving was a celebration of the Dickinson College Farm harvest, creating American comfort foods that highlighted the wholesome goodness of fresh-picked produce and herbs.
In the coming semester, the group plans to concoct affordable, healthy winter comfort foods that make delectable use of beans. It will also mark Candlemas, a feast day celebrated on Feb. 2, with a lesson on crêpes.
These gastronomical get-togethers do more than simply provide delectable lunchtime treats, Beaudry says. They also reflect a campuswide commitment to creating a strong global community by strengthening ties within diverse members of the Dickinson community.
"Our motto is 'grow locally, cook globally,' " Beaudry said.