Communication studies celebrating culture through food

by Rebecca Szkutak / Beacon Staff • March 16, 2016

1458181090 dsc 3278.jpg
Left to Right: Amanda Canny, Maria Toru, Muqaddam Aziz, Jeremy Heflin, Mariana Gugelmeier, and Melissa Daley standing by their food.
Left to Right: Amanda Canny, Maria Toru, Muqaddam Aziz, Jeremy Heflin, Mariana Gugelmeier, and Melissa Daley standing by their food.

The smells of cajun spices, fresh basil, and garlic filled the function hall at 151 Tremont St. during the first annual Potluck love. 

Louisiana jambalaya, Tex-Mex vegetarian chili, and Egyptian okra stew with goat were just some of the dishes served at the event. These meals were chosen because they represented family traditions to select students of the communication studies department. 

The event was designed by department chair Gregory Payne, and associate professor Jeremy Heflin. Heflin said they wanted to create a program to unite students and faculty, and settled on an aspect of culture over which everyone could connect—food. 

“[Payne] is someone who has always been a cook,” Heflin said. “I myself adore cooking and kind of grew up with it.”

Heflin said that the goal was for students to cook a dish that carried significance so they could all share a taste of each other’s heritage.

“We’re calling it potluck love,” Heflin said. “What was your comfort food from home? [What’s] the one you miss? Bring it with you.” 

Heflin brought spicy jambalaya with sausage because he said it reminded him of his native state of Louisiana. He also made chili the way he would have had it when he lived in Texas. 

Melissa Daley, another department professor, made her office-famous mac ‘n’ cheese, according to Heflin. 

The event had a turnout of around 20, with attendees ranging from freshman undergraduates to second year graduate students to faculty from other departments. 

Communication studies graduate student Mariana Gugelmeier decided to make the pesto recipe her brother created, because it reminds her of her family. 

The makeup is unique, she said, because it contained arugula and almonds in addition to the standard pesto ingredients, which include basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese.

“I think this kind of [event] is a perfect setting to get to know people better,” Gugelmeier said. 

Gugelmeier works in the admissions office and has met a lot of international students, and said she hoped to meet more at the event. 

“It’s a way to meet with people from all around the world and have a nice discussion with them,” Gugelmeier said. “I love cultural chats—we can talk about music, movies, everything. I love that kind of discussion.”

Around 10 students prepared homemade dishes, and others contributed packaged goods that still represented their culture. Graduate student Maria Toru—from Pakistan—picked up some traditional Middle Eastern desserts to bring. She chose gulab jamun, a dish consisting of fried dried milk dipped in a sweet syrup, and rasgulla, a fried dumpling in syrup.

And of course, they could discuss food and family recipes.

“It’s fun,” Toru said. “It brings people together to bond about food. What could be better than that?”