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Students Combine Cooking and Culture

The 'Modern Languages Cooking Expeditions' allow students to step outside the classroom and enjoy food, culture, and conversation.

Over the past few weeks, UNH students taking French, Italian, and Russian have been learning languages a little differently.  Instead of conjugating verbs or memorizing new vocabulary in a classroom, they have been cooking-- yes, cooking their way to a better understanding of a new language.

First, twenty-three students in Dr. Kirjanov's Elementary Russian course cooked "Bliny" (yeast-raised pancakes) as they and millions of Russians world-wide celebrated the "Maslenitsa" (Russian Mardi Gras). The event took place at the Chef's Equipment Emporium on the Boston Post Road in Orange, a new store that generously opened their state-of-the-art kitchen so students could chat in Russian and cook delicious food!

Students enjoy 'bliny' during a Russian cooking class at Chef's Equipment Emporium in Orange.

Students immersed themselves in Russian culinary vocabulary while mixing, separating, cutting, frying, flipping and eating "bliny" with traditional fillings such as red caviar, smoked fish, eggs, sour cream, scallions, and stewed cherries. Russian tea, red current "compote" drink, and Kvass (fermented rye bread drink) were drunk, lively winter folk songs were sung, and everyone bade farewell to winter and enticed the spring to come soon. Even an effigy of beautiful Lady Winter, designed by the class, hovered over the festivities and awaited the traditional bonfire at the end of the festival week.

The Russian Cooking Expedition was followed in April with  two additional cooking events, one by Angelique Allain’s  French class and the other by Maddalena Lolaico’s  Italian class. Any one of the thirty participants and guests  at each event will not forget how the camaraderie and work of faculty and students helped transform Chef’s Equipment Emporium's spacious  gourmet kitchen  into a cozy family kitchen atmosphere that could easily be somewhere in Rouen, France or Prato, Italy.  

Lolaico’s students listened carefully to instructions on preparing different types of Risotto and Tiramisu. The kitchen resounded with Italian commands, compliments, and various kinds of food talk from teacher and students, as everyone prepared a delicious dinner complete with crystal-like dishes of Tiramisu bearing Italian flags. Italian was everywhere !   Allain’s class listened and sang to popular French songs as they baked Quiche Lorraine, whipped up mousse au chocolat and  flipped crepes that would gracefully wrap themselves around strawberries and cream.   Students had made posters illustrating Lorraine and Brittany, two of the regions featured on the menu, so guests could  learn more about their meal.

These "Modern Language Cooking Expeditions" are the first in what will be a continuing series of food and language events sponsored by the UNH Department of Modern Languages, the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, and made possible by Michele DeMartino, owner of Chef's Equipment Emporium.

Bon Appetit!

To view more images from the "Second-Language Cooking Expedition" visit the PHOTO GALLERY