Yes, it absolutely can.
Studying abroad is an immersive experience, and a country’s cuisine plays an important role in understanding your host country’s culture. This rings true, especially in Italy. However, the excitement of trying a new dish often stops at a plate being set down in front of you, prepared by someone else, ingredients and techniques a mystery. It tastes delicious, but there’s still a gap in your understanding, an unanswered “how” and “why”?
This semester, with access to a full kitchen in our apartment, three of my neighbors and I have taken it upon ourselves to try and cook our way through the semester. One of my neighbors, Nicholas, is a fantastic cook, but his education has been anything but formal. His skill has come from practice; he watches cooking shows, the Bon Appétit YouTube channel, and reads and cooks from recipes.
Realizing how expensive eating out every night could be and how boring pasta with olive oil would inevitably become, we decided to indulge our cravings and try to make something new for each dinner. Using Nicholas’ knowledge as a starting point, we have managed to cook most of our meals simply based off of recipes. We have also occasionally tried to recreate some of the more traditional Italian dishes we have eaten out such as pasta cacio e pepe and all’Amatriciana.
What started out as just Nicholas cooking for us, and me helping when needed, has bloomed into a sort of teaching time for his other roommate, Kyle. Kyle has little knowledge or comfort in a kitchen, but watching Nicholas cook and make up recipes has inspired him to learn. Now, at least once a week, Kyle cooks all four of us dinner, with Nicholas guiding and explaining important steps such as chopping techniques, how to salt and pepper to taste, and how to garnish. The cooking and learning that happens is, undoubtedly, important.
It is the first time any of us have lived in an apartment setting, and also without a parent nearby to cook us homemade meals. By preparing our meals, with vegetables and everything, we’re able to grow that much more while abroad. Perhaps more significantly, though, is the togetherness of cooking and eating that will make this experience that much more memorable.
Junior, Architecture Major
Roger Williams University