Cornell University is prized as being the most diverse institution in the Ivy League, with 46 percent of undergraduates identifying as minorities and 11 percent as international students. Students come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and often bring customs and traditions from home. The diversity of the student body brings with it a diverse palette. Cornell Dining, consistently ranked in the top ten dining programs in the country, prides itself on being able to meet the dietary needs of their students by serving diverse cuisine and accommodating various restrictions.
The menus at dining halls frequently feature foods from a variety of cultures. Right at the entrance to any dining hall the scents of different spices waft out, indicating that Indian or Moroccan food is being served that day. The global cuisines served by Cornell Dining remind students of home, although the execution of the meals may not always be the most authentic. In addition to the variety of cuisines offered on a day-to-day basis, halal and kosher options are provided at select dining halls — Appel and 104 West.
At these dining halls, Muslim and Jewish students have the option to eat halal or kosher by requesting it when asked which type of meat they want, and they can still order the multiple sides served each day. Both meals come frozen and packaged in a black container with a clear cover. After warming in a microwave, the meals can be enjoyed. Although the meat options often differ from the regular menu of the day, there are varieties within the halal/kosher meals themselves.
Some students continue their cultural traditions by heading to the kitchen in their residence halls. Using recipes from home, they create feelings of comfort and nostalgia through their culture’s food. Alexandra Neoman ’20 does just that but acknowledges that it poses its own set of challenges.
“In college, I think it’s a bit more difficult to hold on to your cultural cuisine because you’re not eating home-cooked meals. It’s harder to cook because all of your tools and ingredients are in your dorm, and you have to bring them to the kitchen each time.” Alexandra shares her cuisine with people that share her culture, and often the cooking turns into a bonding experience. “When I was homesick, I liked to cook Egyptian food because it helped me reconnect with my home. I liked to keep the same traditions I have with my family, while also creating new ones. When I met other Egyptians, we cooked and bonded and became friends over our shared culture. We connected not only from a cultural perspective but also from a culinary one.” Rania Ahmed ’20 shared that experience with Alexandra and enjoyed the comfort it brought to her transition into college.
The conglomeration of students from every corner of the country and the world at Cornell leads to the inevitable exchange of culture, often through food, whether it’s in dining halls or kitchens. The blending of everyone’s traditions from home leads to new and uniquely Cornellian traditions.
Suzanna Moustafa is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.