Thunder Bay

Lakehead international students serve up cookbook for the community

Even while studying long distance during the pandemic, a group of international students enrolled at Lakehead University have found a way to connect with the community of Thunder Bay, Ont., and each other. 

Online cookbook includes recipes from India, China, Nigeria, Nepal and Ecuador

Butter chicken is one of the recipes in the cookbook created by Lakehead international students. (dishesfromhome.uwaytbay.ca)

A group of international students enrolled at Lakehead University are using food and their cultures to reach out to the broader community of Thunder Bay, Ont.

Over the past few months, with the support of the Community Arts and Heritage Education Project (CAHEP) and the United Way of Thunder Bay, the students have been working on CookBook, an online resource that features recipes from their home countries.

Food is at the centre of the effort, the cookbook was also serves to build connections, and highlighting the students' abilities and backgrounds, said Abhi Rao, project co-ordinator for CAHEP. 

A lot of students could use this cookbook just to make them feel at home.- Mann Koner, Lakehead student

"When members in our community see our international students, they usually see them as front-line workers, or they see them walking on the streets close to the university and college. But these students come with such unique stories."

Through the cookbook, they aim to portray the students in a "new light, and to tell [the community] these are their stories, these are their expertise."

While some students submitted recipes, and shared stories about what made the dishes significant to them, others were part of a project team that worked behind the scenes to manage the effort, taking care of everything from content development to graphic design.

Recipes use local ingredients

Devarsh Patel, a master's student of computer science from India, said the project appealed to him as both a foodie and a student looking for ways to build up his resume.

"The final project now, it looks so professional … so I'm really happy when I see the project," he said, adding he also hopes it will introduce people in Thunder Bay to new international dishes.

Attention was paid to ensuring recipe ingredients were easy to get locally, he said. 

Patel is also looking forward to trying some of the recipes himself, he said, noting he's already made plans with a friend to cook an eggplant dish. 

Mann Koner, a student from India, worked as the content developer on the cookbook project. (Mann Koner)

The project was an opportunity for international students to connect with each other virtually during a challenging year, said Rao. The making of the cookbook was a 'truly global experience,' he said, as many participants are studying from their home countries due to the pandemic. 

Mann Koner, an honours bachelor of commerce student who arrived in 2019 but is studying from her home in India, hopes to return to Canada soon.

Koner worked as a content developer on the cookbook, and said she hopes it will be of interest to other international students as well as Thunder Bay residents.

"A lot of students are just far from home, they miss their families … I think if they're just reading the cookbook … they could just really call their families and say, 'Hey, I made this dish from my home country,'" she said.

"A lot of students could use this cookbook just to make them feel at home."

The cookbook project is could potentially be replicated or grown in the future, Rao said, as more international students arrive with their own stories to tell and recipes to share.

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