The Cuisine of Culture

By Arleigh Rodgers '21, April 30, 2021
Asian American Alliance members discuss food and create cookbook of their favorite dishes.

Few things bring people together like a shared love of food. Last week, members of the student organization Asian American Alliance (AAA) showcased the foods that were most important to them. They unveiled the “IC Asian American Alliance Cookbook,” a collection of member recipes, during the Cooking up Culture event, part of Focus Asia month.

The cookbook contained 13 member-created recipes of appetizers, main courses, drinks, and dessert, such as Miso soup, chicken adobo, milk tea, and egg custard.

“Food really fulfills a sensory experience. The smell. The taste. The general atmosphere. It's just so homey and comforting, and especially during a time when we think of race and culture, we think of a lot of tragic and very political things. It's also good to remind ourselves that there's more to race and culture than tragedies. There's also food.”

Michelle Pei ’22, vice president of the Asian American Alliance

Take A Look

You can view all the recipes in the AAA cookbook by clicking here.

Using the video chat platform SpatialChat, the club unveiled the book, while also discussing their experiences with Asian food in Ithaca, tips for cooking Asian food and local places to find Asian grocery stores.

“I lived in Shanghai, China, for about 10 years,” said Michelle Pei ’22, vice president of AAA. “A lot of the culture shock comes from getting used to the food here, which is dramatically different.“

Screenshot of cooking up culture event

In addition to unveiling the cookbook, AAA members got a chance to hang out and talk about food.

“Food really fulfills a sensory experience,” Pei continued. “The smell. The taste. The general atmosphere. It's just so homey and comforting, and especially during a time when we think of race and culture, we think of a lot of tragic and very political things. It's also good to remind ourselves that there's more to race and culture than tragedies. There's also food, and that's something that's just inherently heartwarming and brings a smile to people's faces.”

Inbaayini Anbarasan ’24, who is currently taking courses remotely in India, still attends AAA meetings remotely. Anbarasan said food has been an important and formative aspect in her life. At the event, she and other members discussed “lunchbox trauma” — a phenomenon that she said many Asian people in the United States experience. This phrase refers to the ridicule some Asian students face when they bring Asian food to school and are mocked by non-Asian students.

“Asian food is so incredibly diverse and rich, and it felt so nice to just have an event dedicated to Asian food, celebrating how there’s food from Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Eastern Asia,” Anbarasan said. “Everyone could share their experiences and celebrate food, and it was really nice.”