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Class introduces students to American food

Oct. 6, 2000



International students and spouses of international students gather every Friday afternoon to learn to cook the American way -- using as many shortcuts as possible to make a quick meal.

Libby McAnear, a missionary in residence, leads the group. She teaches 'Easy American Dishes' to introduce international students to what is available in grocery stores in the United States.

McAnear said the lessons help her students make friends, learn new English words and follow directions on mixes and prepared foods.

'They don't have mixes overseas like we do here,' McAnear said.

One week the students used store-bought mixes to make blueberry and apple cinnamon muffins. They reviewed or learned new words like pre-heat, drain, colander, empty, fold and bran, and they discovered metallic muffin-cup liners work better than paper ones. In previous classes, students learned to make lasagna without pre-cooking the noodles and pizza with ready-made crust.

McAnear taught the students how to make banana and chocolate cream pies last week. Students separated eggs, used pre-baked piecrusts, prepared pudding and made meringue. Some used electric beaters and whisks for the first time.

At the end of the session, McAnear asked for questions.

'When do we eat?' Chris Tan, a Missouri City freshman, asked.

Many students said they often find American food too sweet. Most liked banana cream pie better than chocolate, and they said they preferred bran muffins to blueberry. Some students said they water down orange juice and other fruit juices to reduce the sugar content, and they buy yogurt-based ice cream.

They seemed surprised that many Americans spread butter on muffins, and they were even more surprised to learn that they enjoyed it themselves.

Learning new terminology and tastes are not the only problems that cooking class students have in preparing American food. The grocery store can present obstacles of its own.

Maggie Vasut, a Beijing graduate student, said some sections of American grocery stores are 'too cold.' She said she tries to avoid the meat aisle and the frozen food section.

Other students find it hard to believe preservatives really work. Many of them grew up on fresh food purchased daily and meals made from scratch.

Another difference is cost. Some foods are cheaper overseas while others are more expensive.

Bia Limsala, a graduate student from Uttaradit, Thailand, said a meal in Thailand costs her the equivalent of 25 cents.

Despite the differences between quick-and-easy American food and their home countries' traditional meals, the students like the convenience of canned food, microwave cooking and box mixes.

Cooking lessons are held from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. each Friday in the Zachariah and Elizabeth Bobo Baptist Student Center.