By Jose Hernandez, September 12, 2023
In every part of the campus community, exceptional flavors from various cultures radiate diversity, shaping the identity of students through their heritages’ own styles of food and shape the fabric of Cal Poly Pomona’s students contrasting cuisines.
Flavors symbolize the identity of students across CPP. Each person shares their own unrepeated narrative along with their daily bread. Food bridges the cultural gaps between students by introducing new tastes to relish in their own lives. Whether it is new spices, umami or zests, trying a new type of food infallibly teases the taste buds of anyone who is willing to try.
Adapting to new food cultures sounds challenging, but embracing new savory dishes lets students have a moment in time with a tasteful memory. Empowering cultures and their outstanding flavors unify students by introducing them to something out of their comfort zone. Growing a taste palette is a blessing in disguise and may open a world of delicious possibilities.
Gabriel Pimentel, a finance student, shares his cultural background hailing from Mexico and Nicaragua. Flavors collide with his mornings including beans and rice on both sides of his heritage. The clear distinction comes from his Nicaraguan side, where there exists a fusion between Mexican and Central American cuisine.
“On my Mexican side we eat enchiladas and chile relleno,” said Pimentel. “Then on my Nicaraguan side we eat lots of gallopinto, which is a combination of beans and rice. Also, vigorón, a type of salad made up of cabbage, lime, cucumber and yuca root topping off with pork. There aren’t too many Nicaraguan restaurants anywhere. Don’t settle for one dish because you’ll never know when you’ll find your next favorite dish.”
The resemblance Pimentel discovers while contrasting the flavors between his Mexican ancestry and his Nicaraguan gives him the best of both worlds while complementing cultures. Each side of his family shares their own unique qualities, and their food portrays a symbol of how food unifies cultures around the world. Some of the Nicaraguan dishes he shared are also found in other Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica, which has another version of gallopinto. Inspiration is never-ending and allows one’s appreciation of their own culture to reciprocate on the other side of new cultures.
Mariah Ramirez, a finance, real estate and law student, presents an inside look into her Mexican background. Growing up with her mother from Michoacán and her father from Sonora, her meals were influenced by unique regions of Mexico, a country that houses nonidentical food cultures. Ramirez reflected on her upbringing eating Mexican food at home for all meals of the day.
“It did make me picky only wanting to stick to Mexican food for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Ramirez said. “Or eating other foods that taste like Mexican food. My stepmom and my dad make mole but their rices are different. My dad is from Sonora, but my mom is from Michoacán. My dad writes down all his recipes that her mom and dad taught him so I can learn them. I’m not always there when he is cooking. One dish that’s significant in our family is mole. Also, enchiladas de mole are my go-to! My favorite agua fresca is jamaica.”
Ramirez’s testimony touches on mole being one of the foods that is made on both sides of her family. Consisting of a chocolate paste sauce that may be mixed with spicy chiles, the dish is served with chicken and rice on the side.
There are one-of-a kind variations of mole depending on the specific region of Mexico one comes from. Ramirez mentions the style of rice differing — the two types of rice styles are a Spanish rice that resembles an orange color while the other is a white rice with steamed vegetables.
The nostalgia food creates is an unforgettable experience for anyone rejoicing in eating a home-cooked meal. Alongside having the power to evoke reminiscence, it has the ability to bring people together.
Alexander Mariano, a computer science student, offers a focused gaze into his Filipino family’s customs.
“For the holidays or family reunions, it’s common for there to be lumpia, pancit, rice and maybe Filipino spaghetti,” said Mariano. “The spaghetti is baked in a pan, and there’s hot dog meat along with bologna sauce which tastes sweet instead of meatball marinara.”
Mariano highlights some dishes, such as lumpia, have a varying type of protein included in the dish typically served with pork mixed into it but may also be served with beef. Mariano spotlights a savoring treat called halo-halo, a cold dessert that consists of shaved ice, purple yam, ube ice cream, sweetened beans, evaporated milk and various toppings.
“There’s a lot of people who haven’t tried Filipino food, so for people who haven’t tried Filipino food, lumpia is an introductory food and halo-halo is a tasty Filipino dessert,” said Mariano. “They should have halo-halo. Also, Jollibee is a safe option — it’s one way to get a taste of Filipino food.”
Visiting such distinctive cultures with intimate dishes held dearly to each student’s core, it’s evident CPP’s campus cuisines contrast allows there to be a one-of-a-kind experience to be a part of. Students’ willingness to get out of the traditional box of everyday eating and exploring new types of tastiness synthesizes their experience while at CPP.
“I’m proud to be Filipino,” said Mariano. “I like the food, and I think that people should be open to try it.”
Feature image courtesy of Jose A. Mosqueda
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