International Dinners Group
A homemade meal is one of the things you miss the most when you live far away from your family and need to cook for yourself. After living by myself in America for four years, I realized the importance of cooking homemade meals. That is why I created an International Dinner group to cook national foods on a rotating basis.
The most important thing for students living abroad is to feel at home in their new country. Prior to arriving to The Hague, I completed my four-year Bachelors study in New Jersey. During the week, the campus was bustling and the dining halls crowded with hungry students. On the weekends, though, the American students went back home and the campus became a ghost town. I clearly remember missing my family on the weekends and eating homemade meals together. In fact, every time I came back to The Netherlands for winter/summer breaks, the first thing I would do was raid the fridge and ask my mom to prepare my favorite meals. After living months on my own, being back home surrounded by a family was an incredible feeling.
When vacations were still far away, I had to make America my home instead. Whenever my American friends invited me home for Thanksgiving break or a homemade dinner with their families, it was always an incredible experience for me. Even cooking with my roommates in our apartment made me feel more at home. Just being surrounded by friends and cooking together made home feel that much closer.
International Dinners Group
Having experienced living abroad, I wanted to help my international friends settle into the Netherlands. Because my Masters programme is composed of students from all over the world, I thought it would be fun to take turns cooking our national foods. After speaking to my French friend who had a similar custom in his previous university, I created a Facebook group for International Dinners. Because we had a few common nationalities, it worked out so that 2-3 people would host each dinner together. I created a Google Document so that hosts could publish their dinners in the calendar. In the Google Doc, I also created a sign-up sheet so that each dinner would be capped at 15-20 guests. Because the dinners were on a rotating basis, everyone would get a chance to attend a meal.
We started off the tradition with a Latin Dinner, to celebrate the Mexican National Day. Hosted by a Mexican girl and a Columbian boy, the dinner included specialities from both countries. The homemade tortillas and fresh guacamole were really incredible. But the best part was the social environment. Coming together with my friends for a homemade dinner was something very special. It is one thing seeing my friends in class, but it is a whole other to be in a home and enjoy a meal together. The night ended with attempted salsa moves and full bellies. It was a great way to start off our tradition.
Following the Latino dinner, was the Swiss/French dinner at my place. The dinner was co-hosted with my French and Swiss classmates. This time around, I enjoyed the preparation part of the dinner. It felt like home being able to cook alongside my friends. Our menu of the night blended the two national cuisines. To begin, we started with a Swiss cheese fondue along with bread pieces to dip inside. The main course was a Gratin Dauphinois with a Filet de Porc stuffed with French cheese. Although we struggled initially to fit all the dishes together into the oven and get them ready on time, they turned out amazing! Finally, to finish, we made a Chocolate fondue dipped with fruit slices. By the end of the night we were all stuffed. It was a really great experience to host people at my place.
We also had an Italian dinner, one that was definitely my favorite. As soon as we entered the apartment, we were welcomed by the delicious aroma of pasta carbonara and bruschetta. We also enjoyed a fresh melanzane and a diverse selection of Italian gelato. Once again this dinner was unforgettable and made The Hague feel more like home. In the coming weeks, we will also have Dutch, Indian and Suriname dinners. I really cannot wait for more great food and fabulous company. Looking ahead, I hope we continue this tradition and expand our culinary experiences.
Make Your Own Dinner Group!
Now that I have shared my experiences, why not make your own? Whether you are an international student who just arrived to the Netherlands or a Dutch student who wishes to help your fellow friends feel at home, this concept can be very fun! The great thing about a cooking club is that it is highly flexible and can be fitted towards your specific tastes. Instead of focusing on international food, you can also have a rotating Baking Group or a Breakfast Club. If you find a way to come together, this food concept can work in many ways. The International Dinners Group allowed me to get closer to my classmates and feel more at home in The Hague. Try it out, I bet it will work for you too! If you have any questions or need advice on how to start such a group, do not hesitate to send me an email!