Connection between culture and food

Sophomore film production major Emiliana Ammirata refuses to eat bagels with cream cheese because she believes they lack flavor– yet, to the untrained eye, her favorite dish, arepa, looks extremely similar to a bagel.

Ammirata is heavily connected to her Venezuelan culture and she feels traditional dishes, like arepas, are a very important aspect of this.

“My culture is my identity,” said Ammirata. “I carry my culture everywhere around me, from the way I eat to the way I relate to others, it is something that I’m always trying to share.”

Many Chapman students, like Ammirata, identify with being other than American and take pride in their respective native cultures. To those who grew up strongly connected to their nationality, the foods that they grew up eating as well as their favorite foods reflect their country of origin. While studying at Chapman, many have found different places or ways to eat what they love.

Arepa is a dish made of grilled ground maize dough or cooked flour, which can be stuffed with anything, but most commonly, shredded cheese, shredded beef, and avocado. Ammirata shipped arepas to Orange to share with her roommates and she says they absolutely fell in love with the food.

It’s really nice to see other people enjoy food from home. It makes me feel more connected and I reminisce about that feeling of sharing arepas with my friends,” Ammirata said.

To get a taste of arepas and Venezuelan food, she strongly recommends eating at Mil Jugos, a cheap Venezuelan restaurant in Santa Ana, and ordering a Guanabana juice with an arepa.

Like Ammirata, senior television broadcast journalism major Yuri Scharan chooses to visit restaurants to get a taste of home while living in Orange. From Brazil, Scharan says his culture is very important to who he is and how he behaves. His favorite dish is churrasco, or grilled meat, because of the variety of flavors in one plate.

“You got the rice, the bean stew, the farofa on top, and all the kinds of meat,” said Scharan.

The only Brazilian food he makes while at Chapman is frozen Pão de queijo, or cheese bread, from international markets. Other than that, he visits Brazilian restaurants like Agora Churrascaria, Fogo de Chão, and Pampas Grill.

Photo By: Miyeok guk (Broth, seaweed, oysters).
Photo By: Miyeok guk (Broth, seaweed, oysters).

Sophomore integrated education studies major Jamie Lee is Korean.  From her background, her favorite food is miyeok guk, a traditional Korean seaweed soup used to celebrate another year of life. Fortunately, Lee is as a commuter student who comes home to her mom cooking Korean food everyday.

I love food from all around the world as well, but nothing beats a bowl of rice with some side dishes and soup,” Lee said about Korean food.

“It’s something I’m always craving and if I can’t think of anything to eat with my friends, I’m always taking them to go eat Korean food,” said Lee.

Junior strategic and corporate communication major Mehanaokala Lee has nine nationalities including Korean and Dutch, but she takes most pride in being a Native Hawaiian. Extremely connected to her Hawaiian culture, Lee’s favorite food is poke and poi, the staple food of Hawai’i.

Photo By: Kirk K. Furikake-masago ahi poke.
Photo By: Kirk K. Furikake-masago ahi poke.

“Poi just takes me back to memories of my childhood and my home in Hawai’i. Poke just reminds me of being in the ocean, and having the experience of tasting something like that is heartwarming. These tastes remind me of home, and to me, that’s so important,” said Lee.

With the recent hype of poke stores opening up in Southern California, it’s easy to find, as well as easy to make.

Lee has successfully made poke with her roommates at Chapman, but in terms of poi, she said, “I’ve yet to make poi here because that would be a task and a half.”

Senior integrated educational studies and Japanese language and culture double major Nobuko Shigeyama is half American and half Japanese. Growing up in Japan, Shigeyama ate a lot of fresh food, especially fish.

“I would say sushi in Japan is my favorite because it’s fresh and it isn’t full of unhealthy sauces. It’s simple and only consists of fresh fish and rice,” said Shigeyama.

She says it’s hard to find that kind of fresh food in the United States.

Shigeyama’s favorite dish is simple nigiri sushi, such as salmon, eel, and albacore. She doesn’t eat sushi as much in the States because of the difference in freshness. When she’s here, the only Japanese food she eats is at Mitsua, a Japanese grocery store/cafeteria that serves authentic food made by Japanese people.

Photo By: Bánh xèo (rice flour, water, turmeric powder, stuffed with pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts).
Photo By: Bánh xèo (rice flour, water, turmeric powder, stuffed with pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts).

Sophomore biology major Sharon Tang is divided in her Vietnamese and American culture. She’s incorporated both the eastern and western cultures into her lifestyle, which played a tremendous part on how she shaped her identity. From her Vietnamese background, her favorite dish is bánh xèo, which are Vietnamese crepes.

Bánh xèo is delicious but there are too many components for me to make myself. It takes lots of time and love, but I have very little time to make it while I’m at school,” said Tang.

Bright yellow from turmeric, bánh xèo are crunchy crepes filled with shrimp and beef and veggies. Other ingredients include coconut milk, mung bean, and bean sprouts. Bánh xèo is eaten with hands, usually by taking pieces of it and wrapping it in lettuce, and dipping it in a fish sauce.

“The biggest joy in my life is food and I think it brings people together in a way that nothing else can,” Tang said.

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