ISLC’s Cooking Without Borders Explores Egyptian Food Culture

A photo of the gathering sponsored by the ISLC. Photo by Míceal Munroe-Allsup.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS of Lewis & Clark (ISLC) hosted Cooking Without Borders: Egypt on March 21 with Visiting Professor Rasha Soliman in the main lounge of the Holmes dorm building. Cooking Without Borders (CWB) is a recurring event series in which a lead cook (usually a professor of international background) chooses a dish to cook with students. It is one of the many events through which ISLC creates a space for both U.S.-born and international students to interact and enjoy one of the oldest and most influential art forms in the world: the art of cooking.

“We have about three CWBs every semester,” Jady Brown ’20, ISLC’s Chairperson of Publicity, said via email. “This semester we had China, Egypt and we’ll have a night for Bulgaria.”

Joelle Hakoum ’20, Vice President of ISLC, elaborated on the goals of the event.

“The purpose of Cooking Without Borders is to increase communication between international students and domestic students while increasing awareness of the cuisine of the country represented and its cultural importance,” Hakoum said.

While the creation of inclusive spaces has been a primary intention of ISLC since its inception, Cooking Without Borders is a relatively recent manifestation of this goal, coming to fruition only last year. Before that, ISLC hosted “Iron Chef,” an event which brought together a professor, a student and a chef from the LC branch of the Bon Appétit catering company to prepare food in competition with one another and serve it to students.

“Last year, we decided to expand on the idea and add cultural representation to it,” Hakoum said.

The specifics of the CWB events, such as the country represented and the dates of the function, are decided during ISLC’s weekly meetings.

The latest CWB featured Egyptian dishes chosen by Rasha Soliman, a visiting professor from Cairo currently teaching Ancient Egypt and Ancient Egyptian Archaeology. Together with attendees, Soliman made koshari for the meal, om ali for dessert and prepared several Egyptian appetizers for snacking, namely fool, labneh, baba ganoush and pita bread. Koshari consists of rice, lentils, macaroni, spiced tomato sauce and garlic vinegar, topped with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. It is a time-tested crowd-pleaser in Egypt sold on almost every street corner, according to Soliman. Om ali is an equally classic bread pudding-type dish made by baking puff pastries, milk, sugar, butter, raisins, nuts and other ingredients (depending on available materials) in a pan together until the pastries have cooked through, resulting in a deliciously creamy and perfectly spiced dish.

“The final thing was a lot of fun, but the first few stages were difficult,” Soliman said. Admittedly, college dorm kitchens are not made for 15 bodies to inhabit at once. While students may have bumped into each other a bit, this only facilitated the spirit of community.

“I’d never been to one (an ISLC event) before,” Nadia Spira ’19 said. “There was a nice sense of hospitality and inclusiveness. The best thing about it was just seeing students from all over coming together and helping out.”

“The process is much more valuable than the result,” Hakoum said (although the result itself was delicious as well). ISLC functions as a student government for international students, and board positions, which include a representative in Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC), are elected by international students, Third Culture Kids and Academic English Studies students.

Several ISLC board members also mediate with the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) and the Dean of Diversity to ensure the needs and concerns of international students are being heard. Recently, these efforts have given rise to the United Front Initiative, which intends to bring together each club or student union that advocates for underrepresented groups at LC in order to consolidate objectives and proposals for the coming year.

In the past, ISLC has organized fashion shows, monologue and poetry events and pumpkin carving affairs, as well as off-campus excursions on the weekends. You don’t have to be an international student to become involved in these events — their purpose is to bring together people of different backgrounds into a shared experience.

“It’s like a family — you don’t have to be on the board to help out,” Hakoum said.

The ISLC office is located in Templeton Campus Center, and office hours are open to all. Each year, ISLC has a booth at the Pio Fair, several Cooking Without Borders events and their largest function, the International Fair, among others. Upcoming events include the end of the year Stewart-Odell-Akin Barbeque and the final Cooking Without Borders: Bulgaria with Assistant Professor of Russian and Russian Section Head Maria Hristova on April 17 in Holmes Main Lounge from 5 to 7 p.m. RSVP at islcgov@lclark.edu.

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