For nearly 40 years, students, faculty and members of the Charlottesville community have come together to share a meal and a taste of their culture at the University of Virginia’s Lorna Sundberg International Center.
“Food always seems to connect people from different cultural backgrounds. It’s comforting and familiar,” said the center’s program coordinator, Quynh Nguyen. “I often consider the cooking classes as a way to facilitate the multicultural conversations that take place while participants are working together. For example, while they’re folding empanadas, they could be talking about current events in China with students from China and India.”
These evenings of comfort food and conversation have been a tradition held on and off at the center since 1979. Starting in 2008, the classes adopted a regular schedule running four times a month during the spring and fall semesters, and twice a month during the summer.
Volunteers from across the University and Charlottesville communities sign up to share their recipes and their time with anyone who wants to join them. Although the class requires pre-registration, it’s free and open to the public.
“Participants don’t need to have any cooking experience or bring anything with them to class. We have a range from novice to expert cooks who participate and we supply everything for the class, so participants can just come and enjoy it,” said Nguyen.
Nguyen gave UVA Today a preview of the recipes she’ll be making with the class on Friday evening: Singaporean chicken and rice and paratha (a type of South Asian fried bread) with curry sauce. The full recipe for each item is below, and in the video above, viewers can watch Nguyen make the curry and paratha. Those interested in taking a class at the International Center can find more information through the website and can find the full recipes for all the elements of Friday’s meal here.