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Let Your Taste Buds Travel the World!

As you all know, March is Nutrition Month and this year's theme really focuses on the individuality of what healthy means. Indeed, every single one of us has different genetics, socio-economic status, access to food, schedules, health problems, culture, and traditions, which can all impact our health. In order to explore those two last points, I asked some of the DHNUS members to share with us food traditions that are related to their cultures. Let's see what we've got:

Liam Fowler (U1 Representative) - Asia, Cuba, North America

From Asia, to Cuba, to North America’s backyard, to the mouth of a vegetarian: I was pretty much a full-pescatarian and never really craved to look back… Except for when I come back home; The memories, the comfort, the smells, the traditions… That’s craving. I’m not just talking about a homey mom’s chicken soup, although I did just polish off a pot of it for lunch (s/o momma), but what really gets me lip lickin’ is our Cuban-Roasted pig in a box; Yep. A pig. Cooked in a box. Eaten by a vegetarian. It’s that worthy. For translation, Caja China means “Chinese Box” in Spanish. By definition, it’s an inversion of the traditional cooking method using coal underneath and instead placing them atop the box. Halfway through the cooking comes the most complicated maneuver – the flipping of the pig. Fortunately, this allows both sides to face the coals to crisp the skin. Unfortunately, the beast weighs 50+ Ibs and most of the spectators have consumed more brews than usual by midday. The two most important things you need are time and friends/family. The day-long slow-cooking not only allows the pork to fall off the bone, but as importantly – well maybe not to some - it gives time to spend with loved ones.

Some of my fondest memories growing up are from our backyard roast; and every summer the smell and flavors of our sacrificial pig – and dad’s famous BBQ sauce - brings me right back.

COVID has rain-delayed a lot of parties this past summer and the roast wasn’t immune to that…

But one thing’s for sure when normalcy returns; we can look forward to the best Fowler Family Pig Roast yet. And I, the vegetarian, will be front-line to carve the corpse and dish out the meat.

*It is this event – not just the pork – that reminds me of the beauty food offers: connection.

Missy Yu (U3 Representative) - China

This is what a typical breakfast would be like for Shanghainese:

We call these The Four kingkong "sidajingang".

Douhua is basically tofu pudding, can be either sweet or salty. And cifantuan would be sticky rice rolls with all kinds of sweet and salty fillings.

Megan Hardi (President) - China, Indonesian

Each year, on my birthday, I always remember 3 things:

1) I am not as young as I used to be but I'm not as old as I think I am

2) Cake is definitely one of my favorite foods, and

3) Prepare a bowl of Noodles. Growing up in a Chinese-Indonesian household, my parents would always make sure to order a plate of Noodles on our birthdays. This Chinese tradition has been passed on for generations as Noodles represent healthy long lives. Birthday Noodles or 寿面 (shòumiàn), with boiled eggs on the side, should be eaten without breaking the strands; you don't want to be cutting your life short!

Juliette Nguyen - Vietnam

Mâm Ngũ Quả (Five-fruit tray) is an essential offering to ancestors on Viet’s New Year! A typical five fruit tray has green bananas, a ripe pomelo, oranges, persimmons, sapodilla plums, a bunch of kumquats. We placed the tray on the altar every New Year to express our gratitude to the ancestors. The tray itself symbolizes happiness, health, longevity, and wealth. Isn't it what we all wish for in our life? Up until today, this food tradition still persists, becoming a must-do activity on the first day of Viet’s New Year.

*Fun fact: there can be more than five fruits on the tray and the type of fruits we put depends on where and which ethnicity we come from.

Patricia Kamara (Event Coordinator) - Kenya, Tanzania

When I was growing up you knew there was a celebration every time you saw my aunt making chapati. Chapati is a (delicious) whole wheat flat bread from Kenya and Tanzania. Every birthday, Christmas , Easter, graduation, new year, wedding and/or funeral was not complete if there was no chapati. It can be eaten as super with beef stew and sukuma wiki (collard greens) or it can be eaten with chai as breakfast. The dish is an adaptation of Indian and middle eastern flat breads that were passed down to the East African coast through trade. It’s a bit of a process to make as you have to wait for a long time for the dough to rest but, it is very worth It! Chapati can also be adapted into a variety of flavors by adding yams, papaya and sweet potatoes. Chapati is my all time favorite food. I missed it so much first year that I brought some frozen from Kenya after winter break.

Nesrine Aboulhamid (U2 Representative) - Morocco

Gathering around a big platter of couscous on Fridays is deeply rooted in Moroccan traditions. Fridays (Jummah) is an important day of worship in Islam and eating couscous after its midday prayer had been encouraged for centuries. Although the cooking process takes several hours due to the steaming of couscous, we also greatly enjoy preparing this dish on special occasions and celebrations!”

Traditional Moroccan couscous: Couscous, vegetables (carrots, sweet potato, zucchinis, turnip, cabbage), chickpeas and beef or chicken.

Sarah Shamim (VP Finances) - Iran

Here are some Persian food traditions:

- Nut and dry fruit mixes (called Ajil) are always on the table for before or after meal snacks, it is meant to be a symbol of hospitality and health. We have it all the time at every family gathering but they are especially important to serve on our new years!

- Persian culture is one of the oldest ones to exist so foods like ghormez sabzi date back like 5000 years and they are staples in the culture. Sabzi means "herbs" in farsi so the name of the food kind of translates to an "herb stew".

- Saffron is a super expensive spice native of Iran! It is part of its history so if you find cave paintings in Iran a lot of the times they will be painted with saffron. It's also a part of a lot of our foods (e.g. tahchin). It is referred to as "red gold", and if you want some science it has a bunch of phytochemicals and anthocyanins that are good for you!

- tea > coffee always!

Marianne Côté (VP Public Relations) - Québec

My fellow Quebecers will certainly know all I'm about to tell you. Hopefully, if you are not from Québec, this will encourage you to try most of our traditional foods!

Sugar shacks in spring. Most Quebec families gather in sugar shacks around this time of the year and stuff their faces in delicious typical Quebec foods: maple syrup on EVERYTHING (eggs, ham, bacon, toast), cretons (meat spread), fèves au lard (beans and ham in a sweet sauce), oreilles de crisse (crispy salted lard), soupe aux pois (pea soup), and some p'tites patates cuites au four (oven-baked diced potatoes).

This year's concept is a bit different due to #COVID, so people can have all those foods delivered at home. Of course the ambiance is not the same as in actual sugar shacks, but they still find a bit of comfort in the foods!

Other Quebec-related food traditions could include:

- Apple picking in autumn is another tradition most Quebec families do every year

- Poutine after clubbing :)))

- And what about alllll the Christmas and New Years typical desserts (Google all the ones you don't know or click on the links for recipes): pouding chômeur, pets de soeurs, grands-pères dans le sirop, tarte aux pacanes, tarte au sucre (I'm probably forgetting some hehe).

On that sweet note, I hope all this talk about foods around the world made you feel hungry (I know I am!) and share with us what are YOUR culture-related food traditions!

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