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American Today


Cookbook Brings Taste of AU to a Good Cause

By Sally Acharya

What’s cooking at AU? Well, for starters, there’s borscht from Russia, rice with peanut sauce from Mali, shish kebab from Lebanon, and oxtail soup from the Caribbean. Just like mother makes at home.

Tales of Taste: Family Recipes from Around the World is a taste of AU that helps feed a good cause, since the compilation of favorite recipes from the AU community will also help international students who run into temporary hardships far from home.

The idea grew out of a conversation last Thanksgiving at the office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), when the American festival prompted thoughts of holidays in distant homelands and memories of the enticing offerings on the family table.

An American abroad might have mouth-watering thoughts of turkey and cranberry sauce, but what about a South Korean or Peruvian? What are the foods that AU’s global mix of students, faculty, and staff like to make to remind themselves of other lands?

The discussion led Senem Bakar, assistant director of ISSS, to envision a cookbook that would share global family cuisine with the university community. And in true AU style, it would also be a service project.

After all, as international students study thousands of miles from home, they aren’t just far from their family’s kitchens. They’re also far from family help if they run into a financial crisis. Natural disasters, civil war, the sudden devaluation of their country’s currency, or even the death of a parent can leave them short of cash when they need it most.

They might need to buy an international plane ticket for the next day, but not have the cash. They may even be faced with ending their studies unless they can pay tuition, buy textbooks, or afford housing while new financial arrangements are being made. The fund helps students in good academic standing who need to borrow small amounts of money to help them get through such temporary hardships.

The project isn’t just a compilation of recipes; it’s also a sign of AU’s community spirit.
For instance, it needed photographs. Fortunately, a volunteer stepped forward from AU’s School of Communication. Professor Iwan Bagus, who teaches photography—and also knows what it means to be an international student, since he comes from Indonesia—offered his services for the project. His professional photographs help bring the food to luscious life.

Designer Juana Merlo and editor Marjorie Neumann of University Publications put in many hours on the book, while Kay Mussell, dean, College of Arts and Sciences, penned a foreword that puts the meaning of food into social context. And, of course, the staff of ISSS and many other supporters around campus worked hard to make the cookbook a reality.

The cookbook is also an education in global cuisine, as readers learn that Bulgarians like to eat cold yogurt soup on the beach, and that besbarmak, a popular dish in Kazhakstan, is traditionally made with horse meat—though the recipe points out that beef or lamb work just as well.

There are offerings from America’s kitchens, too: New Orleans shrimp étouffée, California quesadillas, Finnish sweet bread made by literature professor Angela Dadak’s great-grandmother in her immigrant neighborhood in Massachusetts, and a peach cobbler recipe passed down by special events codirector Katherine Kirlin’s 95-year-old mother, who grew up on a Colorado ranch, picking and canning peaches and bringing them home by wagon.

Every recipe has a story, and the stories are rich with the flavor of the AU community.

ISSS is now selling the cookbooks for a suggested donation of $20. For information on how to purchase cookbooks, contact the ISSS front desk at 885-3350 or Senem Bakar at 885-3352.