Cook-off immerses students in Arabic culture
The Arabic program hosted its first ever cooking competition Monday night.
Farida Badr, lecturer in Arabic with the Department of Asian Studies, said students in her Arabic 102 and Arabic 300 classes have been preparing for this competition all semester.
Badr planned three other competitions for these students to compete in throughout the semester — a singing competition, a telegraphy competition and a dance competition.
“The fourth and last competition is cooking,” she said. “I train students every week to prepare a specific Arab dish. Seventeen students are going to compete today for the best dish.”
To prepare for the event, Badr taught the students about specific ingredients and about the types of dishes people are interested in each week. Badr said she always encourages students to immerse themselves in the Arab culture.
“The way we teach the classes, we don’t have much time to teach about the culture,” she said. “It is hard to travel, so I want to teach them here in America.”
Badr said all the training is done in Arabic.
“When I train them to dance, we dance to Arab music,” she said. “I usually speak in Arabic when giving them cooking instructions and telling them about ingredients.”
Several awards will be given out to the competitors, including the most delicious meal, the healthiest dish, the best kid’s dish, the best Arab dish and the best non-Arab dish. The attendees of the competition will vote on each dish.
“I won’t be sampling because I want our attendants to have that opportunity,” Badr said. “If I did, I would give a vote for everyone!”
First-year computer science and math major Sweta Karlekar attended the cooking competition with her roommate, who is taking Arabic 102.
“I think it’s really interesting because, at least for language courses, it is a lot about the culture and the experience of that culture,” Karlekar said. “It’s a really great way to get immersion into the course.”
First-year biology major Ibrahim Henson said he decided to participate in the competition when he heard about it in his Arabic 102 class.
“I think it’s a great way for everyone to come around from the community to get together, eat some good food and enjoy each other,” Henson said.
He said he made pita bread zaitoon for the competition.
“Zaitoon is a mixture of the seed za'atar, which comes from the Mediterranean area, mixed with olive oil,” he said. “It forms a paste that you can spread on any bread, in this case it's pita bread.”
Henson said coming from an Arabic background helped him obtain knowledge of the food and how to make it. He said he thinks looking up the dishes and the different terminology of each is a great way for other students to learn about Arabic culture.
“I’m most excited to try the lamb stew, but I think my dish has the most heart,” Henson said.
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