The uniqueness of food can help ease homesickness for students
Within Antigonish, there is a vibrant international presence, especially with the renowned Coady International Institute at StFX. Throughout the community, there are programs like SAFE (Syrian Antigonish Family Embrace) which is a group that sponsors Syrian families that have been displaced and acts as mediators in settling them into Antigonish. Even though there are support systems in place in the community at large, the nervousness of starting life anew in a foreign country is a daunting task. Luckily, food has been a staple in remaining connected to people’s homes.
In 2016, the Hadhad family relocated to Canada and created a chocolate shop called Peace by Chocolate, which was a thriving business back in the Hadhad’s hometown, in Damascus, Syria. Through amazing community support and more importantly, the drive and passion of the Hadhad’s, the family has expanded their business here. It helps that they provide chocolate, a universally loved sweet. Food in general can help bring people together with diverse interests and lived experiences; something that the family loves to see.
For Sonya, a Zimbabwean student at StFX, her favorite food from back home is Sadza. Sadza is a cooked corn maize food that is an essential carbohydrate and a necessary component to every dinner. With no Sadza here at StFX, she happily consumes pizza.
“It doesn’t quite taste like home pizza, but it will do.” She mentions that culture shock was very eminent from the first plane flight, as the ‘airplane food’ tasted nothing like what she was used to.
For Ifad, who calls India home, says her favorite food is Gol Gappay. Also referred to as Panipuri, it is a round ball with flavored water infused into it. The water is mixed in with numerous spices, as well as potato, onion and chickpeas.
After meeting Syrian brothers, Ibrahim and Ali from the war-stricken city of Aleppo, it was important for them to be very comfortable here in Canada. Their favorite meal from back home is Mansaf, a sauce with dried yogurt that is heartily poured over top of lamb and rice. The brothers are currently learning English before eventually enrolling into school at StFX.
Macaroni and Cheese is undoubtedly Mitch’s favorite food. Mitch is a first-year student from the Bahamas, yet comments that there is nothing quite like Bahamian Mac and Cheese, which is one filled with a plethora of spices and sauce, much different then any one served here. He will still happily dig in to any dish that resembles this Bahamian delicacy as its aroma would take him back to a much warmer city!
Roasted duck is the staple in China, according to Zanchao and Gin, from Ghanghzou and Beijjing respectively. The duck is cooked similar to a chicken, with it being roasted around an oven. The key is keeping the skin crispy, yet having the meat be moist and tender. While there are no restaurants that serve duck, garlic fingers is a good alternative for Zanchao.
“I love the garlic fingers very much. Some nights I eat a full box of them!”
Zanchao recently came to Canada last September and is currently in the computer science program. Seeing snow for the first time, as well as always being cold, was the biggest changes that he saw since he has moved.
For Gin, whom has lived in Canada for a couple years, the big difference he seemed to notice was the air quality.
“I thought I had healthy lungs, as no one told you otherwise in China. Yet when I got to Canada and visited a doctor, they told me that I have asthma. I never knew this before! The smog is clearly very bad back home, but it is hard for people to notice if they have never been anywhere else.”
Both men admit to frequenting the Moonlight and Love Eat Asian restaurants in downtown Antigonish, as they tend to provide a semblance of the taste that they would get back home.
All of these wonderful individuals that spoke to their food preferences was done over a potluck snack café, proving even more that diverse people love to come together when food is offered.